As a proud partner of the ACS and the ICT Gateway to Industry Schools program (ICT GISP) funded by the Queensland Government’s Department of Employment, Small Business and Training, we have provided Zenva Schools access to Queensland ICT GISP schools. Designed to support the next generation of developers, the program provides students with the in-demand skills needed to succeed in today’s tech workforce.
One such school is Ignatius Park College in Cranbrook, QLD, an independent secondary school for boys, which recently trialled two of Zenva’s Unity courses with its Year 9 classes.
The courses, which support the Australian Curriculum in Digital Technologies, were found to increase student engagement – not only due to the course content, but through the different learning materials, which could be tailored to individual students’ learning styles. The platform also was found to aid the faculty members – it assisted them with unit planning, and enabled teachers with no prior Unity experience to successfully learn and teach the course content to the students.
Matthew Jorgensen for ACS, Project Manager for the ICT GISP, has praised the collaborative partnership between Zenva and Ignatius Park College. “The ICT GISP works with schools to forge partnerships with tech companies, developing industry skills through experiential learning and promoting careers in tech. This collaboration between a local tech company in Zenva and an innovative school in Ignatius Park College is a unique example of developing skills for the next wave of tech workers.”
The case study below examines how Ignatius Park implemented Zenva’s courses within the classroom, and how the positive outcomes were achieved.
Ignatius Park decided to trial Zenva’s courses with two Year 9 Digital Technologies classes, aiming to teach them some fundamental coding skills through a game development project on Unity.
Each class varied in terms of the students’ prior coding experience and coding skillsets. The classes also differed in size, with one containing 19 students and the other 10. The difference in size and ability of these classes would put Zenva’s courses to the test when used in varying classroom contexts.
The primary challenge for teaching these classes was to keep them engaged and invested in the course, especially for those students with little or no previous coding experience and who might find learning to code a daunting task.
The teachers for the two classes were Jake Jackson, a new teacher at Ignatius Park, and Paul Bruce, a more experienced IT teacher. Jake had never used Unity himself, and as a new teacher running a Digital Technologies class for the first time, Jake also faced the pressure of learning to use a new platform in order to be able to effectively answer his students’ questions and guide them through the course.
For Bruce Denny, the Faculty Leader for Digital Technologies at Ignatius Park, the ideal outcome was to get students more invested in and enthusiastic about coding, as well as to make sure that students who struggled with the subject were fully supported.
“I think from my end success was measured in terms of whether the kids really enjoyed it and were able to follow the courses quite easily,” says Bruce. “We knew kids were going to struggle… So we definitely needed to put more effort into looking at those students and how we support those ones a little bit better.”
As well as supporting students with less coding experience, another key goal was to encourage students to become confident enough to start researching new ideas and techniques independently in order to add creative new features to their game project. This in turn would help to build valuable problem-solving skills.
“Once kids start trying to solve their own problems, we think we have a win,” says Bruce.
More specifically, one of the key aims of using the courses was to aid with the Process and Production objectives of the Digital Technologies curriculum. This meant that students would have to “Implement modular programs, applying selected algorithms and data structures including using an object‐oriented programming language.”
Finally, the teachers hoped that students would be able to exercise their creativity and critical thinking in the game design process even if they struggled with the coding itself. “My criteria for success was probably that they could actually do the course first of all, and then start to plan towards implementing other features, even if they didn’t quite implement them, to be able to show me what they were planning,” says Jake.
How Ignatius Park Used Zenva
The classes involved in the trial were enrolled into two courses: Intro to Game Development with Unity and Create Your First 3D Game In Unity. Intro to Game Development with Unity would serve as an introductory, whole-class course in order to ensure all students started off on an equal footing and were able to learn the basics of coding, game design and the Unity platform.
Create Your First 3D Game In Unity, meanwhile, would build upon these skills and enable students to begin working independently on their own game project.
Each class began by running through Intro to Game Development with Unity as a whole class, as well as setting up Unity and other software together to ensure each student was comfortable with the platforms they were using. Teachers used exercises like the Balloon Popper project to introduce students to the basics of Unity, running tutorials for the entire class before tasking students with completing the activity by themselves.
After students learned how to use Unity through Intro to Game Development with Unity, the classes moved on to Create Your First 3D Game in Unity. Most students were comfortable enough with Unity at this point that they were able to work independently at their own pace, with support from their teachers when needed. For students who were still struggling, teachers gave one-to-one instruction to help them keep up and advance through the course.
Since the aim of the courses was to develop critical thinking skills and creativity as well as teaching the students to code, the teachers at Ignatius Park split the 3D Platformer project from Create Your First 3D Game in Unity into three main stages:
- A planning stage, where students created mindmaps to explore ideas, such as new features they could add to their games and their reasons for doing so
- A design and implementation stage, with students working on their games over the course of three weeks to implement new features
- A testing and evaluation stage, which included debugging, self-evaluation, peer review, and the creation of a PowerPoint explaining their game and how they created it
It wasn’t just the students who were learning – as a new teacher with no experience of Unity, Jake also made use of Zenva’s courses to build his own skillset. Jake familiarised himself with the Unity platform using Zenva’s courses before beginning to teach his students how to use it, enabling him to better guide his students through the courses.
One of the main things that the teachers saw when implementing Zenva’s courses was that students were highly engaged throughout. “I’d never had a problem with engaging my students, which was awesome,” says Jake.
“In other classes, you’d have to constantly be redirecting them to do their work. In 9 Digital Tech, I’d walk in, I’d say, “Righto fellows, grab out your laptops, jump on Unity,” and then we’d have a quick refresher chat and then they’d just get straight into it for the whole lesson.”
Jake also found that the structure of each course was helpful as a guide for students with less experience with coding. “It was a struggle with some students who might not have experience in Unity or programming at all. And the structure of it did help with that.”
In addition, Jake says that the structure of Zenva’s courses was highly useful for his own needs as a teacher. “I got to see where you guys structured and sequenced all the learning opportunities within C# and Unity. So it helped with my unit planning as well as my teaching, so that’s why I enjoyed it.”
Thanks to the clear structure and teaching opportunities provided by Zenva’s courses, Jake was able to comfortably use Zenva to guide his class through Unity and their first game design project. Simply running through the courses himself with some light additional preparation proved to be enough for him to successfully guide the class through each course.
Even as a new Digital Technologies teacher, Jake felt comfortable using Zenva’s courses with his class. Along with some additional preparation and research to help answer student questions that went beyond the course subjects, Jake was able to successfully run the course just by having gone through the course files beforehand.
The written lesson summaries provided alongside Zenva’s video tutorials also proved useful in catering to different learning styles. “For a lot of my students, instead of just listening to it, they found it quicker or easier just to read through the instructions and do it,” says Jake.
“The more different learning styles you cater for, the better it is for students as well,” Bruce agrees.
By the end of the Create Your First 3D Game in Unity course, most students were successfully able to complete their 3D platformer, with a variety of new features added to the base game. Each student also produced an evaluative presentation to explain their design choices and reflect on the game development process. For example, these are some excerpts from one student’s presentation:
The student’s mindmap, exploring some of the ideas they explored during the planning stage. Approaching the game’s design in this creative manner fulfils a number of design-oriented aspects of the Digital Technologies curriculum.
The features the student added to their platformer. Narrowing down proposed features to identify those which would a) be achievable within the scope of the project and b) positively add to the user experience was another important aspect of the design process.
An example of one of the features they added, along with an explanation of how they implemented it. The practical coding on display here shows the student actively engaging with a modular, object-oriented programming language (C#). This fulfils the “implement modular programs” and “use an object-oriented programming language” criteria of the Process and Production module of the Digital Technologies curriculum.
An example of another feature they tried to implement but were unable to, along with an explanation of the issue. Testing and debugging code is a key aspect of game design, so encouraging students to evaluate failed code in this way to find the reason behind bugs is an important learning opportunity.
A detailed explanation of each feature along with more development details. As with the above slide, this shows that students were able to critically engage with their work to identify successes and bugs and look deeper into the causes of both.
Analysis & Conclusion
Overall, the implementation of Zenva’s Unity courses at Ignatius Park was highly successful. Students exhibited high levels of engagement and motivation in the courses throughout the trial, and the course structure helped to guide students who had less experience with coding. The different learning materials – including the options to learn primarily through videos or written learning materials – catered to the students’ individual learning styles, and contributed to the success of the program.
By the end of the trial, students had successfully created their own 3D platformer game, and had used the skills that they’d learned to expand and customise their games beyond what was demonstrated in the course content.
Additionally, Zenva Schools also greatly benefited the faculty members. It assisted them with unit planning, their teaching, and enabled staff members with no prior Unity experience to successfully learn and deliver the course content.
The Digital Technologies team are now looking to continue working with Zenva in future lessons and expand the courses used in lessons.
“Now that we’ve done it once, next year is the year that we’re really going to be banking on to look for that real success,” says Bruce. “So next year will be the year we’re going to spend two terms on Unity, so we’re really expecting to get some better outcomes from kids and hopefully really adjust stuff and see where we need to fill in some gaps.”
Bruce is also keen to introduce more VR projects to students: “Next year we are definitely looking at doing more VR stuff, particularly with the Year 10 students.”
What’s more, Ignatius Park’s students are also keen to continue learning to code using Zenva. “I know one of the boys was in my homeroom, so I saw him every morning,” says Bruce. “He was definitely interested and was looking at doing it a lot further and he’s quite keen to continue that in Year 10, so that’ll be good.”
With the success of the Intro to Game Development with Unity and Create Your First 3D Game in Unity courses at Ignatius Park, Zenva is proud to have an ongoing partnership with the school to aid them in implementing more courses into their curriculum in future.
Ignatius Park has also been invaluable for helping to improve and expand our course lineup; based on their feedback, we are currently developing a new beginner-level Unity course to help ease the transition between Intro to Game Development with Unity and Create Your First 3D Game in Unity. This course will focus on using micro-projects and minigames to give further practical experience of Unity before moving onto more complex projects.
The Ignatius Park case study has been a resounding success for Zenva, and we look forward to working with the school to further develop their curriculum delivery in the future through the Zenva Schools platform.
With Ignatius Park planning to roll out future Zenva courses and VR projects in the next academic year, we look forward to a future of further successes working alongside the school.
Interested in providing your students with coding courses that will help to prepare them for higher education and the workforce? Get in touch with us here.