As coding becomes more in demand, schools are looking for new ways to introduce the subject into their classrooms. However, this isn’t always that simple, as coding can often be just as unfamiliar to teachers as it is to students.
Several online learning platforms seek to solve this issue by providing education tools designed to be usable by teachers no matter their coding experience level. One such platform is Zulama, which offers a library of coding and computer science courses that teachers can use even with limited coding experience.
But how effective is Zulama? And how does it fare against competitors like Zenva Schools? Our Zulama review will cover everything you need to know about the platform, including its core features, subjects, and age groups.
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What Is Zulama?
Zulama is a coding and computer science education platform explicitly designed for use in schools. Zulama is a solution from Carnegie Learning, a US-based education organisation that provides K-12 education technology, curricula, and professional development.
A team of cognitive and computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University started Carnegie Learning in partnership with educators from Pittsburgh Public Schools. The organisation produces research-based education solutions using technology and adaptive learning to solve various education challenges.
Zulama is Carnegie Learning’s solution to computer science education in schools. The platform is a hands-on, project-based tool designed to develop essential coding skills, created in partnership with game design and computer science departments from MIT and Carnegie Mellon.
What Courses & Content Does Zulama Provide?
Zulama offers a range of standalone computer science and coding courses alongside cross-curricular courses that use coding as a delivery method for other subjects like history, science, and math. Each course consists of lessons centred around hands-on coding projects such as apps, games, and simulations.
Zulama’s primary emphasis is on game design, using game-based projects to develop coding skills and explore various computer science concepts. The evolution of games, game design and programming, 3D modeling, mobile game design, and screenwriting are all covered by Zulama’s courses.
Specific courses on Zulama prepare students for particular certifications and exams, such as the Unity Certified Associate Exam and the Autodesk 3ds Max Certified User Exam. Zulama also offers an Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course that enables students to earn college credit while still in high school.
On top of practical coding skills and understanding, Zulama also encourages students to learn about the impact of technology on the world around them. For example, specific courses cover ideas of digital citizenship, ethics in technology, and accessibility issues in technology.
All this being said, Zulama is not the sole platform offering this sorts of content. For instance, Zenva Schools also has a huge emphasis on game development with course in Unity, Godot, Scratch, and more. Zenva Schools’ courses are equally project-based, and several courses also feature similar topics on impacts that technology has on society.
What Coding Content Is Missing From Zulama?
While Zulama covers various topics and concepts through its courses, it doesn’t provide as much content for younger learners as older learners. It does support block coding with Scratch, which provides an accessible entry point for elementary students, but the Zulama curriculum is mainly for grades 6-12.
In addition, while game design is a compelling topic for keeping students motivated and engaged while learning to code, Zulama could benefit from expanding on other coding topics. This is especially the case with Python which is arguably the most popular language for schools to use.
What Age Group Is Zulama Targeting?
Zulama’s main age group focus is on middle and highschool students. The platform places a significant emphasis on college and career readiness, meaning that its courses tend more towards equipping teenagers with 21st-century skills for their future careers.
Zulama is most suited to students in grades 6-12. However, younger learners may still get some use out of the platform through its Scratch courses. That said, focusing on older learners means that Zulama’s courses may advance too quickly for many elementary learners.
Learners beyond grade 12 may also find Zulama helpful, as it covers a range of coding subjects and programming languages while focusing on career skills. As such, the platform has potential use in colleges and higher education for introductory modules and middle and high schools.
For teachers with younger students, other platforms like Zenva Schools may be more appropriate. Zenva Schools caters to kids as young as Grade 3, while also having content up to Year 12. However, this doesn’t prevent Zenva Schools from having the same job preparation emphasis in their content – though they focus on foundations all the way to adult-level skills.
In addition, Zenva Schools’ content is perfectly suited to adult learners as well so teachers can use the courses for professional development.
How Well Does Zulama Match The Curriculum?
Zulama’s cross-curricular courses align with Common Core standards for Math, Science, History, and other subjects, making them a tool for building out your school’s curricula in various subject areas. The AAP Computer Science Principles course is also aligned with the AP computer science curriculum, helping to equip students for careers or further study in coding.
However, while Zulama states that its courses are standards-based, it’s not entirely clear which standards it refers to for coding and computer science. This is where other platforms might outshine Zulama, as their standards are more transparent.
Zenva Schools, for instance, is aligned to Common Core Math & ELA, the CSTA Computer Science Standards, the K-12 Computer Science Framework, and even Australia’s Digital Technologies curriculum. Each course also comes with pre-mapped lesson plans so teachers don’t have to guess where the alignments fall.
What Features Does Zulama Have For Students & Parents?
Zulama uses project-based learning with an emphasis on game design to create a curriculum for students to follow. This interactive approach is made with the hopes students will stay motivated and allow them to exercise their creativity as well.
Zulama is also self-paced, allowing it to cater to different learning styles and paces. Students can spend as much or as little time as they need on each lesson. Zulama also enables collaborative learning through group projects and the ability to share individual projects with the rest of the class.
Finally, Zulama also incorporates its learning management system (LMS), Passport, which provides a student dashboard that makes it easy for students to view their progress through lessons and courses. This dashboard also allows students to access their grades and feedback and even includes DevSpace, a built-in coding platform for writing and running programs.
All in all, though, these features aren’t so unique. Zenva Schools, to name one platform, also takes a project-based approach to not only keep courses fun, but provide students with material for a resume. Each course even comes with a Certificate of Completion once students finish it.
Beyond this, Zenva Schools also is made to allow for self-pacing – so students who are excelling can move ahead of the rest of the class. Each course also comes with numerous ways to learn including video lessons, interactive lessons, quizzes, written lesson summaries, and downloadable course files.
What Features Does Zulama Have For Teachers?
Zulama allows teachers from all disciplines to use its cross-curricular coding projects regardless of their coding ability. Teachers also have the option to learn to code through these courses alongside their students, opening up many collaborative learning opportunities.
Also for teachers, Zulama also has adaptive learning functionality – enabling teachers to modify and customise lessons and courses for different grades, classes, or individual students. Zulama gives teachers the tools to provide a tailored learning experience to students with differing needs.
The Passport LMS also offers features for teachers using Zulama. As well as viewing basic class details and progression, the LMS highlights assessments needing grading. Grading and feedback can be carried out directly from the LMS, streamlining the assessment process by giving students access to feedback as soon as they complete it.
Zulama also provides various resources and guides to using the platform effectively through its help centre and teacher guides. In addition, Zulama’s parent company Carnegie Learning offers professional development workshops online and in person to help teachers develop their skills and make the most of Zulama and other Carnegie platforms.
While there is a lot offered here, many platforms offer comparable services. For example, Zenva Schools also provides teachers their own professional development page where they can work through the courses and upskill themselves before their students.
Though Zenva Schools doesn’t have a full-blown LMS, it does also offer similar features. This includes classroom management tools to organize students and assign courses, as well as reporting tools to track student progress.
How Much Does Zulama Cost?
Zulama doesn’t give exact pricing information on its website. Instead, teachers and schools need to contact Carnegie Learning directly for a quote. Your best option is to contact Carnegie Learning directly if you want to know more about Zulama’s pricing.
Another note on Zulama’s pricing is that specific lessons and courses require the use of additional paid software like GameMaker Studio 2. Therefore, if you plan to utilise any courses that use other software, you’ll need to factor the price of this extra software into the cost of using Zulama.
Other platforms are not that different in this regard. Zenva Schools, for example, offers affordable prices based on number of students charged on a yearly basis. However, Zenva Schools tries to ensure they use either free tools (like Unity) or tools that are more or less standard with school systems (Excel).
It is also worth noting that Zenva Schools doesn’t charge anything extra for its various content and features. For one price, you unlock everything on the platform.
Conclusion: Is Zulama Worth It?
For teachers with little or no experience in coding, Zulama provides an option for bringing coding to the classroom thanks to its focus on accessibility and usability regardless of coding knowledge. Its emphasis on game design and hands-on projects also means that students will more likely engage with the platform’s courses.
However, it’s worth remembering that options on the market offer comparable or superior features to Zulama. For example, Zenva Schools offers a larger range of content (including the popular Python language), better content for younger children, and more transparency regarding curriculum standards. Plus with classroom management tools, it can just as easily be used in schools.
So while Zulama is certainly a good option, be sure to explore other platforms first before making your decision!
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