The Filament Games blog team recently sat down to talk with Jessica Lindl, Global Head of Education at Unity, to talk through their plans and aspirations around the education industry. Here's what she had to say:
Tell us about yourself. What’s your professional background?
I’ve spent my entire career in Education. From the beginning, I’ve had a clear focus on a key question: how do we level the playing field for all learners, independent of the community they’re born into? The pursuit of this question lead me to working on interactive curriculum and content, which in turn lead to working for a neuroscience company, Scientific Learning. My work with Scientific Learning involved integrating proven research with deep engagement in order to create significant learning outcomes. Obviously with that focus my attention eventually gravitated towards the games industry, where game designers are consistently delivering on the deepest kind of engagement in a way you don’t see in other industries. Through that gravitation I ended up working at Glasslab, bringing games direct to schools with high-fidelity analytics. From that vantage point I started to perceive that the education system is not setting young people up for success in the digital economy. A different kind of learning is required for weathering the Fourth Industrial Revolution; the kind of learning that supports being a creator. I believe that creating is the key competency for the future.
How did you get involved with Unity’s education program?
I knew a founder at Unity - it was a connection I made during my time at Glasslab. I’ve always admired Unity’s approach to the industry, with accessibility and affordability defining their focus on democratizing development. Having experienced what it’s like to work in a real game development studio, I knew the power of Unity and wanted to help them bring these great tools to students. This also tied nicely into my personal mission of leveling the playing field for learners, regardless of their background.
What prompted Unity to apply a formal focus to Education?
If Unity can create incredible interactive experiences globally with a diversity of creators, at scale, (even more than they are today), this creates a significant social impact and a significant business opportunity for Unity. The more creators there are, the better off the world will be, and the more people we have using Unity, the more sustainable Unity is as a company. So where we started was this idea of “democratizing development” but we’ve now expanded that to “democratizing creativity.” Unity started as a game engine but really it can be used for many interactive experiences. So the question now is how do we unlock the world’s interactive content creation abilities, not just games?
What’s the mission for Unity’s Education program?
We actually just went through that strategic planning process, so this is fresh in my mind. Let’s start with the vision. Our vision is enabling everyone to become a creator - again, this is the key competency for our digital future, and more people having that competency creates a net positive effect on the world. Our mission is to give creators the access, engagement, and advancement they need to fulfill both their professional and aspirational goals. Another strategic aim of the Education program is to surface Unity as a platform earlier in learners’ lives, so that they can gain aptitude earlier and set themselves up for a lifelong creative relationship with Unity.
How will Unity deliver on this mission?
We serve four markets globally - secondary, post-secondary, professional, and informal. In our strategy, each of these markets is aligned to established personas that we’ve developed, and our aggressive goal is deliver learning paths for each of those personas. Those paths will be designed so as to be modular enough that customization will allow each individual to meet their personal goals. We’ll work with best-of-breed partners to distribute this learning content, so we’re in discussion with leading tutorial and learning content providers to establish those paths. Ultimately this content will populate an ecosystem through which learners can earn certifications and advancement tools that will signal to the market what they’ve achieved and the skillsets they’ve developed. This is already being rolled out - we have a beginner’s certification already, and will have three advanced certifications out this year for both programmers and artists.
Does Unity have formal plans around institutional education, specifically K-12 or Higher Ed? Or are you primarily focused on the consumer market?
Our content starts at secondary, so globally that’s starting at the 12-13 age range. Our content is better served to start at that age group, where you start to see learners who have that computational understanding foundation and instructors who are formally focused on those areas. The current plan for institutional education is to work with a diverse group of partners who are already connected to secondary education.
How does Unity fit into the macro-level educational and technological trends shaping our world today?
So we do feel that Unity is an excellent tool for success during this Fourth Industrial Revolution - we’re seeing the evolution of artificial intelligence, Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) which now we’re just calling Extended Reality (XR), big data, and so on. Unity can fuel the growth of these new technologies. It’s an expansive tool where you can create new experiences that can be applied to lots of different outcomes, whether it’s entertainment, education, or even productivity tools.
What core value does Unity offer to educators today? And how about educational game developers?
For educators, our core value is access to the engine that will fuel the future of their kids’ creativity, particularly around interactivity - this is a future workforce skill that will grow exponentially in demand. For educational indie developers, Unity grants them the *exact* same platform and development power as the most powerful game makers in the world, for free!
What’s the long-term vision for Unity in Education?
We basically have one big question driving the conversation around the long-term vision for Unity in Education: how can educators and developers get involved? In the long term, we’ll be creating programs that will facilitate that involvement on a formal level, with an aim towards establishing and facilitating communities for those respective groups.
If someone (teacher OR student) is just getting into Unity today, where should they start?
Start with courseware! We’ve got 20 chapters of video-rich learning content, and it’s comprehensive - by the end of the course learners will have started with the basics of the Unity interface and gone all the way through to deploying a final build. It’s also instrumental in preparing for the Unity Certification exam, so it’s not only a great selection of learning content - it’s the first step down the path towards becoming a professional creator!
About Jessica Lindl:
Jessica is the Global Head of Education at Unity Technologies with a vision of democratizing creativity for all learners. She has spent over 15 years overseeing companies and teams that design, develop, and distribute deeply impactful learning games to the global education market. In her work at both for-profit and non-profit organizations like Unity Technologies, Common Sense Media, GlassLab, Scientific Learning, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, she has worked to improve learning outcomes and earning potential for all learners worldwide by blending effectiveness with ground-breaking engagement.