We recently completed the first phase of work for the Royal Opera House Education team which consists of a set of 3D, interactive learning games, new videos and a content management system (watch the showcase video clip below).
This initial pass covers a range of backstage production techniques and processes that are explained during on-site visits to the High House Production Park workshop located outside of London in Purfleet, Thurrock. It is an amazing new facility to create the next generation of sets for one of the worlds greatest stages.
HHPP is also first ever national United Kingdom centre of excellence for technical skills, crafts and production for the performing arts and live music industries (more info on HHPP here).
We also learned a lot about stage production during this project! And about Unity3D. Further, ROH arranged a series of user feedback sessions with school students age 10-11, which were really interesting and helped shaped the next phase of work that we are doing now.
It is really great to see kids using the software. They, of course, don't bother reading any instructions and grab the mouse and start clicking away. They used the games in small groups which also increased the excitement as the kids chatted between each. We had one machine running the games up on a large whiteboard/projector set-up and they greatly enjoyed touching the board. As far as getting their attention goes, wrapping educational material in a game-like package is a big win.
The students are also very demanding. Many of them have game consols like xBox, Wii as well as iPads. While the graphics and overall experience compares well to these commercial game experiences, the students did struggle with not having more game-like objectives. We initially designed the user experience more based around the teacher presenting the materials. It seems like actually they will break into small groups and dig into the games on their own. So, they want to win something and were frustrated not to have more specific objectives/rewards. I think getting an acheivements concept that is relevant and value-adding will be critical to maintaining excitment for the games, so that users can complete the learning content.
Ideally, the games should also match the skill and pace of the users. Perhaps a kind of "advanced menu" that gives more complicated/precise control over activities would make sense. We also need to put in more context-based "tips".
The kids seemed eager to be able to share the output of their work with classmates and even family. This is not surprising really, as everything online seems to be sharable these days.
Our other big take-away from the feedback sessions is that the students would like to be able to come back and explore the content on their own from home or the school. This is possible as the system uses the Unity3D webplayer and is integrated into a Drupal 7.x CMS which controls their access. We will be able to store the Groups results and then they can replay their output by accessing a web page.
More about the key features for this project, and technology used on our Royal Opera House Eduation project page.