Unity and Some Thoughts On Homework

So today I decided to play around with Unity – it’s a professional game development environment. I worked through most of their 3D platformer tutorial and found making games to be pretty easy and fun: it’s definitely worth downloading (it’s free for PC/Web games) if you know programming and think making a game would be a neat project.

Now the (ostensible) reason I’m doing this is for a class (Handheld AR Game Design). The professor sort of told us to go through the Unity Tutorials. By “sort of” I mean that he told us to go through the Unity Tutorials, but then made it abundantly clear that he would not be checking to ensure we did do this. He also has an upcoming lecture about introducing us to Unity: that lecture could (in theory) rely on us having picked up the basics already and jump right into AR, but he never said that that was the case or that this lecture would be on a particular day.

So what we have is a recommended assignment. And just to be clear this is not a small thing: this tutorial I’m going through is 122 pages long. So I did it, mostly, and I found it cool. But I started to think: would it be better if it was assigned? Let me take a stab at pros and cons:


  1. Absolutely no work for the instructor (the niceness of this really can’t be overemphasized)
  2. Sets an expectation that students should be doing things for their own interest, not because they have to
  3. Lets students be flexible. I skipped some parts of the tutorial that was teaching me stuff I understood well; I will likely use that time to go back and explore some stuff I thought was particular interesting on my own


  1. Some students just won’t do it. Maybe that means it’s their fault but from a completely pragmatic perspective students who are behind hurt the whole class in a variety of ways.
  2. Make it “required” means that busy students have an excuse to do it. Certainly I can testify to the fact that, I felt more-or-less like I was slacking off as I went through this tutorial. As a converse to the above, maybe that feeling let me skip some sections that actually contained stuff I’d find helpful but I was too lazy to do.
  3. Can’t easily make assumptions about when it’s done, incorporate them into lesson planning

What would I do if it was my class? I think I’d assign it formally. The main issue for me is Con1: if it’s worth recommending, it’ll benefit the whole class to be able to rely on everyone knowing it. I’d try to mitigate Pro1 by making the check and the grade both perfunctory. I think Pro2 is nice in theory, but in all honestly “doing what your teacher told you to do” should not need to be a sign of taking learning initiative: if that’s the goal there a better ways to reward people for going above and beyond.

Anybody out there agree or disagree?


  1. The Instructor says:

    Hi Mike,

    I totally sympathize with your point; I’ve debated this myself, and decided to not require it for reasons Pro2 (plus a bit of Pro1 and Pro3). I’m a bit worried about 1, but it’s unclear if the students who succumb to 1 will do more than the bare minimum of any assignment we give. In the end, I will probably add something required if it becomes apparent folks haven’t done it. But, I want students to view this as a senior seminar, not a “class where I’ll be spoon-fed.”

    In the other class I’m using Unity in, we had a simple warmup (do some modifications of Unity).

    Once we get the Android environment set up, we will assign something trivial so everyone builds something. That will help. But, in the end, I will largely judge people by the overall success of their project, combined with what their teammates say their contributions are (perhaps I need to make this clearer?) so that folks will need to contributed. I anticipate giving A’s, B’s and some C’s, but hopefully nobody in the class will earn F’s (perhaps I need to make this clearer, too?).

  2. Ben says:

    Even if I enjoyed the class, I would rarely go through any optional assignments… Something like this tutorial I might do, or more likely do piecemeal as I needed concepts for the program I was writing… I think for me it would come down to: is the tutorial useful in chunks, like I would use as a reference as doing a different assignment, or do I really need to understand everything before I began.

    Now that I’m a RealDeveloper ™ I would be much more likely to go all the way through the tutorial… (just having documentation is a pretty awesome thing), so with experience I would definitely go through the tutorial…

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