Unity Brings Game-Development Certification to Higher Ed

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Image Credit: Unity

Aspiring game developers at the University of Utah can now add a new credential to their skillset without paying extra for it.

In a partnership with game-development platform Unity Technologies, the university’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering program will help students become certified in using the tool to create their own games. The Unity Certified Developer program involves online training and a final exam. Since Unity launched its education offerings this summer, it’s signed up more than 10 higher-ed institutions. The University of Utah is the first to offer it to students free of charge.

San Francisco-based Unity is one of the “big three” game engines, says Robert Kessler, director of the Entertainment Arts & Engineering program. The other two are Lumberyard, which is owned by Amazon, and Unreal. His students use all three. “We don’t offer specific classes in using a game engine,” he says. “We expect them to learn it on their own.”

Just as web developers use different programming languages like SQL and JavaScript, game developers become proficient in different tools to design gaming experiences. Unity’s 5.5 million registered developers use the platform to create 2D, 3D, augmented reality and virtual reality games. It’s the platform behind hits including Angry Birds 2, Galak-Z and Super Dungeon Bros.

At the University of Utah, a total of roughly 210 senior undergraduate and graduate students will be eligible to take the certification course for free. Under its agreement with Unity, the university will pay a fee for each exam and will be able to install the game-development software on an unlimited number of computers. (It previously paid a fee per software license.)

Unity developed the online course and exam independent of the University of Utah. The courseware includes 20 hours of content, including 199 videos, and project files to create a working 3D game. While Unity offers universities a discounted rate, any individual can purchase the developer course and certification exam online ($150 for a 3-month access pass or $250 for 6 months).

Kessler says the certification will help students round out their Unity skills. They likely know how to use 75 percent of the platform, he says, but can use the course to drill down on the other 25 percent. He says he hopes the certification will help students become more marketable to potential employers in the global game-development industry, which analysts expect to grow 5 percent annually through 2020.

“If students actually want to do this I think they’re going to end up being better Unity developers and get opportunities they might not have.”

He says he hopes the offering will also be a recruiting tool to the university’s already popular field of study. The Princeton Review ranked Utah’s undergraduate game-design program No. 1 in 2016.

In an interview with EdSurge earlier this month, Megan Stewart, Unity’s Head of Global Education, said the company wants to close the “skills gap” between potential game developers and the design studios that are looking to hire.

“We can’t get the resources out fast enough to help demand, because there’s so much interest in game programs, in particular virtual reality.”

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