A Trainer’s Log — What I’ve learned About Learning and Training Unity 3D

For the longest of time, I have been wanting to learn Unity 3D. I had stumbled upon it on the internet in 2009. Since then I have tried to learn how to use it via their website, their tutorials, and books from library. Learning software has always been easy for me, yet, I wasn’t quite sure what knowledge/skill gap was stopping me from grasping this particular software. Back then I wasn’t quite sure of my learning style and have toiled years to learn about 3D. I must admit that my intention to learn was weak thus not at all successful. The whole idea of learning Unity 3D was to better understand the whole workflow of developing a working application on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android platforms. Yet I felt I wasn’t making any progress.

Learning software through books by following the tutorial instructions line by line can be effective, but doesn’t explain the why. Watching video tutorials is great but I needed a secondary monitor so that I could switch between the video instructions and the application. I found this was counterproductive and a major distraction. The best practice would have been having a masterclass session with someone knowledgeable about the software while also able to communicate and guide the learner to acquire new knowledge.

Eventually, I realized that I learn best when I do training sessions for others. Some of the training sessions in which I have worked with trainees are Microsoft, Adobe, and Autodesk tools. Notably in the areas of productivity as well as graphic and video editing, I have found the phrase “You can’t give what you don’t have.” is true whether just for knowledge, experience, or attitude. The preparation sessions, the grinding hours, the time preparing the learning materials for participants is actually very similar to preparing as an emcee whereby you have to  create an event outline, time allocation, items to be covered etc.

Jeffrey Patrick, 12 Nov, 2019. Screenshot of Unity 3D Flame Effects (Particle System). Changing of flame color via the Particle System panel

Thus, I discovered that the “Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn” method works best for me. Since I have been involved in software training since 2006, working with various age groups from children of 8 all the way to retirees of 60+,  I have found that my learning improves when there is someone to connect and share with.

So, what is Unity 3D? Wikipedia explains that Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies that was released in June 2005 at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference as a Mac OS X-exclusive game engine. As of 2018, the engine has been extended to support more than 25 platforms.

The engine can be used to create three-dimensional, two-dimensional, virtual reality, and augmented reality games, as well as simulations and other experiences. The engine has been adopted by industries outside video gaming, such as film, automotive, architecture, engineering, and construction. Several major versions of Unity have been released since its launch with the latest stable version 2019.2.9  released in October 2019.

Now how to learn Unity 3D? As usual when launching an unfamiliar software we tend to feel overwhelmed by the amount of buttons that show up on the screen so it is best to break down the software into a few segments to make it easier to digest such as understanding the unity interface, working with assets, applying materials, level buildings, creating and implementing animation, collision detection, audio aspects in addition to lighting, baking, particle and effects, post processing, cinematics, and finally packaging a Unity project.

Working with Unity 3D comes with 3 packages: FREE version, hobby or PRO subscription. While the features and tools remain the same, the level of support, online storage size, and access vary with each package.

While setting up a project, it is best to know that Unity supports individuals or team cloud collaborative works, so plan ahead when you create your project for long-term success. Being a project-based file package, your files are live and could be easily swapped and changed once you have an updated version of your assets for final release.

The interface itself is broken down into four major parts, and once familiar with the four parts and their functionality, you’re ready to move onto another area of creating an interactive or cinematic experience. Before learning Unity 3D, It is good to have a grasp of 3D knowledge such as terminology of models, materials, and navigating in 3D space since it will seem at least somewhat familiar. The rest of the fundamentals are more of add-on to the basic skeleton structure with each enriching the scene with more detailing either in visual, audio, or interactive experiences.

Once the basics of Unity 3D have been learned, your next step is anywhere that you would like to explore whether for 2D, coding, experimental, purchasing template for customisation, etc. The possibilities are endless. My first-hand experience of delivering a beginner’s training on Essentials of Unity 3D have given me an in-depth understanding of what merely learning to understand can do. This further reinforced the concept of the best way to learn is to teach.

Whether we use instructor-based learning or any form of eLearning, we do learn better from our mistakes, bugs, and unexpected results. Whether we Learn to Teach or Teach to Learn, we become a better hybrid educator, trainer, and/or designer, and we inevitably become  a better person.

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