We want to get students building on their own, as quickly as possible. But we also make sure that students advance only after they've demonstrated a thorough understanding of the material, and not just after some arbitrary number of classes. Our curriculum is designed to build content mastery at a pace that's comfortable and customized for each of our students. As students demonstrate more independence, they progress through three levels of mastery: Explorer, Developer and Hacker.
All of our students start Digital Adventures at the Explorer level. Learning at the Explorer level is very structured and instructor-driven. Students are led through projects as a group and given small challenges to practice low-level skills and express their creativity. The skills they build are determined by the particular course a student is enrolled in. For example, the Virtual Reality course has a primary subject area of Programming, so students need to demonstrate mastery over a set of basic Programming skills before progressing to the next level.
Classes at the Developer Level are still instructor guided, but students play a larger role in directing their own learning by working with instructors to select appropriate projects. Instead of walking students through entire projects step-by-step, instructors provide students with high-level goals and challenges. For example, in a spaceship video game design project, students might be given the following goals:
Students are expected to use their prior knowledge of a subject area to problem-solve at a more independent level. The main role of the instructor at the Developer level is to help students troubleshoot, clarify student understanding of a problem and fill in knowledge gaps on a personalized basis. Students are expected to integrate basic skills and develop a robust problem-solving and troubleshooting process.
At the Developer level, students also gain broad access to our entire library of projects, depending on their foundational skills. For example, a student who has graduated the Virtual Reality course at the Explorer level would gain access to projects that have a core skill of Programming. These projects may be in the Virtual Reality course, but students at the Developer level can also work through projects in other courses that are programming-focused, like Digital Apps or Digital Hackers. However, if the new student want to gain access to 3D Modeling projects, she would need to graduate past the Explorer level in a course that's focused on 3D Modeling, like Digital Creations.
As Hackers, students are given broad latitude to define their own learning goals and build professional skills. Instructors serve as advisors who monitor progress, help students set goals and jump in as needed, but students at this level are expected to be relatively independent.
Students can either choose to design and build their own projects, or select from a list of curated real-world, socially-focused projects, like helping a local non-profit redesign their website or creating a game to help teach elementary school students about healthy eating habits.
Students are expected to learn the way that professionals do, by using all available resources and turning to peers and experts for clarification. Instructors intervene when students go down potentially inefficient paths, but their main goal at this level is to make sure students learn how to learn and can progress whether or not there are instructors present.