The integrity and value of education is paramount when considering the ramifications on our future generations. Educators have one of the most important jobs. We should give them whatever resources they need.
For over a decade dotBunny has worked in the video game industry. We have worked with many of the big publishers, large studios and even have our hands in both major commercial engines. Supported by a large network of clients and friends throughout the industry, I love everything about the industry, except for one thing. Education.
It has long been a thorn in many industry advocate’s sides, and recently industry has started to address the problem head on. by creating its own curriculum for post-secondary studies. Giving it away for free, in the hope that this epidemic can be stopped.
I’ve taken different approaches to try and address my concerns; from the creation of the PTBO Game Jam to the forthcoming code Starters kits. I believe that industry needs to work hand-in-hand with educators to solve this problem.
So that’s where Galileo all began.
Testing The Waters
Late summer 2017 I was contacted by the local college to see if I would be interested in picking up a few hours of teaching. At the time I thought it would be a good experience. More importantly it would give me a first-hand look at what was really going on in that space. The few hours expanded out to what is referred to as partial-load.
I made some allies, but the prejudice in the department of "he’s just a game developer" was hard to shake. Between department politics and the inability to comprehend the breadth of my experience, it was difficult to operate effectively. While it was a poisoned work environment, I remained focused on providing the students, my clients, the best possible education.
Over the course of the semester, I increasingly spent more and more unpaid time investigating submissions for indicators of plagiarism or other violations of academic integrity. It added up to hours per assignment that I should not of had to spend and more importantly was not getting paid for.
I reported 87 infractions over the course of the semester. Well I would have, but months after filling them I received an email indicating that I would have to refile all previous reports with a newer form. At that point my new boss told me not to (that is a whole different story). The sheer volume of infractions I was seeing in my limited exposure was a warning flag of a systemic problem at that college, if not in post-secondary education in Ontario as a whole.
Every Christmas, staff at dotBunny have a tradition of doing a one-week prototype of something outside the norm of our day to day operations independently. For Christmas 2017, I decided to prototype creating a system which could perform the basic time consuming checks that I was doing manually. Project AIC (Academic Integrity Checker) was a devastatingly effective system; identifying violations of academic integrity policies in previous submissions that I had missed. It was able to identify and flag over a hundred issues.
I knew I had something special on my hands.
Naturally, I went to the local college with the toolset offering it for free, but to my surprise, I was met with resistance. I suspected this had to do with the high volume of infractions I had found in the relatively small segment I was exposed too in a short period of time. Reporting that many infractions would create a significant financial impact on the college.
When I talked to faculty members first-hand about the tool, you could see their excitement for something like it. As soon as you say that something is going to cut down marking time, eyes start to light up. When I talked about it with the IT staff they liked the sound of it and hinted at other competitors being not utilized because of their high price point. I started evaluating the possible idea that I had stumbled an underserved market.
Bringing To Market
Surprisingly, I was asked back to teach the following semester. At first, it was a fully loaded semester, but over the span of a few weeks I watched as hours were stripped away leaving only 4 hours a week. As this happened, I started thinking that maybe it was time to reintegrate myself back into dotBunny’s day to day operations and to spin up Project AIC as a commercial product. By the time I received a contract offer, 3 weeks into the semester, the decision was all but made.
I knew that I could not immediately divert resources from dotBunny to commercialize the product. Over the course of two months I began building out a plan to bring the product to market, in the most cost effective manner. That way we could get it in the hands of educators at an attractive price point.
At the start of March 2018 I started production on the commercialized version of what is now called Galileo. dotBunny had other projects running at the time, so my time was split 80/20 with other projects, Galileo receiving the lions share. Galileo gets it’s name from the Italian polymath of it’s namesake. Inspired by the stories of the historic Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism and the Roman inquisition’s findings of it being "foolish and absurd". It reminded me of what some individuals thought of this product.
The first version of Galileo was built and ready for release by April 2018. However after much internal debate, we decided to delay the release till April 20, 2018 in favor of investing more resources in creating supporting content and features which we felt were important for educators to have.