Team Treehouse is a technology education website, like Lynda.com, Codecademy, and Khan Academy before them, that models their lessons as a simple interactive experience. Watch a short video, and then take a quiz or participate in a challenge, repeat as the difficulty increases. Before you know it, you’ve learned a fundamental piece of whatever technology you are learning.
As a developer, it’s good to be aware of new technologies, languages, and paradigms in development. Team Treehouse combines game elements with a library of various courses, allowing the player to participate and complete any of them without a background in the field. By slowly introducing topics and gradually increasing difficulty, Team Treehouse gives players the tools they need to embark on their own adventure, but how far do they take their gamification of the lessons, and is it enough?
Many features of Team Treehouse share similarities with, and remind me of, some old school games, and—taken as a whole, the experience can emulate the journey of starting at level 1 in a game to becoming more powerful and able to conquer the most difficult challenges in the game.
If we look at Team Treehouse literally as a game, then some questions we can ask are: how fun of a game is it? How effective is it in teaching incredibly useful skills in a relatively easy manner? When are you going to make your point? How long is this post going to take? Do they still make Peanut Butter Captain Crunch? I’ll highlight the RPG aspects of using Team Treehouse, and speak to my experiences in using it as a powerful learning tool. And yes, they still do make Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.
Game Equivalent: “The World” / Sandbox
Team Treehouse’s library is home to all of the courses they offer, categorized by their field of study. It’s very web development heavy, but there are also courses for business and design. This is the world view, a simple map of everything there is here. Feeling like learning how to create an iPhone app with no prior experience at all, or do you want to bone up on your web development skills by learning some CSS tricks or improving your jQuery skills? The library is your gateway to learn or improve your knowledge. Like coursera.org, I imagine that this library could eventually grow from offering a limited range of subject material to teaching a myriad of fields of study.
Learning Adventures/Deep Dives
Game Equivalent: Jobs/Classes (Knight/Mage/Thief)
Achievements & Badges
Game Equivalent: Level Up
Game Equivalent: Storyline
Game Equivalent: Easy battles
If you have a motivation to learn something Treehouse offers, investing a few hours to learn and practice all the skills will help you get there. However, side affects may include drowsiness, boredom, and lack of interest in the first few videos for any deep dive or project. The learning curve is VERY gradual, especially in the earlier lessons. Sometimes the worst part about games is dealing with the easiness presented in the beginning of the game, but it’s sometimes necessary to help get you up to speed when the real challenges begin.
Quizzes & Challenges
Game Equivalent: Battle System (loss aversion)
Like I mentioned in the last section, some of the videos can be extremely monotonous if you have any background in the field in question at all. It’s not necessary for any programming class to list all the words reserved for controlling the program, but this leads the player to take part in code challenges and quizzes that test this knowledge. But if you were not paying attention in the videos, you might become confused on the difference between responsive and adaptive web design, or what the correct conversion of pixels to percentages would be in a given HTML element. If the player fails these code challenges or quizzes even one time, restarting it might not give them a better chance since they are still being quizzed on the same snippet of material. If they want to earn the badge, they might have to watch the video again to refresh their memory. Maybe the player became briefly distracted at how strange and alluring Allison’s half tanktop, half scarf, and half cleavage highlighting blue shirt is. Is it supposed to highlight that area? Is there something we’re not seeing because of the pink blazer? We may never know. Anyway, this is a good example at how being distracted in battle can cause a player to lose, die, and doom the fate of the world. Thanks for destroying the world with your shirt/scarf, Allison.
Now that I’ve gone into very deep detail on how Team Treehouse is similar to old video games, I should also mention, how is it different? Video games have a great sense of replay value and nostalgia, and any elements missing from Team Treehouse could be beneficial if it were included to complete the experience.
Way TL;DR version: Team Treehouse is a fantastic web technology education tool that employs gaming elements to keep user’s attention and motivation to help them learn very valuable skills they can leverage in real life. I think that if they added massive project undertakings and allowed players to collaborate with each other, they would effectively mimic a real life workplace/freelance scenario. Once the players overcame such a challenge, they’re ready to take on real world challenges. And get gold.