Interactive Online Learning Product Review: Zoomiland

Zoomiland is an upcoming online educational tool that combines casual games with adaptive learning technologies. It uses an interactive pet raising game to engage children, while giving bite-sized learning content. The interesting bit is that the content adapts to the unique learning needs of every child, thus optimizing their learning progressively. The system currently focuses on the Lower Primary Mathematics Syllabus.

This project is supported by the Interactive Digital Media Programme of the Media Development Authority (MDA) and funded by the National Research Foundation. This review is based on the work in progress version maintained as of July 2014.

Zoomiland is all about treating your pet right. It naturally begins with you heading over to the pet centre to make an adoption:

Thereafter it's time to begin the adventure.

The player has to feed the pet:

decorate its enclosure:

and bring it to visit friends amongst other things.

That said, much of these activities cannot be accomplished without the use of zoomistars and coins which have to be earned either in the mini-games or arena (let the actual learning begin):

(Win games and therefore coins as well as zoomistars)

The Good

The extensive use of catchy graphics/animation and positively bright colours in this piece of software is a big plus which will definitely appeal to the child's imagination and perception of fun. Navigation around various agendas is an intuitive, seamless experience to say the least.

The Not So Good

Adaptive technology is purportedly infused within the games, though after numerous trials we only witnessed this actually taking place in the "Shape Up" section:

(As the player becomes more proficient in the shapes identifying process, more shapes and extra answering time are thrown in.)

The Ugly

The first thing programmers urgently need to fix is the login page. If you accidentally type in a wrong password, you will be locked out for a while. How about 3 tries before the door is slammed shut fellas?

Also, only 3 pets are made free for adoption, while the rest (supposedly possessing superior attributes) have to be purchased through PayPal. Providing free trial versions of creatures which are meant to be sold would go some way in laying down the foundation of goodwill. Else, how would one know if the monetary "investments" are actually worthwhile?

Thirdly, from our observations, a pet tires out easily and the player thus have to sit around waiting for it to rest up properly. Bearing in mind the player is most likely a child, patience isn't something many 7-8 year olds possess. Not to mention the accumulation of 30 zoomistars just to qualify for entry into the arena might be quite a turn-off.

In his e-mail to us, Zoomiland site administrator Edric Teo mentioned: "As part of the project requirements, our company released the system to a class of 30 Primary 1 children. Their feedback was highly positive, with 100% of students indicating that they had fun using the system and 33.3% using the system for additional practice at home even without the teacher's instructions.

Behind the scenes, we work with professors from the National Institute of Education (NIE) to validate our pedagogical methods and algorithms. We are currently planning for an independent research study to prove the effectiveness of the product in helping students academically.

Going forward, we are intending to cover the entire Primary Mathematics Syllabus followed by other subjects such as Science, English and Chinese. Beyond academic subjects, we also be using our games to impart practical life skills, such as financial planning or entrepreneurship, to students without them even realizising it. We believe that educational gamification is the key to unlocking the hidden potential and creativity of our children without pushing over the edge."

It is undeniable this project is ambitious and has great potential to succeed on a much larger scale. Regrettably, in our view this beta version needs a lot more work (rather lacking in the actual learning content department even if it is only catering to the Lower Primary Maths Syllabus at the current moment) done in concert with a significantly bigger pool of reviewers before a proper official launch can be considered.

Score: 6/10

Reviewed by Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 4 July 2014