Don Bickley


I enjoy working with technology and media and was first captivated by the potential of games in particular after playing Doom 2 at a neighbor’s house long ago. It was the first game I had ever played outside of Sega Genesis, and the graphics at the time blew me away with their “realism.” While I had played a lot of Sonic and other Genesis games growing up, it wasn’t until Doom 2 (and later Quake 2) that I really began to understand the impact that games were making and that their true potential wasn’t even realized yet. The idea of “3D” left open a lot of possibilities and was just starting to become accessible to the masses.

As computers became more capable, I gravitated toward digital illustration and computer graphics. My first foray into 3D modelling was via the Rhino 2.0 NURBS application. I later transitioned into Cinema 4D, which then led to Maya. Currently, I am working toward Modo and Zbrush.

All of these applications inspired me to go into Computer Science as a Freshman in college, which I then bombed. I experienced the lack of instructor engagement, ineffective teaching materials, overinflated expectations, misdirection; every possible negative aspect of higher education hit me at once. I was disillusioned by the “need” for higher education and took a year off to try and regain my faith in its supposed necessity. Half of all this was my fault: a lack of understanding about the true scope of my intended career coupled with unrealistic goals and impatience. The other half of the problem were the encouragement toward those unrealistic ideas by recruiters. When I did go back, I decided to pursue CG on the side and stick with my first strength: writing. In fact, that career choice triggered the chain of events that ultimately led to a career within simulations and game design. I even picked up a minor in Art & Design by accident, having taken so many multimedia and art classes.

I tend to be pretty ambitious and lofty with my goals, though conservative in presentation and pitch. I’m also plagued by a wide-range of technical interests that occasionally scatter my focus. I promise nobody the world but work hard to deliver it to them. I can also be rather impatient at times, striking a fine balance between, “I’ll just do it later,” and “This must be done now!!!!” I also tend to be a bit of a renegade when it comes to visual representation and information design. I’m not afraid to do something crazy or try a technique nobody agrees with if my intuition says otherwise. Sometimes I fail and other times I succeed.

Perhaps may greatest strength comes from my creativity and technical abilities. My greatest weakness at the moment has to do with formal learning theories.


1. Master Articulate Storyline to expand on the efficiency and capability of the kinds of multimedia instructables that I can create.

2. Become more fluent in the instructional design process.

3. Understand and work with Best Practices for distance education.

4. Break Best Practices and create new ones if necessary.

5. Work with various types of learning theories.

By the completion of this program during the summer of 2016, I will have created a virtual chemistry lab that is essentially a true 1:1 mirror of the on campus Introduction to Chemistry lab that we offer in Valdez.


The biggest constraint I foresee is time vs. ambition. The more capable I become, the more I want to do. The trick will be in finding that balance between efficiency and technicality. Professionally, I work on projects that require individual completion, though within a shared environment. The technical curve of our assignments and our small class numbers have prevented me from really exploring and executing activities or ideas that would enable more of a group feel to the online classroom.


My first large scale simulation was with designing a super club and surrounding retail space. This project allowed me to experiment with various designs and measure the impact that these designs had on manipulating what people pay attention to and choose to walk past.

After that, I created a learning space called Biome for Northern Michigan University (NMU). The environment was designed as an online meeting place for graduate students who were teaching high school science classes across the Midwest. While the building itself did not do much, it became a landmark in its own right and complimented the well-known Genome island that was located next door.

After Biome, I worked on NMU’s Virtual Speech Pathology Clinic. This simulation featured what would later become iconic models of the human ear and larynx that were so large, it was possible to fit a small group of people in them. The larynx in particular featured several animations that showed you how the muscles pulled the various cartilages to enable swallowing, breathing, and pitch changing. This region became one of the official Linden sponsored tour stops in Second Life; this tour allowed the company to showcase the potential of their virtual worlds product to organizations all over the world. We eventually had to lock down the island due to groups from China, Germany, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and many other countries, randomly showing up with 20-40 people while we were conducting classes.

The Virtual Speech Clinic set the stage for my contract with Prince William Sound Community College. However, this project was heavy on programming and the negative experience with CS during my first semester of college was still fresh in my mind. Within three years, though, I went from vowing to never program anything to scripting–from scratch–a biology lab system that won first place in the Distributed Learning category for Engaging Learning during the United States Army Research Lab’s global Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge.

Reflection (Yr 2)

Coming to a theater near you in 2015!

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