In June, I was fortunate to again attend the Games for Change (G4C) festival in New York. As in past years, the highlight for me was hearing indie developers talk about how their game vision was realized by conscious selection of various storytelling techniques and game mechanic decisions. Designing games is like composing music, making movies, writing novels, building houses, or painting pictures because games provide the structure for interesting things to happen. Continue reading →
The Games for Change (G4C) Festival in New York simply gets better and better with each passing year. The 2015 Festival in late April included talks by game designer and educator Nicholas Fortugno, Pulitzer Prize winning writers Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (the husband and wife team behind Half the Sky and A Path Appears), game designer/educator Jesse Schell of Schell Games, and filmmaker/producer Morgan Spurlock (Remember SuperSize Me?).
Note: This is a highly interactive article! Please click on all of the hyperlinks. They either take you to the game mentioned OR to an article about the game’s use in education.
The Games for Change (G4C) Festival in New York City has come a long way over the past few years. When I started attending the conference in 2010, the emphasis on using games to educate was at the periphery, not because attendees didn’t believe in the potential of games in the learning space, but because the money simply wasn’t there to create commercial quality learning games. There also wasn’t universal support for the idea that learning could be fun. (“They are having too much fun to be learning.”)
Does increasing the amount of time students spend viewing faculty research videos and playing course specific games positively impact course grades?
Yes, it does, in both online and face-to-face courses and regardless of student GPAs.
These questions were the basis for a paper on the effects of faculty-research videos and games in an upper-division empirical-methods course. We expected that a media-rich environment would increase student engagement and that this increased student engagement would enhance performance and increase student satisfaction with the course.
Working with ASU Online and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Political Science faculty created 10- to 20-minute videos in which they presented a research project; they explained what they found, how they found it, and why they asked the question.
The videos are part of a repository and, although the impetus for the project was the growing demand for research methods online, the videos have been used in online, face-to-face and blended courses.
We assumed that the video examples of real research projects, tied to theory, would add depth and breadth to the course. In turn, this would make research methods more interesting;
increase student engagement;
improve the quality and quantity of student interactions with faculty;
expose online students to a wider range of faculty than their coursework typically might offer, thus providing them with some of the benefits accrued by traditional students;
and raise course grades.
These questions are consistent with the media-integration model, which dominates the theoretic literature and research on technology inclusion. Earlier research found that streaming video and audio explanations are better than textbooks at explaining complex concepts.
We found that online students spent 21 percent of their online time viewing the faculty-research videos. The correlation between video-viewing time and course grade (49%) was the same as the correlation between course grade and GPA (50%). We expected the relationship between GPA and course grade to be strong but were surprised to find that the relationship between video viewing and course grade was equally strong. The correlation between viewing the research videos and GPA was 24 percent. When we controlled for GPA, the partial correlation between faculty video viewing and course grade was 73%, which was considerably higher than the zero order correlation between course grade and video viewing. GPA and faculty-research videos had independent effects on course grade; they did not substitute for one another. Moreover, within “GPA groups” video viewing had a strong, positive influence on course grades.
Anecdotal evidence is consistent with these findings. Students wrote, “the videos were fantastic and…fun to watch; as an online student, the videos are essential to making me feel a connection to the faculty; (the videos) were indeed informative.”
The videos “helped make the abstract concepts a bit more concrete and easier to grasp. I think the videos were…a good addition to the course.”
Another student identified a benefit beyond the scope of the project when s/he wrote, “I quite enjoyed the videos and found them useful not only as a tool to explain course concepts and research examples, but also – and probably more importantly – as an opportunity to sort of ‘sample’ other professors. The videos provided a kind of mini course from a few professors, which helped in selecting classes for the following semesters.”
Our project had one more element. The spring 2013 online section added games associated with the course material for each week. These were drill and practice games emphasizing memory, repetition and retention; and Quizlet (our creation tool) offered students variations within the drill and practice theme.
The data regarding the impact of these tools is unequivocal. Students using drill and practice online vocabulary games had higher quiz and course grades than students who opted not to use the games.
Additionally, the inclusion of “mini-games” or “learning objects” in the course, while not measured, appeared anecdotally to increase student satisfaction.
On an anonymous course evaluation, one student wrote, “this instructor went out of her way to make it easy for distance-learning students. She…tied the different elements of the course together …. (making) learning much easier (textbook, homework, quizzes, discussions and games).” Another wrote, “The many sources of media ….brought diversity to the course material.”
Our project was a success. Many faculty who made research videos reported that students referred to the videos in conversations. This was an unexpected consequence but one that was entirely consistent with the project’s goal of making students more comfortable with research.
The videos helped students become reviewers and evaluators of research instead of passive consumers; the games made them comfortable with the language. Course material often seen as dry became engaging, and as they came to appreciate it, teaching became easier and more rewarding.
This is my third year of attending the Games 4 Change conference* and I am excited about the growth of the serious/social impact/persuasive game genres. I love to infuse games in the curriculum I teach AND the curriculum I help design with ASU Online faculty. I’ve seen and experienced the power of games — immersive and tiny (non-immersive). Simply, good games enhance learning. Continue reading →
Professor Marilyn Dantico talks about her experiences incorporating games in her required upper division research methods course. Hesitant at first, she included word search, jeopardy, scatter, and arcade games that highlighted important course concepts. Comparing class mid-term performance against a previous semester, student scores improved while standard deviation and mean difficulty remained stable. The high score went up six points, and the mean, median, and mode went up four points. For the final, the high score increased two percent and the mean and median increased.
Let’s talk games. Not Gaming. A little interactivity in your online course to break up the monotony of lecture, video, discussion board, paper, and quiz. Nothing too threatening, too disruptive, too time-consuming. But fun. And different. And doable. Continue reading →
Games have power. They can make fun, fantastical, the dull, doable, and the joyless, joyful. At ASU we have a number of faculty who use the power of games and simulations in their classes as a way to entice students to further engage with the course content.