What if students wanted to play courses until they won? This is what the Engaging by Design Fall 2015 ITEL cohort at CNDLS is exploring: using interactive games and simulations to create dynamic conversation tools to engage students.
ITEL cohort leads William Garr and Yong Lee opened the first meeting of the participating professors by outlining the macro goals of the cohort. The cohort is comprised of eight professors in disciplines ranging from Economics, Persian, Arabic and Islamic Studies, Nursing/Human Science, Chemistry, Neurology, Nursing, and Pediatrics. The professors are all looking to explore beyond the traditional lecture and test modality. The cohort is a space for professors who received ITEL grant funding to work with the LEV/L team to prototype and build. A wide array of subjects are being piloted in the cohort, from economics and law to biology and chemistry, which guarantees that the goals and approaches are varied.
The goal is to create experiences that are learning tools for students even in repeated uses. Each time a student engages with a well-designed game the potentials for learning will be fresh, since different paths can be mapped out through the content. This requires meaningful choices in the game and clear causal feedback loops as choices are made.
Interactive games and simulations will be deployed in Articulate Storyline and CNDLS’ own LEV/L platform. The LEV/L platform, written by Garr in house, uses a card metaphor to pass information from the game to the student and from the student to the game. Hence it is a modular platform and thus iteration is simplified and encouraged.
The first meeting tasked professors to prototype their ideas using index cards. The assembled group was given twenty minutes to prototype their concept so that a partner opposite of them could interact with it. Each professor created a prototype, interacted with their opposite neighbor’s prototype and provided feedback. Iteration was emphasized by Garr and Lee as a major facet of design thinking during the first meeting under the mantra “fail fast and fail often!”
The multidisciplinary nature of this cohort meant that partner pairs were essentially students to each others’ discipline. This mis-match of expertise was useful since it allowed each professor to better experience the design of the prototype rather than focusing on getting the content correct. Garr, Lee and CNDLS GA John Hanacek helped nudge the conversations along a design thinking path by encouraging the groups to look for areas where each prototype could have better feedback looping and more engaging decision options. Working together, the LEV/L team and the the cohort arrived at clearer goals for intentionality in each product’s interaction design.
At the end of the first meeting many of the cohort project concepts had evolved further into becoming playful and impactful teaching tools. Working with each other churned up the concepts and design approaches in new ways, and it will be fascinating to continue participating in the cohort’s efforts to utilize interactive games to further enhance learning at Georgetown.