June 26, 2019 | 75° F

Educators discuss gamification in academics


Courtesy of Aimee Su | Guests gather at The Gamification and Simulation Symposium Wednesday morning at the Livingston Student Center.

Fifteen years into the new millennium, the traditional lecture-hall model of college classes is still widely popular at Rutgers. Educators across the country are now challenging the status quo by encouraging students to learn with games.

The Gamification and Simulation Symposium attracted more than 150 educators from across the United States to the Livingston Student Center Wednesday morning, to explore means of promoting learning and fostering critical thinking skills by incorporating games into the classroom.

The Symposium was organized by NJEdge, a state-wide non-profit organization founded by a council of university presidents throughout New Jersey institutions, according to their website.

“The mission of the organization is to provide infrastructure, tools and professional learning through various programs so that colleges and universities can meet their missions of teaching, research and public service,” said Sheri Prupis, vice president of Academic and Community Engagement.

Throughout the day, participants attended workshops held by gaming world-involved educators with the goal of better understanding how to incorporate technology and gaming techniques into their respective institutions and curricula.

Gaming elements such as challenges and continual corrective feedback can be integrated into everyday classroom activities, Karl Kapp, director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies, said.

Having presented his own workshop at the Symposium, Kapp said gamification allows individuals to immerse themselves within the task at hand.

“Gamification is the use of engaging elements in games to drive immersion into the subject … (and) can be applied to any discipline, from liberal arts to science,” he said.

Presenting new information to students in an engaging fashion is always beneficial, Beth Ritter-Guth, director of Instructional Design at Union County College, said.

A professor in the Department of English at UCC, Ritter-Guth said she strives to make literature more interesting with video games.

“If the purpose of literature is to understand the human condition –– emotions such as fear or sadness –– the best way for students to learn is to experience it for themselves (is) through video games,” she said.

Early in her teaching career, Ritter-Guth said she worked with makers of “Unreal Tournament,” a grammar-oriented video game, which allows students to unlock levels after identifying a correctly structured sentence.

Students become more motivated to do different kinds of work with gaming elements such as trivia questions and rewarding point systems, Ritter-Guth said.

“My hope for future educators is (for them) to look at their content and see what they can bring alive to their students,” she said.

The way educational institutions prioritize is also a contributing factor to the lack of popularity of gamified teaching methods, Kapp said.

The few disadvantages of gaming, such as an increased focus on winning and rewards, are still heavily outweighed by their known advantages, he said.

Students learn to think differently, solve problems in a new way and solidify knowledge through repetition, Kapp said.

“I think the framework for instruction is also a cause because the system is so focused on testing and assessment,” he said. “It’s beginning to move away from more authentic learning.”

Rutgers began adopting gaming ideas into the curricula of various majors, Gayle Stein, associate director of Instructional Technology at the School of Communication and Information, said.

While teaching IT management, Stein said she engages students through roleplaying, pretending her students are creating business plans for a technology company.

The University created a game production and innovation certificate program available for information technology and informatics majors, as well as a separate path for non-majors, she said.

“I think any way that we can get students to be more engaged (and) more interested in their own success will help education overall,” Stein said.

Events like the Symposium will help educators become more open-minded about teaching methods and ideologies that can drastically improve their own approaches, Prupis said.

Telling stories is critical to student learning, Scot Osterweil, research director from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Comparative Media Studies Program, said.

Osterweil, the Symposium’s keynote speaker, said gauging student interest with games is one of the best ways to teach.

“What I think is particularly powerful about video games is the potential to tell interesting stories, which is one the most important ways in which students learn,” Osterweil said.

Shazia Mansuri

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