Games Across the Curriculum: Game-Based Learning for Adults in History and Nutrition

Concurrent Session 10

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Explores a game-based learning pilot for nontraditional learners using Muzzy Lane Author in the History of World War I and Nutrition for Wellness. Participants will play demos, examine the game creation process, including best practices, and explore student and faculty feedback to consider the benefits of gaming for student engagement.

Presenters

Mary Berkery is a Faculty Program Director for the BA/BS in History at Excelsior College. She has a BA in History from Union College and an MA and PhD in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality History from Binghamton University. She is interested in game-based learning, new technologies for online course development, and student and faculty engagement. She teaches courses in women's history, immigration, and the modern United States.
Jeff Fiske has been effectively empowering partners and development teams in the creation of strategy games and simulations for over 20 years.
Anna Zendell is Senior Faculty Program Director for the Masters in Health Sciences and Masters in Health Care Administration at Excelsior College. She earned her Ph.D. and MSW in Social Welfare at the University at Albany. In addition to a social work career with people with lifelong disabilities and their caregivers, she has developed and taught online and face-to-face courses at Excelsior College and the University at Albany for over fifteen years.

Extended Abstract

Session Outcomes:

Audience Members Will:

  1. Consider the process of designing and integrating gaming elements into new and existing courses in History and Nutrition.

  2. Play through demonstrations of games from each course to experience the decision-making framework first hand.

  3. Examine student and faculty feedback on the effectiveness of integrating game-based elements into an online course for nontraditional learners.

  4. Explore the needs of faculty and adult learners in using game-based learning in online courses.

  5. Consider takeaway tips for integrating game-based learning into courses at their own institutions.

 

Extended Abstract:

Far from being just a hobby for young people, today the average “gamer” is 35 years old (Entertainment Software Association, 2017). At Excelsior College, a nonprofit online institution primarily serving nontraditional learners, the average student is 37, with approximately 34% in the military.  As shown in a 2016 report by Muzzy Lane Software funded by the Gates Foundation, game-based learning has the potential to be a particularly powerful andragogical tool for these types of nontraditional learners if it uses an authorable tool and the resulting games are inexpensive, fit easily into the curriculum and students’ lives, and work intuitively and on all devices (Snow, 2016). Join us as we discuss a pilot project at Excelsior that followed these guidelines in order to integrate game-based learning across the curriculum to meet the needs of nontraditional learners. In particular, this presentation will focus on two upper-level courses in History and Nutrition.

HIS350: World War I and HSC403: Nutrition for Wellness each contain multiple single-player decision-making games created in partnership with Muzzy Lane Software. Each game was designed to integrate with traditional course materials and assessments, to reinforce difficult concepts in the discipline, and to address biases and assumptions historically difficult to debunk. In addition, since adult learners often face many competing demands for their time and attention, including family, full-time jobs, and military service, the games were built to work with their needs in mind. Integration of games needed to be carefully thought through, ensuring ease of access and technological ease of use. Thus the games designed in this pilot project can be played anywhere – on a phone, tablet, or computer. We also designed the games so that students could start, stop, and resume the games multiple times.  Games were also designed for ease of use so that students did not face a steep learning curve and become discouraged. Knowing that many of our adult learners do not consider themselves “gamers,” games were developed to be short in duration, single player, and necessitating only mouse clicking or tapping to make selections.  

In HIS350: World War I the three games reinforce the crucial skill of historical empathy as well as understandings of agency and contingency. The games are assigned alongside open educational resource reading and viewing materials on the war, and after playing each game students engage in discussions and choose a topic to elaborate on for a research project. Each game contains behind-the-scenes gaming elements to influence student actions and thinking. To highlight the importance of context, in the first game, “The July Crisis: Be Kaiser Wilhelm”, students’ aggressive or peaceable sensibilities drive the subsequent options open to them. Not until discussing with their peers might they realize that others received differing choices at the end. In “The True Cost of War: Be the General”, to highlight the atmosphere of both drudgery and anxiety on the stalemated Western Front, students face a hidden “ticking clock” forcing them to make dangerous choices with less intel than they might prefer or risk being recalled from their post. In “To Make the World Safe for Democracy: Be President Wilson”, all roads lead to the same eventual outcome, asking Congress for a declaration of war, but their choices in conversations along the way with military advisors, labor leaders, and suffragists influence its reception by Congress and the public, a nod to the need for consensus-building in a democracy. Although only required to play each game once, almost all students in HIS350 have chosen to play each game multiple times to explore alternative outcomes. In the first run of the course, several students voluntarily played through games as many as 14 times, highlighting the games’ efficacy in promoting active engagement.

In HSC403: Nutrition for Wellness, two games were developed to address the myths and assumptions that often frame student decision-making on nutritional planning both for themselves and as emerging health professionals. The nutrition games highlight environmental, economic, and psychosocial barriers people face in nutrition planning and demonstrate experientially how difficult it can be for individuals and families to make nutritious decisions.  The first game walks students through shopping for prepared foods at a supermarket, with emphasis on shopping for heart health. The second game walks students through shopping for meal ingredients at a supermarket. This game is more complex, involving a family unit with family members experiencing different health needs and financial barriers. The family must purchase food for four days on a fixed income, while meeting the dietary needs of as many family members as possible. Students come to realize how difficult the food purchasing decisions are for families.  In addition to playing the games, students also engage in discussions and reflective essay writing that allow students to process the decisions they have made in light of the best practices outlined in the course materials.  

Participants in this session will be active learners by playing demos of each game, in order to experience the decision-making framework first-hand. They will then learn about the game-creation process with the Muzzy Lane Author tool, including important process questions to ask during the initial planning stages. Strategies for successful deployment of the games in each course will be addressed. Participants will also examine feedback from students and faculty to highlight the impact of game-based learning on student retention, engagement, and learning over the course of the pilot year. Finally, participants will leave with take-away tips for getting started with a game-based learning project geared toward adult students at their own institutions.

 

References:

Entertainment Software Association (2017). Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry. http://essentialfacts.theesa.com/mobile/

Snow, B. (2016). The Potential for Game-Based Learning to Improve Outcomes for Nontraditional Students. Amesbury, MA: Muzzy Lane Software, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. http://www.muzzylane.com/wp-content/uploads/MuzzyLaneResearchReport-1.pdf

Bios:

Dr. Mary Berkery is the Faculty Program Director for History at Excelsior College. She has a PhD and MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality History from Binghamton University and a BA in US History from Union College. She has developed and taught online and face-to-face courses at Excelsior College, Binghamton University, and Southern New Hampshire University.

Dr. Anna Zendell is Senior Faculty Program Director for the Bachelors and Masters in Health Sciences at Excelsior College. She earned her Ph.D. and MSW in Social Welfare at the University at Albany. In addition to a social work career with people with lifelong disabilities and their caregivers, she has developed and taught online and face-to-face courses at Excelsior College and the University at Albany for fifteen years.

Jeff Fiske is the VP of Production at Muzzy Lane Software and worked closely with Dr. Berkery and Dr Zendell to ensure these activities would be appropriately impactful.  Jeff has been effectively empowering partners and development teams in the creation of strategy games and simulations for over 20 years and is one of the founders of Tilted Mill Entertainment.