A new honors course at Central Michigan University empowers and engages students by making them characters in a game.
The course, Games for the Greater Good, is set up as a time travel adventure. Students play characters, overcome obstacles and receive experience points as they explore current events alongside past events related to socio-economic status, colonialism and environmental degradation.
Experience points are earned based on criteria like quality of work and effort and help students advance “levels.” As they increase in levels over the semester they receive skills that allow them to further affect the design of the course and their work.
“The goal behind turning the class into a game, at the most basic level, is to see if we can change the way students think about their grades, assignments, classes and how they interact with their classmates,” said Associate Professor of History Jonathan Truitt. “It also is to show them ways they can approach learning that kindles their own excitement for knowledge.”
Truitt said when students receive a grade for their work they usually see that they missed 15 points rather than gained 85. By shifting that focus and providing them with opportunities to learn from their mistakes, they are more excited to try new things and take risks.
Not only is the grading structure part of a game, the class curriculum follows suit. Truitt, designer and instructor of the class, challenges students to teach their classmates to create their own games based on course materials.
Saint Clair senior Cody Armstrong, a student in the new course, was part of a team that developed a role-playing game to help fellow classmates better understand the power of the British Empire. He says games offer students an alternative way to give a presentation.
“This is definitely the most unique and interesting class I’ve ever taken at CMU,” Armstrong said. “It makes you think outside the box because it’s game-based learning.”
The idea for this class was completely new to the CMU curriculum in fall 2014. Truitt said he is very pleased with how it is going so far and that the class brings something innovative to the table so students come in eager to find out what will happen next.
“If the students are able to have fun while learning important information and retain more of the knowledge because their of enjoyment of it then we, as faculty, have won,” said Truitt. “Hopefully that enjoyment will spill over to more excitement that leads them to greater heights of intellectual curiosity at CMU and in their future careers.”
Truitt created the Institute for Simulations and Games at CMU in 2012 to promote the integration of play and fun into the classroom in order to facilitate a greater enjoyment of learning and better retention of the material.