Colorado State University Global implements game-based learning to engage students

CSU Global is a 100% online nonprofit state school that is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. This university teaches undergraduate and graduate courses and issues online degrees and certificates. They’re focused on what they call “the modern learner”, a student who can work full-time, spend time with family and friends, and still be part of a rigorous degree or certificate program.

The challenge: engaging students who rarely see their professors face-to-face

The objective in including the game in CSU Global training was really to engage the student. The Program Chairs realized they needed to keep current with the trends and saw gamification as something very important that could be integrated into their academic courses.

They started searching and found lots of simulations, but there wasn’t anything really like what they were looking for: the gaming component. Then the Gamelearn platform caught their attention. They wanted to see how they could make game-based learning theirs, how it could work. Their courses are all virtual, and they try very hard to be interactive within their lectures. They don’t want their students to just sit there reading the screen. The gaming aspect just took it one step further, really engaging the students.

Solution: Pacific, the serious game on negotiation and conflict-resolution

The CSU Global Program Heads embraced the serious game Pacific because of its theme, and integrated it into one of the courses, so that they could take their content and blend it seamlessly with the game.

The biggest challenge was matching the sequencing of the program with the sequencing in the game. They followed the game’s structure and integrated delegation into the task process early on. By the third or fourth week, the students had everything they needed in the game. They just continued playing, so the faculty brought in conflict resolution, communication, and feedback… And some of those elements popped up in the game as well, so the students could practise them when they arose. About half of the course content was scripted from the game

The Lead Faculty- Organizational Leadership, Sheila Landfair-Mueller, wonders and then answers herself: “Would we have presented the content in another sequence without the game? Yes, potentially, but it didn’t really matter, because the game was there to support it.” Besides, she points out: “The game is very intuitive, the navigation instructions are very clear, as well as the actions that the students and faculty have to take throughout the course. I don’t believe we had any confusion or issues regarding that. The training we needed was minimal.”

The way CSU Global is structured, faculty is in charge of their own courses. The Program Chairs create the content with their experts, but then the faculty takes that content and makes it their own, so they had to be convinced about the material and the methodology too.

CSU Global logo

In that sense, Dina Samora, Program Chair involved in this project, explains: “Once we got the game embedded into the course, it was easy to convince most of the professors and, of course, the students. Those who registered for the course, about 400, had no idea what the course looked like before”, but it worked smoothly.

The primary delivery method for the lecture content is verbal or written, so in each week’s lecture, aside from setting up the actions the student should take and the readings to be completed, one of the pages is entirely dedicated to the game.That is the sequencing and it works.

“Pacific, in a sense, is kind of like a textbook, a living textbook. The students can take it and learn, and they can practice the soft skills they are learning, which is really what we were looking for. It’s a safe environment to practise without hurting anyone, because unfortunately we all know what happens in organizations. We ourselves have to learn how to be effective as leaders and bumble around. All the bumbling around inside Gamelearn is safer, so we were glad to find Pacific and we would love to do much more of that in the courses on this platform”, states Dina.

Results: the best feedback from online students who didn’t expect to play while learning

CSU Global integrated a serious game as part of the regular content in one of their courses, and the enrolled students thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They actually asked to go back into the game and keep playing, even when it wasn’t possible. They liked it a lot.

The NPS was 35,7 and the students that completed the course gave it an average score of 8 out of 10. 86% of them would recommend the leadership course to a colleague and almost all of them found it applicable to their professional life.

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