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  • Game-Based Learning at Drexel University

    Friday, December 09, 2016

    Anyone following trends in online education knows that games are hot right now. Touted as the educational tool of the future, game-based learning is the method of bringing gaming principals into the classroom. No, students aren’t substituting hours of Mario Kart for studying. Rather, educators incorporate gaming principles into their lessons in order to engage students with more interactive learning.

    As Drexel University works to integrate gaming into the curriculum of its on-campus and online programs, the idea of using games to make learning fun has popped up in another, more unexpected place in the Drexel community: the library. 

    For a Drexel liaison librarian and some engineering students, the problem was clear: students were going through college so reliant on sources like Google and Wikipedia that they were neglecting more extensive and credible research tools. So, Jay Bhatt, liaison librarian for engineering, and six engineering students decided that the best solution was to make research fun and contextual. They developed a global game in conjunction with Elsevier that gave students a fun and engaging learning experience that helped them familiarize themselves with two prominent engineering databases rather than rely solely on a few quick Google searches.

    Called the Engineering Academic Challenge, the concept of the game is simple. Each week, teams of students from universities around the world utilize the databases Knovel and Engineering Village to answer questions based off of themes from the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for the 21st Century. Questions are multiple choice and revolve around problems with real-world applicability like affordable solar energy and improving urban infrastructure. Winning teams earn prizes, and ultimately the school with the most overall wins is deemed the champion. 

    “We are in an exciting time at the nexus of the future of learning and the future of work,” said Daniel Christe, a research assistant at Drexel and one of the creators of the game. “In a time where knowledge is a commodity like air or water, learning is becoming student-centered, replete with experiences that foster collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. Games are the most engaging and interactive form of media existing today, and will remain a key piece of the future of learning.” 

    The gaming experience appears to have been a success. The Engineering Academic Challenge was well received by students and boasted participants from around the world and in a number of subjects outside of engineering. 

    “Each of the five marathons conducted received enthusiastic responses from students who came and took the challenge,” said Bhatt. “Undergraduate students, graduate students and even a few PhD students came from various academic disciplines including Biology, Economics and Engineering. An added benefit was that the students conversed and exchanged ideas with me and other students after taking the challenge that inspired active interactions related to their own projects they were working on, forming connected future collaborations with each other.”

    You don’t need to be an on-campus or engineering student to participate in the next round of the game. According to Christe, “We want to create a data-driven platform for STEM learning experiences that empowers students to design, research and create. In this direction, we have some exciting pilot projects planned this Winter and Spring to engage learners on campus, online, in our Philadelphia community and across the world.” 

    If you’d like to participate in any upcoming challenges, fill out this form to receive updates and invitations to participate. You can also follow the Engineering Academic Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.

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