Interactive learning: ASU Online to pilot environmental science games

Continuing to lead innovation in online education, Arizona State University is piloting a series of environmental science games at ASU Online.

Within each of the five story-based games, students will take on several leadership roles, with increasing responsibility, to help a community address challenging environmental and sustainability issues.

Tahnja Wilson, senior manager for EdPlus at ASU, will guide the project. Wilson has taught online for more than 10 years. Her instructional design interests include gaming best practices and student/instructor engagement.

“I’m excited by how these authentic experiences will add a ‘human element’ to the learning process,” said Wilson. “The interactive features will be a great complement to the other course components.”

Developed by Toolwire, which has delivered more than 540 million minutes of games and simulations across 100 colleges and universities, these game-based simulations contain a variety of interactive features including the ability to download informational Digital Learning Objects, take notes and respond to reflection questions using “day-in-the-life” tools in the game, such as mobile phones and emails.

These interactive games use a sophisticated software that was co-created with ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to challenge students to think critically about a series of real-life environmental dilemmas. As in real life, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers, so students must make choices that balance what’s best for the environment and the community.

At the end of each module, students and instructors receive a “performance summary” dashboard with a “resources viewed” metric. These indicators show both students and their instructors the quality of student decisions based on how they impacted environmental, economic and social sustainability, as well as how motivated students were to explore and find resources to inform their decisions.

“We put a great deal of consideration into our online courses to ensure they’re interesting and engaging for online learners,” said Frank Timmes, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “ASU is committed to integrating experiential learning opportunities into our online programs through game-based learning and simulation tools that provide students with real-world, hands-on skills.”

Game-based learning, among the top developments in education technology, involves immersing students in games where content and curricula are experienced in contextual simulations. Benefits of game-based learning include providing scalable, engaging and personalized student experiences; holistic interdisciplinary learning; real time assessment; dynamic remediation; and performance analytics.

ASU’s Ashish Amresh, who worked on these games, will be sharing his thoughts about game-based learning at the ASU+GSV Summit from 4 to 5 p.m., April 6 at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Media contact:

Carrie Lingenfelter,
ASU Online