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Video game makes debut as teaching tool in ASU classroom


November 14, 2007

ASU’s School of Global Management and Leadership is bringing video gaming to its classrooms with an eye on using the educational and training tool to teach students about competing in business on three levels: information technology, process management and operations.


The school’s partnership with IBM, a worldwide leader in technology products and services, will help students develop a specific set of business and information technology (IT) skills required in today’s global marketplace.

The “serious games” that form the basis for the partnership are seen by many corporations as an effective way of teaching new skills to a generation that has been brought up in the video-game era, with computer and video games used as educational and training tools. The games can be simulations that have the look and feel of a game but correspond to nongame events or processes, including business operations and processes.

According to the Apply Group, by 2012 between 100 and 135 of the Global Fortune 500 will have adopted gaming for learning. Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States are expected to be the vanguard of such a move. ASU’s global management school plans to begin testing the IBM “Innov8” software in classes immediately.

“This is a 21st century version of the ‘meat and potatoes’ core business courses that deal with technology,” says Pierre Balthazard, director of the school’s graduate programs. “IBM has developed a unique and exciting platform to present complicated material in a way that will engage the students.”

Balthazard says the software was introduced in mid-November to ASU’s master’s in applied leadership and management class as part of an exercise to learn business process management and the assessment of new technologies.

“Our students will eat this up,” he says.

Innov8 has been specifically designed by IBM to help bridge the gap in understanding between IT teams and business leaders in an organization. By featuring simulations that have the look and feel of a video game but correspond to business activities such as improving operational processes, serious gaming recently has emerged as a successful method to train employees or develop new skills.

The game, which is played with a joystick, is based on advanced commercial gaming technologies and allows players to visualize how technology and the related business strategy affect different parts of the organization. Together, players can see business processes, identify bottlenecks and explore “what-if” scenarios before the technology is deployed.

“We believe this is cutting edge and will be of tremendous benefit to our students and faculty,” says Balthazard, whose research in brain mapping for leadership skills recently was the subject of a front-page feature in the Wall Street Journal. “The system and its gaming approach will add an interesting dimension to our pedagogy; we teach to non-technical global management students mostly. IBM has developed the tools that will enhance the learning process for our students, and we are looking forward to using those tools in our classrooms, because this represents great promise as we strive to find new ways to present challenging, heavily quantitative lessons and make them easier to grasp.”

The promise of the serious games concept is evidenced by a recent IBM survey in which 75 percent of chief executive officers surveyed cited education and the lack of qualified candidates as the issues that will have the greatest impact on their business over the next three years.

More than half (56 percent) of IBM’s clients reported that not having the right blend of business and IT skills is the most immediate challenge they face. Other studies show technology workers themselves worry that their lack of business skills is holding them back in areas such as budget management, strategy and business savvy.