Guest Post: In the Fore Front – Videogame-Based Learning in Higher Education

13 December 2012 7,793 views No Comment

Arguably videogames like Halo and Call of Duty can be seen as a “distraction”—something that can disrupt a college student’s concentration and possibly even jeopardize a student’s academic career. But in an effort to engage students and make core-curriculum more exciting, some U.S. college officials are actually embracing these “distractions” and are molding them to meet the educational needs of their students. That said, below (in no particular order) are some pioneering college and universities using technology and game-based learning to bring lessons to life and encourage learning.

University of Texas-Brownsville and Texas Southmost College

Location: Brownsville, Texas

Enrollment: 13,019

Enrollment may not be as large as some of the other schools in the country, but when it comes to game-based learning UTB and TSC is making a big impact. Physics assistant professor Soumya Mohnay sparked the trend when he launched the inaugural course, “Elementary Physics Through Video Games” in the fall semester of 2011. Like the name suggests, it teaches non-science majors the fundamentals of physics by analyzing commercial videogames such as Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, AngryBirds and Little Big Planet. Three PlayStation consoles and two plasma TVs are used in the class. For a peek into Mohnay and his work, click here.

Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Enrollment: 30,836

Purdue is home to the Center for Serious Games and Learning in Virtual Environments, an active research hub that explores the effectiveness of educational-based games for both K-12 and higher education classrooms. So it shouldn’t come to a surprise that the school incorporates game-based learning in its own courses. Currently, a handful of courses, like “Introduction to Aerospace Design,” use simulator-games to enhance curriculum.

University of Madison-Wisconsin

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Enrollment: 42,041

The University of Madison-Wisconsin has made several efforts to incorporate game-based learning in its curriculum. Custom-made games “Cool It” and “Melody Mixer” were designed for engineering majors and music majors respectively. Future educators also have the opportunity to enroll in “Instructional Technology, Learning, and Games”—a course that specifically teaches future teachers how to incorporate technology and videogames into the classroom.

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Enrollment: 4,859

The Wharton School is the University of Pennsylvania’s business school. The b-school gets attention all on its own simply because it’s doing the most to include videogames into the curriculum. In fact, there is an array of custom-made videogames that teach everything from economics to management skills. For example, FareGame is an interactive game designed to teach students about setting prices for goods in a competitive market.

University of Central Florida

Location: Orlando, Florida

Enrollment: 58,698

Last but certainly not least is UFC. This institution makes the cut because of the initiates its education school has made. Future teachers have the opportunity to play STAR, an interactive classroom simulator. Students get submerged in a virtual urban middle school and must learn how to properly interact with a classroom full of students—even with those that ask obscure questions. It’s a great training course.

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg. Certainly as technology advances the future will bring more game-based learning opportunities.

Jillian Terry is a former educator turned freelance education writer for Her area of expertise includes technology in the classroom and online education. She welcomes your comments and feedback.

Elisa teaches online professional development courses for teachers at
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