Category: Education

  • Over the past few days, our Game Changers team came to realise that the programme we had spent so long creating had a frustrating flaw. It all boiled down to one simple problem: we were building a voluntary programme that revolved around a fixed timeline, which meant relying on a huge investment of time from both staff and participants. Participants who have a million and one other things to do, such as mandatory coursework, full-time jobs, busy social lives, and other extra-curricular activities. Many of these activities are not flexible by nature, making it hard for participants to fit the Game Changers programme into their schedules.

    This, in hindsight, is the completely wrong way to approach things. It should be Game Changers that is flexible, not the other way around. When we started the programme we quickly began to realise that our fixed timeline was preventing participants from investing their time. When you know you simply won’t be able to take part in something that requires regular engagement outside of your existing workload, it’s best not to take on something your can’t guarantee you can complete in the time required. Interest in the programme was high, but actual conversion into participation was low.

    With this in mind we have decided to scrap the fixed timeline of activities altogether. Now, anyone who wishes to take part can do so at their leisure, in a completely independent and non-linear way. Instead of supporting a strict six-week programme, we will instead hold Game Changers events, run workshops, develop resources, and provide support for projects linked with the Game Changers moving forward.

    It’s a different direction than we had initially envisioned, but the more we discussed the new direction the more practical and flexible it proved to be. What’s more, we’re no longer limited to focusing on one stage at a time, opening up our support to whichever stage Game Changers participants are currently undertaking. Happy days!

    We’ve already got some great GC supported projects on the horizon and I’m looking forward to posting about them soon 😉

  • I’ve taken a little time over the Christmas break to put together a simple personal homepage, with a few basic details about me, my current projects, links to this blog, and links to my social profiles.

    I thought this would be the perfect time to sing the praises of Jim Groom and Tim Owens, who have been incredibly helpful as I built my new site on their fantastic Reclaim Hosting service.

    Designed as a web hosting service for educators and institutions (but not limited to this audience btw), in order to provide students with domains and web space that they both own and control, Reclaim has flourished into an exceptional and very cost effective solution for hosting content online. What’s more, their customer service is second to none, with Jim and Tim providing me with fast, detailed, and all round pleasant support to help me get my domains redirected and my new hosting account tweaked just right.

    Known support, out of the box

    I’d been interested in trying the simple, social publishing platform ‘Known’ for some time, as a way to collate my random social mumblings into one place. Reclaim provides one-click installation of a hosted Known site right from the admin panel. You can literally add a Known instances to a sub-domain on your site in less than minute. Awesome!

    Sites for your entire faculty or school

    If you want to offer a full blown multi-site system for your faculty or school, then you can also do this through Reclaim. They offer the ability for students to register sub-domains through your (branded) main site, from which they can set up their own instances of WordPress, Known, Drupal and so on. There are a ton of different auto install options available, I’m sure they’ll have whatever you might need. And if not, get in touch with them, I bet they’ll be happy to help you figure out what you need.

    I plan to take advantage of these multi-site features for a future project at Coventry University next year. To be honest, I can’t wait.

    Bonus feature!

    One final awesome feature worth noting is the ability to earn credit toward your future hosting fees by referring others to use Reclaim. This is a fantastic little bonus, and makes it even more appealing an option for students to create their own domains in the most affordable way possible. Here’s my shameless referral link, create one for yourself when you get your site up and running 😉

    I can’t recommend these guys highly enough and I look forward to working with them in the future through my Learning Technologist day job.

    Go check ’em out!

  • Every now and then there are days in your working life in which you turn to your colleagues and realise you’re all thinking the exact same thing… ‘this is what it’s all about’. Yesterday was one of those days. Late in the afternoon, during a final feedback session for one of our lab projects, we had a eureka moment, in which everything we’d been working towards delivered in the most unexpected and satisfying way.

    This week saw the conclusion of a project we’d been working on called ‘Design your own Project’, in which a class of first year students from varying undergraduate courses were given complete control over the contents of a module they were required to complete as part of their degree course. This module was part of the Coventry University employability initiative known as ‘Add+vantage’. A compulsory module that consists of a range of work experience and career development activities, designed to broaden students knowledge, skills and qualifications within a work focused environment.

    The project required a bit of leap of faith on our part, hoping that the students would engage with the concept of choosing what to learn, rather than being spoon fed information, or sitting through week after week of practical tutorial sessions and lectures. Instead, the student would be creating their own ten week plan of action for the module, managing their own learning from start to finish, and recording their progress along the way in the form of a blog, either individually of group-based. An interim presentation

    Our input would be in the form of facilitating a few sessions to assign students into more manageable tutor groups for weekly tutorials with DMLL staff. An interim presentation would take place in week 5, in which all groups would show progress so far, and outline their plans for a final presentation in Week 10. For a more in-depth overview of the project you can check out our project lead Jacqui Speculand’s blog post here.

    I’m going to jump right to week 10 for the final class…

    . . . . .

    The Presentations

    After nine weeks of tutorials, self directed study, and some tasty treats to prepare us for the presentations, we sat down to see what the groups had accomplished. These first year students, who had only started their degrees ten weeks earlier, produced some amazing results. The individual groups managed to produce a photography exhibition; learn how to design leaflets using desktop publishing software; establish a fashion brand (complete with professionally printer t-shirt designs); and finally model and 3D print a concept clean water collector for use in developing countries. Pretty impressive results for ten week old students.

    What’s more, their presentations were excellent. Well prepared, delivered with confidence, and a million miles away from the shy university newcomers we met in the first week. I was humbled during my group’s presentation (Water Collector) when they thanked me for supporting them as a tutor. I was equal parts proud and embarrassed. It made the whole project worthwhile, and I was quick to return the compliment, thanking them for their hard work and effort.

    . . . . .

    The Feedback

    The second half of the final class took the form of a feedback session, in which we discussed the pros and cons of the ‘Design Your Own Project’ module with the students that took part. The majority of the students involved found the structure of the module to be very refreshing. It’s open and flexible nature resonated with many of the students, who found it more interesting than the more traditional modules they were experiencing elsewhere. They expressed how they felt more involved in their own learning.

    Some students commented that it was their favourite assignment so far. Not bad considering the module was effectively an extra-curricular activity, albeit mandatory to take and Add+vantage module of some kind. Others described how they were working hardest on our module, because they were enjoying it so much, with one student jokingly suggesting they might switch courses and take up fashion design instead. I’m half expecting him to follow through and switch to be honest.

    When asked whether they would be take the course again if they could do it over, all but one raised their hand. Several students asked if we were planning to run the module again the following year, as they were interested in taking it again for their second Add+vantage module, in which they like to trying something even bigger and better, building on their first project (!!!). I never imagined it would have such a positive impact that students would be eager to sign up for a second go at it.

    Overall I’d say the project was a resounding success. Our project lead Jacqui is already adapting a new iteration of the module that will run this term. Taking feedback from the student’s who took part in the first iteration and refining the model for other lecturers to adopt for their own teaching.

    I can’t wait to do it all over again!

  • This week, during a brainstorming session in the DMLL with my good friend and colleague Kate Green, we sat down on a couple of bean bags in our lab and started to try and imagine what an open games design programme might look like. We both wanted to get stuck into developing an open online programme, with its foundations built on openness (obviously), community, and a strong sharing ethos. We had the seed of an idea in the form of a design sprint and open course mash-up, now it was time to develop this into a full programme.

    I’d been noodling around an idea to use the lab’s large ‘café’ space for some kind of extended workshop/sprint session, but had been waiting for the right project to come along that might warrant such a setup. If we were going to host a large-scale practical workshop, over say five days, we’d need to ensure that we had a theme worth investing in. One with enough participants to make a workshop sustainable over a number of days.

    Kate and I had been eager to develop a new open class, one that we would have the freedom to design from the ground up, especially considering there are no other open classes like it currently running at Coventry University. Then a potential opportunity presented itself in the form of an ongoing conversation between Sylvester Arnab (Reader in Games Science) and Helen Keegan (DMLL Principal Project Lead), who had been discussing the idea of establishing some kind of gamification project in the lab.

    The project in question would focus on a series of videos presented by a collection of engaging characters, such as ‘Dr. Game’, who would explain a variety of game design concepts for anyone interested in designing their own games or gamifying an activity. The videos would form part of a wider, non-linear collection of design resources. The materials would be quite ‘meta’ and abstract in nature, relying more on viral dissemination over a more traditional course-based delivery.

    Imparapp-four-layer-model Holistic Model for Gamified Design

    So there was the potential to establish a programme around Sylvester and Helen’s initial conversations. This seemed like the perfect starting point to work from, something we could adapt to form a strong foundation for an open programme.

    Jumping back to this week’s bean bags and brainstorming, we combined the themes of educational game design, an open course framework, an open community, and a practical prototyping workshop. Using these we started to build a narrative that would run through our programme.

    GameChangers Board Our initial brainstorm (we have BIG whiteboards!)

    Skills sharing and matchmaking were two important areas we wanted to focus on,

    established the foundations of an open game design programme, culminating in a 5 day ‘game sprint’. Perfect!

    We had the bones of a potentially great project, now all we needed to do was flesh it out…