Interesting Approach to Teaching

Dr. David Wiley, an Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, is taking an interesting approach to teaching one of his upcoming classes “Introduction to Open Education.” He is turning his online course into a role-playing game and is opening it to all interested participants. On his syllabus he presents an compelling argument for the class:

  • “Instructional design faculty are frequently criticized for delivering information about innovative new pedagogical methods to their students in the form of traditional lectures – for talking the talk but failing to walking the walk. Setting positive examples is important for people in every field to do. There are two ways to describe the design of this course, and both are equally valid. On the one hand, this course is a mix of direct skills instruction combined with project-based learning and collaborative problem solving. The course employs a progression of increasingly complex problems with supportive information, and requires students to synthesize hundreds of pages of literature, interview data, and their own design intuition to produce meaningful artifacts both individually and as part of highly inter-dependent teams. The idea of teach-reteach (characterized so well in Gong’s description of the Three Person Problem) is at the heart of the students’ day-to-day learning experiences. On the other hand, the course is a massively multiplayer role-playing game in which students select a character class, develop specialized expertise, complete a series of individual quests, join a Guild, and work with members of their Guild to accomplish quests requiring a greater breadth of skills than any one student possesses. One need not look very far to find indications that the genre is extremely effective in promoting informal learning – see the work of Constance Steinkuehler and John Seely Brown as examples. Despite the impressive work of Constance, JSB, and others, to the best of my knowledge no one has ever designed and implemented a university course as a massively multiplayer role-playing game. In addition to helping students gain a working knowledge of the field of open education (i.e., knowledge they can actually put to work), this course is a design experiment exploring the effectiveness of running a university course as a massively multiplayer role-playing game.”

As I usually say, it will be interesting to see what the final results for this experiment are.


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