Innovative Induction with Alternate Reality Games

Whitton, Nicola; Wilson, Scott; Jones, Rosie and Whitton, Peter (2008). Innovative Induction with Alternate Reality Games. In: Proceedings of the 2nd European Conference on Games Based Learning (Connolly, Thomas and Stansfield, Mark eds.), Academic Conferences Ltd, Reading, pp. 499–506.

Abstract

Induction is a key factor in helping students acclimatise to Higher Education and in ensuring retention. However, induction activities – both formal and informal – regularly fail to cater for the needs of the diverse range of students that are now entering Higher Education. Formal induction activities, such as library induction, tend to be short sessions often delivered to large groups run in inflexible face-to-face slots. The perceived usefulness of these sessions is not always apparent to students because they take place at the start of the year and inevitably use tasks that are not contextualised. Socialisation and orientation activities, which are commonly based around pubs, do not always suit students from different backgrounds and cultures.

This paper describes the Alternate Reality Games for Orientation, Socialisation and Induction (ARGOSI) project, which aims to use an alternate reality game to provide an engaging and purposive learning environment in which students can meet others, explore the city of Manchester and learn basic information seeking and evaluation skills. An alternate reality game (ARG) consists of a series of challenges, which take place both online and offline, individually and in groups. These challenges are underpinned by an ongoing narrative structure and online community. Alternative reality games offer an inclusive, cost-effective and engaging alternative to traditional induction activities, where learning activities are embedded within the story as it unfolds and skills and information are learned in a meaningful context.

The structure and pedagogic advantages of alternate reality games will be discussed and the paper will demonstrate how they can be used to meet specified learning outcomes. A case study example of the ARG developed will be described and the student-centred design process and evaluation of the project will also be briefly discussed. Finally, the paper will highlight some of the issues to be considered with the use of alternate reality games in Higher Education.

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