More for Less - Games:EDU 2010


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Slideshare version of academic keynote talk from Games:EDU 2010.

See notes for key points on each slide and image attribution details.

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  • Choosing the curriculum, picking technologies, etc is NOT the main challenge facing games education... Though it is the part most obvious to students and external industry Lifecycle diagram CC-BY-NC, Harold Jarche, Scheme logo -, GNU Free Documentation License , Version 1.2 The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrup published by ... Design Patterns by Gamma et al. Published by ... All other logos are TM of their repsective owners, and used for illustrative purposes: DirectX 11 and XNA logos TM Microsoft OpenGL and WebGL logos TM Khronos Foundation Unreal TM Epic Games Unity TM Unity Maya TM Autodesk Flash logo TM Adobe Systems
  • Many universities today have strategic goals like these...
  • More for less... Goodbye to balance Lichfield District Council
  • And those that aren’t trying to achieve more for less, soon will be... Source:
  • The problem is sufficiently severe for the Guardian to have a special section dedicated to cuts and closures Source:
  • David Willetts, Secretary for Universities and Science – what has he got in store for universities? Too early to tell. Cc Edge Foundation
  • Paperwork – something we see a lot of in university Piles of Paper: Post-it: Peteris B
  • Quality assurance – how good is our paperwork? Enhancement Led Institutional Review Research Assessment Exercise / Research Evaluation Framework – how good is our research? Piles of Paper: Post-it: Peteris B
  • Validation and accreditation British Computer Society Skillset External validation and re-validation of all courses Piles of Paper: Post-it: Peteris B
  • Also lots and lots of internal paperwork – such as module descriptors, programme descriptors, learning outcomes etc In Scotland, learning outcomes need to be expressed in terms matching those provided by the Scottish Certificates and Qualifications Framework – which are specific to the year of study Piles of Paper: Post-it: Peteris B
  • But lecturers are like heating engineers – we became lecturers for the action. To teach, not to fill in forms. Brazil (Dir. Terry Gilliam) © 1985 Embassy International Pictures; Image used under ‘fair-use’ provisions.
  • A typical university organisation (Note: A games course could be in ANY of the four faculties shown – what effect would that have on the type of course it was, and on what topics might be covered?)
  • In almost every university there exists a Department of Innovation Prevention. As you try to introduce changes to improve things, there are forces that try to keep things the same... It might be IT wanting to protect the network infrastructure by locking it down and making it hard to add new hardware or software, legal guidance that prevents or limits use of Web 2.0, finance procedures that make purchasing specialist hardware impossible.... Etc
  • Reorganisation is also a periodic feature of most universities. The University of the West of Scotland was recently formed by a merger between Bell College Hamilton and the University of Paisley. As a result, in a few years we have seen more reorganisation than most. Image (c) University of the West of Scotland
  • So far I’ve listed some of the forces affecting academic time, and pressures on university education to provide more for less. But what can be done about it? A good place to start is to rethink our instruction methods. Laurakgibbs @ flickr -
  • Lectures are popular – not least because it is the cheapest way of addressing a large number of students with a small amount of staff resource. But are they the most effective teaching method? It has certainly been a feature of university education since the modern university came into existence as shown in this medieval picture – complete with students talking at back and falling asleep. In a video on YouTube, David Wiley presents a Parody of the Future of Education. He notes that lectures started because books were too expensive. Now we have books, videos, YouTube, podcasts, ... So why still lectures? Medieval lecture image, public domain, sourced from WikiMedia Commons
  • We also have to stop thinking in simple pass fail terms. A degree can be thought of as a succession of pass/fail binary decisions. A series of ‘yes’ decisions, and the student graduates, a ‘no’ and they are binned. Degree flowchart by Daniel Livingstone CC-BY-NC Keep Britain Tidy logo (c) Graduation hat GNU Free Documentation License
  • Students who fail one course might do so for many reasons – perhaps they might succeed on another course. From experience, a technically demanding degree on games programming will have retention issues. From students who struggle with programming and from students who realise (perhaps after two years or more!) that programming is no longer what they wish to do. Providing a route to alternative qualifications can help these students succeed in other areas. Additionally, we need to prepare students who might leave to directly enter work – perhaps in a non-games area. Degree flowchart by Daniel Livingstone CC-BY-NC
  • Another challenge is the 40% pass mark common in UK undergraduate qualifications. Even from the best courses, students who scrape through with a bare pass might not be well prepared – and students can easily focus on passing a degree instead of focussing on learning.
  • Students use a wide range of online and offline technologies for learning and personal use – social networking is common, other technologies used to varying degrees. Can we use these to try to extend the reach of university to meet students on neutral turf? But students might not want to ‘friend’ us on their own turf – e.g. Facebook Creative Commons:
  • At UWS a social network exists for use by staff and students on the games (and games related) courses. The network is open, and administrated by students and staff – but not part of the official web presence. Students have real ownership – and the discussion is kept informal. Students can and do interact with each other a lot more – but in a space where staff can also offer advice and support. Students, alumni and staff all share a common network. Source:
  • It also becomes important to recognise other student achievements. Such as extra-credit classes (common in the USA) or other schemes that offer awards to students for work beyond class assignments. Source: University of Bristol
  • It is important to encourage participation in competitions – though most are limited in the numbers that they can accept. What about students who don’t get into the big competitions? Can also encourage students to self-publish – perhaps easier for courses which focus on casual/web games or which use XNA/C# in the curriculum. More challenging for programming focussed courses based on C++ Global Game Jam logo TM Global Game Jam (check?) Dare to be Digital... Real Time Worlds logo TM Real Time Worlds Ltd. App Store icon TM Apple Computers Xbox Live Arcade logo TM Microsoft Kongretate logo TM Kongregate Steam logo TM Valve Facebook icon/logo TM Facebook
  • So for example this summer at UWS I will be running a summer “Unversity” program. Like University, but without lectures, coursework or deadlines! Basically, students pick their own projects and groups. I provide some support, some encouragement, and some basic structure. A number of students have already signed up, I’ll be contacting others. Participation will be in the labs and online – the goal for each group to try to complete at least one game project over the summer. Time will tell if this works... UNversity logo by Daniel Livingstone incorporating arcade controller image from Open Clipart Library, public domain -
  • What these different strategies have in common is trying to encourage students to behave like game developers. Instead of focussing on teaching, we need to encourage students to become active participants in a game development community. Change the mindset from trying to pass the course and learning about game development to *being* a game developer – and learning to be a better developer. UWS Computer lab, students and alumni. (c) John Sutherland, used with permission Communities of Practice image taken from CC-NC-SA image by PLEARN on Flickr:
  • More for Less - Games:EDU 2010

    1. 1. More for Less: The Hidden * Challenges of Games Education Daniel Livingstone University of the West of Scotland @dlivingstone *Well, hidden from students and the external games industry, at any rate
    2. 3. University of Somewhere Strategic Goals <ul><li>More students </li></ul><ul><li>Better pass rate </li></ul><ul><li>More research </li></ul><ul><li>Higher quality research </li></ul><ul><li>Save more money </li></ul>
    3. 4. More For Less
    4. 7. The Man with Two Brains
    5. 12. Lecturers are like heating engineers <ul><li>Harry Tuttle: Bloody paperwork. Huh! </li></ul><ul><li>Sam: I suppose one has to expect a certain amount. </li></ul><ul><li>Harry Tuttle: Why? I came into this game for the action, the excitement. </li></ul>
    6. 20. 40%
    7. 27.