Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Flipping The MOOC With An ARG

Dr. Jeff D Borden has proposed an idea to flip the MOOC with an ARG. It’s from his own experience of implementing game-based learning in his classes. This is the explanation from him:

It all began in 1997 actually.  I received a Graduate Assistantship from the University of Northern Colorado to co-teach a Courtroom Communication course.  Having taken the course during my own undergraduate experience, I knew that the content was rich and the learning outcomes were outstanding, but the implementation was a bit…well, dull.

Now, for the next step in the journey, keep in mind that 1997 was just ending the video tape era and transforming into DVD.  But, for whatever reason, in 1996 I had found a board game that Parker Brothers decided to turn into a video based game instead.  It was CLUE VCR.  So, one night while I was playing the game with a few of my M.A. colleagues (and yes, I believe imbibing was also involved), I had an idea.  Why not take the Courtroom Communication course and turn it into the world’s biggest CLUE game?  We could actually put to use all of the theoretical aspects of persuasion, voir dire, communicating effectively with a jury, etc.  And so, Courtroom Communication, the experience, was born.

We ran the course for a few semesters, honing the pieces and parts each term.  We ended up with an actual judge sitting bench during our “Trial of the Century” weekend.  We got better and better crime scene evidence from students and professors in the theater department, the science department, etc.  We even started getting calls from professors outside of communication asking if they could help and start to include appropriate objectives for their own students.  While I didn’t know the term “curriculum integration” at that point in my career, that was exactly what happened.  Soon, our course of 75 students became 250 students, 6 professors, and 6 different majors.  From Speech Communication to Forensic Science to Journalism and beyond, we had the time of our lives teaching that class.

Fast forward to 2012. The MOOC craze is officially grabbing the eye of many forward thinkers in education.  At the same time, I won the Sloan-C Effective Practice award for the course (which has now been taught at various institutions).  And Pearson’s OpenClass is on the scene, trying to make amazing educational experiences happen inside a free learning environment.  That’s when it hit me.  Why not try to do this situated simulation, using the Internet to provide unique / different tools, while at the same time allowing for a global audience with a local flavor.  See, I contend that the current MOOC is just bad teaching and learning propagated over the Net.  So, why not transform the bad lectures, inauthentic assessment, and meaningless social learning into a real, gamified, educationally effective experience FOR CREDIT!

And so, myself and a colleague got permission from a large consortium of community colleges to do just that.  We are actually transforming this Alternate Reality Game (course) into a Flipped MOOC.  We will deliver it at scale, for credit, in a global fashion, but with local expertise, that incorporates best practices standards but still allows for creativity, and we will do it all in a way that is replicable.  And if you come to SXSWedu (and of course, if this presentation is voted in…), you’ll get to hear all about it.

So what do you say?  Want to play a game?  Then level me up by voting!  ( – search for ARG4EDU: Immersive Games to Promote Deep Learning)

ARG for educational gaming

In the workshop he prepared to bring to SXSW, participants will be given the tools necessary to include small learning games into curriculum, the workshop will strive to provide templates that instructors can use to create an alternate reality game (ARG) for an entire module or even course. (ARG is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a backdrop, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.)

What do you think? Sounds cool, right?!


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1 Response »


  1. The Ongoing Stories of MOOC | Classroom Aid

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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