Video game class format offers students innovative way to learn

October 24, 2017

Quinita Thomas

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    At UCCS, students can go on quests, advance through levels and earn magic points that can help them navigate from task to task.

    But this is not in a video game. This is SOC 1110 – Introduction to Sociology.

    Senior sociology instructor Zek Valkyrie’s section of Intro to Sociology is structured with video game elements, giving students the opportunity to think creatively in class. Valkyrie created his video-game inspired course curriculum in 2012 when he first started teaching at UCCS.

    Elements including experience points, or exp’s, and a level-up system, are ways that students can be rewarded, according to Valkyrie.

    Students can earn exp’s when they turn in assignments. Those who earn 20 exp’s can level up and earn a kind of currency called magic points, which allow students to cast magic spells, according to Valkyrie.

    “Those magic spells largely allow them to have some small amount of control over not only how many points they gain, but over certain assessments,” Valkyrie says.

    “Say you can use a fireball to blow up a multiple-choice question on an exam. You earned that fireball from doing other work in the class.”

    According to Valkyrie, a student’s total amount of exp’s is reflective of their overall grade.

    In Valkyrie’s class, exams are “boss battles.” If a student does not score well on their first exam, it becomes an opportunity for them to use their magic strategies and redouble their points on the next exam.

    Senior sociology major Rachel Ginsburg took Valkryie’s class as a sophomore. At time time, Ginsburg says she did not know the course was modeled like a game until she was in it, but she enjoyed her experience.

    “With the gamified system, you don’t necessarily realize you’re learning while you’re learning or having a lot of fun through the whole thing, and I think that’s a great way to present a class.” Ginsburg says.

    Ginsburg also likes the ability to use magic points to skip a question on an exam.

    “I think it’s much more comforting to know that if you don’t know a question, you can skip it.”  

Valkyrie also teaches by telling stories, saying that he prefers narrative when it comes to presenting topics such as human and social behavior.

    Alongside storytelling, Valkyrie uses media, music, pop culture, and some video games to demonstrate concepts and theories that are discussed in the classroom.

    Intro to Sociology is not just for those who are interested in pursuing a degree in sociology; Valkyrie says that he designed this course so that students in any major could take it.

    For Ginsburg, any type of learner can succeed. According to Ginsburg, if a student struggles with test taking, yet excels in writing assignments, they can use their magic points on exams and not worry about scoring poorly.

    For Valkyrie, the format improves students’ grades and engagement. He thinks that it also allows his students to think dynamically about concepts they haven’t addressed in other classes.

    Valkyrie feels that the grading system benefits students, as it gives them a chance to eliminate questions on exams they did not do well on, and makes one exam incomparable to the others, unlike in a performance-based grading system.

    “I find the value of the game system to be in allowing students to do just that: make choices about how to strategically use their magic to improve their score on top of the usual studying hard, attending classes and doing the required work,” he says.

    Students interested in taking SOC 1110 can find out more information on the course by referencing the course catalog at