Intro to Open Education – “The Game”

Winter semester I’m teaching a new version of the Introduction to Open Education course here at BYU. I’m as excited for this course as I’ve ever been for any – partly because the course has been completely redesigned as a massively multiplayer role-playing game. From the Syllabus:

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.

Visit the syllabus to learn about the four character classes, the specifics of the quests, and other information. I’m still inserting links to some of the readings, but the course structure is complete and I would love any and all feedback (including negative feedback) on the course design.

The course will be open again this year, meaning anyone, anywhere is welcome to participate. And yes, I will print and mail completion certificates again for those who earn and want them. =)