June 26, 2018 2 min read 0 Comments

Why hasn’t anyone figured out a way to teach a whole course with a game? It would seem the most obvious thing in the world. And as I mentioned in my first blog entry, I’ve been thinking about this for thirty years. 

More than ten years ago, Mitchell Wade and I wrote a book call Got Game (and later The Kids are Alright) on the implications of growing up playing video games. Michael Crow, the brand new President of Arizona State University at that time, asked me to join him for lunch in his office to discuss. There, he challenged me to build a video game to replace university courses. For the next several years, a small group of us tried to do just that. But we failed. 

It turns out, we didn’t have the prerequisites. We needed: 

  • new skills: I wrote a couple of plot-driven novels – and had to learn a lot in the process

  • new role models: I had a job hiring professors and insisted I first watch them teaching – interesting fact, no major university I know of on earth actually observes teaching ability before hiring professors. Based on this fact, I originated The Economist’s Business Professor of the Year award; in the process, I got to see a lot of good, and bad, instruction

  • new experiences: I and current team members (like Adam Carstens) focused more on teaching the way we thought was best even if we lost jobs (yes, multiple) because administrators were threatened by those innovations

  • new technology: cloud computing makes a lot of things possible that were not before – more on that later

While our latest prototype has showed some amazing promise, as of this writing we still have not finished the full version of the game to replace a course. But, we are close, and we have high hopes. 

And a hint you may have ascertained from the bullet-points above: one of the keys to making this successful is complexity. Without the thought convolutions inherent in diverse experiences, we could not have begun to build this. I’ll be writing a lot more about that …

Image: Flickr/Ludie Cochrane