August 23, 2006

UNCG Develops Computer Game for College Credit

The UNCG Division of Continual Learning has developed a groundbreaking new video game for college credit that is scheduled to launch this fall. Called ECON 201, the game teaches the principles of microeconomics by following an alien species that must learn how to survive after crash-landing on a futuristic, post- apocalyptic earth.

"Regardless of how skilled the instructor, it can be a challenge to teach complex concepts in a traditional classroom using standard lecture techniques," says Dr. Robert Brown, dean of the UNCG Division of Continual Learning. "That's certainly true of economics, which is a highly theoretical subject. Online gaming techniques can bring that theory to life."

Through the challenges the ECON 201 game presents, students learn to deal with economic principles that range from scarcity to sustainable growth. The course also integrates a variety of interdisciplinary subjects that beyond economics -- such as biology, history, and anthropology. For example, students must make ethical decisions as they play the game. They face disease outbreak. They review historical examples of how the earth faced similar problems before.

"We know that today’s students live in a multimedia world, so ECON 201 is designed to provide the visual excitement and intrigue to keep them engaged,” says Dr. Jeff Sarbaum, award-winning economics instructor and academic advisor for the course. “I've used gaming modules in my face-to-face classes, and I've found that those are the days that students seem to enjoy the most and also to learn the most."

Students play the game on their own schedule -- learning when and where they choose. All they need is a PC and an Internet connection. An online chat tool promotes collaboration and makes it simple for gamers to interact with each other and their instructor.

Students can register for the course now, even if they are not enrolled at the University. It fulfills a social sciences credit, which is a core requirement for most college and university degree programs.