Video games are not just rich school curriculum for sixth graders, as I posted yesterday.

As U.C. Berkeley did last year, the University of Florida is offering a two-credit class called “21st Century Skills in StarCraft” to teach resource-management and decision-making skills, as well as critical thinking and adaptive decision-making.

As an ecampus news article points out, these types of courses are not commonly seen on college syllabi, but there’s potential to create a useful prototype for similar classes in the future.

“[Poling’s] approach could be perfectly legitimate, possibly brilliant, depending on how he pulls it off,” said Nicolas Nelson, an adjunct assistant professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, Calif. “If the academic content of the course is excellent, and the game theory of StarCraft really does convey that content well, then so far so good.”

Here’s the description of the course on the University of Florida website, which explains the goals of the class.

Computer and video games of all types have become a major part of today’s entertainment and technology worlds. Also, online education is an area of intense growth with many employers and professions using online courses and workshops for career development. This course synthesizes the three threads of 21st Century skill development, gaming, and online education into an innovative and experiential approach that encourages students to identify, learn, and practice crucial skills and apply and relate them to real-world situations. It does not teach about Starcraft, but rather aims to utilize the game and the complex situations that arise within it to present and develop the important skills professionals will undoubtedly need in the 21st century workplace.

What do you think about a college course incorporating video games to teach 21st century skills? Would you consider taking it?

  • Andrew

    Overall, I think the traditional model of school is too non-interactive. Too much learning by passively sitting there and listening to a lecture, or by passively reading. Too little learning by actively doing things. I’ve learned far, far more outside of the classroom, then I ever learned inside of one.

    As a video game player and simulations developer, I see them as a way to learn by DOING. The special advantage of simulations is you can practice all sorts of things that would be impractical to do in reality.

    The military already recognizes the power of games & simulations as a method of learning. I worked for many years on a product called Virtual Battlespace 2, a video game which has been used to train thousands of soldiers over the last decade.

    Games are also very good at teaching history. Games are immersive, they can thrust you into the role of another person, in another time and place. They can present you with the options and limitations that were historically available, and let you see what would happen as a result of different decisions. Video games allow you to participate in history, instead of just reading about it. Personally, I learn history best when I can empathize with the people involved, when I can actually imagine myself as one of them. What better way to do that, then to actually BECOME one of them, via a video game?

    A great recent example is the game Crusader Kings II, by Paradox Interactive. It thrusts you into the role of a medieval feudal lord in the year 1066-1466. It is basically a game about relationships between nobles, across religions, nationalities, blood lines, and ethnicities. After playing this game, complex issues like the Crusades, or the Hundred Years War, or the relationship between the Catholic church and the state start to make a lot of sense. You can see how and why it would have happened, without passing moral judgement, because you have been faced with similar situations yourself.

    Games are also great ways to learn skills like investing and financial management. I’ve commented about the board game Cashflow in a related blog post.

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