Tri-C Students Utilize Gaming to Learn, Fight Hunger

Free Rice website on screen.

It’s late afternoon on a dreary Monday and English class is soon approaching. That’s not exactly the news college students would normally be happy to hear.

Times are changing, though. In fact, you’re likely to see several Tri-C students wearing enthusiastic smiles as they walk to their classes.

“Everyone learns differently,” Amanda Siegfried said as she settled into her third-floor classroom seat at the Metro Campus Liberal Arts Building. “This is great for the younger generation and keeps people more engaged and focused. I think it’s a really good idea.”

Siegfried’s class and more than 20 others at Tri-C are utilizing EduGaming, an emerging element of education where games and game mechanics aim to engage, educate and motivate students like never before. 

It’s taking center stage during National Distance Learning Week (Nov. 5-9) as the classes are competing in the Free Rice Project. Free Rice is an international online quiz game featuring questions on math, anatomy, literature, art, chemistry, geography and more. Every correct answer means 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme.

The Free Rice Project gives students the chance to study important subjects while helping fight hunger worldwide. Classes compete against each other through Dec. 3 to see who can win the most rice, with the combined total being donated to the Cleveland Food Bank.

“The vast majority of students play games,” said Pat Stansberry, assistant professor of English. “More than 90 percent of young men play games and almost 80 percent of young women. Gaming provides a different angle to reach and engage students with educational content.”

Stansberry and A. Sasha Thackaberry, manager of NextGeneration Learning, co-chair the Gaming Incubation Group (GIG) at Tri-C. GIG was started in 2011 as a way to promote EduGaming as a tool to help students learn.

“Gaming is a better way to learn,” Metro Campus student Jacqulyn Bacchus said. “Books are old-fashioned.  Online is the way to go. Playing Free Rice has helped boost my vocabulary as well as help me in other subjects. I’m interested and motivated.”

It’s music to Thackaberry’s ears anytime she hears students saying they’re motivated and interested in learning.

“Learning through gaming provides low-risk failure,” Thackaberry pointed out. “Sure, students might miss an answer, but they’re less likely to get frustrated or lose interest. They’ll keep coming back and trying to succeed.”

At the end of every semester, GIG holds a speed-gaming session, similar to speed-dating. It allows faculty and students to try a variety of games that test your mettle in chemistry, geography and math, among several others.

Much like Free Rice, all games are web-based. The Chem Bio Game (matching chemistry elements) and Medical Center Challenge (exploration of medical center buildings) are Tri-C exclusives.

“EduGaming along with mLearning (mobile learning) and social learning really are revolutionizing education,” Thackaberry said. “They’re giving us new ways to leverage what we’re already doing well. The end result is better student outcomes and that’s what is most important.”

David Kich

David Kich is a media coordinator at Cuyahoga Community College.

Volume 2, Issue 12, Posted 8:24 PM, 12.05.2012