Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

During the past two decades, simulation, especially as it helps people to understand complex systems, has become a mainstream use of computational technology. The widespread popularity of "edutainment" software like SimCity and Civilization gives a clear indication of the extent to which simulation games have permeated popular culture. As these and other games have found places in the classroom, researchers have tried to ascertain what and how students (or people more generally) learn from these environments, and what implications this has for software and curriculum design.

In this project-based course, students from all disciplines are encouraged to understand how we learn from interactive computer environments, and delve into the process of designing and understanding simulations and games for learning. In the first part of the course we will explore the design and use of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) games and simulations in the classroom, and how they have been and can be tailored to learning, including technical, practical and pedagogical advantages and limitations. This will be combined with scholarly readings from the emerging field of learning games. We will then design non-digital games, and study both the design process and learner outcomes. Next we move into the realm of the digital, again studying the design and use of digital games and simulations in educational contexts. Finally, we will also study what and how people learn from simulations (including focus groups and user feedback), and how simulation and gaming tools can be implemented in educational settings. All levels of computer experience welcome. Graduate students are expected to complete additional assignments.

Assignment Overview


Paper - designing curricula for games (10 points)

Game study/presentation (10 points)

Paper/discussion - board game design document (5 points)

Paper/presentation of board game (15 points)

Paper - electronic game design document (5 points)

Paper/presentation of electronic game and testing (25 points)


Class participation/group activities



Graduate credit is available with an additional paper/presentation on a game/simulation of the student's choice.