Serious Games in Business – work integrated learning

serious games 1 serious games 2Serious Games in Business — designing blended spaces to maximise student learning through work integrated learning and PACE

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is a term used to describe an activity or program that integrates academic learning with its application in the workplace. The practice may be real, simulated or a combination of both, and can occur in the workplace, on campus at university, online or face-to-face.

Students apply recently acquired knowledge and learn new professional skills as well as develop generic attributes or what we refer to as ‘soft skills’ such as interpersonal skills in an organisational setting.

A mutually beneficial relationship – Industry and community partners have access to the energy, knowledge, innovative ideas and skills of current students as well as the chance of building networks with potential future employees.

Where theory meets practice…

In the Faculty of Business and Economics, an innovative programme is currently being run based on Gamification. It is called Serious Games in Business operatingas a WIL program. Serious Games runs each semester and is offered as an elective on a competitive basis to all students in second and third years of their business programme.  The basis of the experience is for high performing teams to use a serious game to solve a valuable business problem for real live clients. Clients whom we have worked with include The Co-op Book Shop, Ernst & Young, and this current session partners included start up organisations such as Taste Ireland, Car Next Door, and Secret Foodies. The fundamental principle behind Serious Games asks students to translate business problems into a game.

The students participating in the program learn about design thinking principles, user engagement, gamification and the application of new technologies. They are presented with an interesting, real-world business challenge and are guided during the semester by an industry mentor and team of experts in the field of design thinking, user experience and gamification practice.

These ‘Serious Gaming’ students gain a valuable insight into the world of game design as well as being faced with the challenge of defining valuable problems in a business space, developing ideas, prototyping their concepts and finally pitching their solution to executive partners, founders and strategy officers from industry.

Some of the innovations that have been developed in the course include gamification for The Co-op Bookshop as they rebranded their business.

The Co-op Bookshop

  • A video game was developed to bridge the gap between high school and University, making it fun to decide between university options whilst able to earn coupons that were redeemable at The Co-op Bookshop once they enrolled in university;
  • A careers game to help students decide on the major or course they would like as suited to their personality. The game involved mock interviews, aptitude tests and writing a CV in fun ways where the players can learn career knowledge and at the same time The Co-op Bookshop gets branding exposure so they are top of mind when coming to university;
  • “Uni Wars” was an app where daily students could engage in trivia competitions, scavenger hunts on campus and the like to enhance the brand awareness of The Co-op Bookshop and at the same time students could gain social and career networking opportunities.

Ernst & Young

  • “Cultural Effects in a Global Landscape” was a video game designed to be used by international businesses for their employees who had regular overseas travel as part of their work commitments. Points could be earned for appropriate behaviours in various regions of the world and those employees who played the game were able to expand their knowledge of business culture depending on the country they were engaged in;
  • “Quizman” was an app designed for the induction of new employees in order to familiarise them with organisational governance within the workplace. Players ultimately gained points for demonstrating a correct understanding of processes within the business and could accumulate points to claim prizes, thus rewarding those employees with a greater understanding of the business culture within the organisation.
  • The “Hire Me Please” game was designed to enhance Ernst & Young’s graduate recruitment process where players were confronted with a variety of situations and had to demonstrate how they would approach and handle each unique circumstance. Points were gained on the basis of players’ ability to follow instructions and meet time limits. The underpinning business problem that the game was designed around stemmed from the need to overcome cheating that can occur in typical psychometric testing;
  • “Better Safe than Sorry” was a Work Health & Safety game that demonstrated the dangers in a workplace and allowed players to identify potential hazards and overcome them. The game involved rewards and fines, as appropriate and the winner was the player with the most points at the end of the game.

This type of practical program enables Macquarie University to uniquely address the growing gap between students’ theory and the practical application in the workplace. One of the greatest learning outcomes from this type of WIL program is that students, exposed to teamwork, ambiguous criteria for success, networking, professional behaviour and comprehensive feedback from mentors, are seen as having the ‘soft skills’ of a second or third year employee upon completion of the program (not to mention a great addition to their CV).

As a key component of the University’s strategic direction, PACE gives Faculty of Business and Economics students the chance to participate in innovative programs such as Serious Games in Business and connect with relevant industry partners in a professional environment.

The PACE program has been successful in substantiating both the worth and practicality of WIL programs as an integral component in the repertoire of higher education. By way of allowing students to engage in such practical experiences whilst completing their university studies the PACE initiative should be recognised for ensuring that Macquarie University, our industry partners and our students remain at the forefront of innovative educations practices at a global level.