Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer 2016 Course Revisions: Game Design Colloquium

I celebrated the start of the summer break with X-Com 2, which I heartily enjoyed. Then, I switched into development mode, building up a proof-of-concept system using Firebase and Polymer. I learned a lot from this process, but part of what I learned was that it was going to take much more time than I had allocated to it, and so that project is now in the archives. A complication is that at the start of the summer, I had three grant proposals under consideration, and these were for technologically diverse projects. My Firebase/Polymer project was kind of a filler. Now I know that I didn't get one grant, but two are still under consideration, including one that had an estimated announcement in May—but I'm still waiting.

Hence, last week, I switched to course revision mode. Revising my courses is something I like to do over the summer anyway, and so I can do this without worrying about the fate of my grant proposals.

I started by looking over CS222: how I taught it last academic year, my notes, my lesson plans. I realized that I am still not entirely sure where to take that course, although reading Dan Hickey's blog helped me realize that part of the problem was a throttling between two perspectives: is that course primarily about getting students into a community of practice, or is it primarily about ensuring that they meet objective outcomes? This requires a bit more thought.

I am pleased to announce that I have another university-funded immersive learning project coming up for the 2016–17 academic year. It has a similar structure to some I have offered in the past, where I will have an honors colloquium on game design in the Fall and a production studio in the Spring. We will be working with Muncie Sanitary District, who operate the annual Camp Prairie Creek—a day camp for kids with themes of environmental sustainability and stewardship.

The last time I taught my game design colloquium was Fall 2014, and that was certainly the best offering to date. I only made some minor adjustments to the course plan. Last time, students could present either a new game proposal or an iterated prototype, but it was clear that some students used this as an easy out when they had not put in their weekly expected effort. This time, students will need to present at least minimum, internally-tested prototypes each week. To balance this, I added an achievement to bring treats for the class.

This revision gave me an opportunity to play with the new Polymer CLI. You can see the results on my course plan for the colloquium. I used one of the built-in templates, added some custom elements, and wrote a simple script to publish the result to our departmental web server.

Next up, I need to make some more serious decisions about CS222. My honors colloquium is a great course to teach, and I think the students have real transformative experiences, but it's also a one-off: there's no expectations that students from the colloquium are going to pursue careers in serious game development, or that further courses will expect them to have specific content knowledge from the colloquium. CS222 is part of the backbone of our major, but it still feels unstable sometimes. I'll post again when I have something more to say about that.