Sp19 ITLS-6730-LO1 Syllabus

ITLS 6730: Games and Learning


Frederick J Poole






Office Hours: By appointment (via phone, chat, F2F)                      
Class Day/Time: Wednesday - Friday  
Location: Online  


Click here for Syllabus in PDF format

Course overview

If someone were to write the intellectual history of childhood—the ideas, the practices, and the activities that engage the minds of children—it is evident that the chapter on the 21st century would need to give a prominent place to video games and virtual worlds. The number of hours spent in front of these screens surely reaches the hundreds of billions. And what is remarkable about this time spent is much more than just quantity. Psychologists, media researchers, designers, educators, and parents are struck by a quality of engagement that stands in stark contrast to the half-bored watching of many television programs and the bored performance exhibited with school homework. Like it or not, video games and virtual worlds are clearly a highly significant component of contemporary children's culture. A generation of kids has grown up playing digital games and continues to do so into their adulthood. The game industry now rivals the movie industry in revenue has joined mainstream media. We also have witnessed a dramatic shift in the public and academic discussions. Researchers from various disciplines are investigating and designing games for learning and teaching. What’s behind all of this sudden interest in games?

This course presents current discussions in newspaper articles, policy reports, and research reviews that are debating the educational promise of digital games. Drawing on work from education, psychology, communication, and the growing field of game studies, we will examine the history of video games, research on game play and players, review how researchers from different disciplines have conceptualized and investigated learning in playing and designing games, and what we know about possible outcomes. We will also address issues of gender, race and violence that have been prominent in discussions about the impact of games.

No prior knowledge or experience in video games or virtual worlds is a prerequisite for taking this course. As part of this seminar, students are expected to participate in class discussions, reflect on their own history of playing traditional (card, board) and/or digital games, learn to play a game or virtual world of their own choosing and design a game, and write a research or design paper within the scope of the course focus.

Course Objectives

The course is designed to explore the following core questions:


IDEA Learning Objectives


Course Format

Delivery of this course is online, through the Canvas learning management system. Each week of the course begins and ends on a Wednesday, although some assignments will have deadlines on Fridays (those assignments usually involve leaving feedback on others’ work – peer review, discussions, and commenting on others’ posts).


You can expect the following from the instructor:


As a graduate course, you will be doing a fair amount of independent reading and gaming; you need to be a self-motivated and independent learner. Please be aware that the lectures and the course readings are complementary. You will not be able to succeed in this class if you only watch lectures or overviews and skip the readings.


Asking Questions about the Material

Questions are best asked on the Help Discussion Boards. Many students will benefit from hearing your questions and others’ responses. If you have a question, it is very likely that others do too. And if you have an answer you could receive a few extra credit points. Questions regarding personal concerns may also be sent to the instructor via email, but most questions should be posted online.


Required Course Readings


Course readings are available through links or pdfs online through Canvas.


Students will need to occasionally register for free accounts to games (have a junk email address ready if that bothers you).

Course Requirements

You are expected to check in the syllabus and with the course website regularly and meet all posted deadlines. You are also expected to follow the order of the assignments listed in each learning module, unless otherwise posted. There are a total of 1000 possible points for this course, below is a breakdown of how those points are distributed.


Assignment 1: Game Autobiography (Pass/Fail)   (50 points)      

As we begin to study games and virtual worlds as designs for learning, it is helpful to understand our own history with gaming and how it might frame our perception of games and learning. Provide a written account. Highlight some of your prior experiences with playing games, digital or not: which games were your favorites, what games were played in your family, which games did you play with your friends, which games do you continue to play now, and any other relevant experiences and observations.

Assignment 2: Gamer Profile (100 points)

In this assignment, you will observe and interview someone playing a videogame for the first time. You should choose a game from the course or one approved by the instructor. You must observe a child (age 6-18). The purpose is to understand how they play, their learning, problem solving, etc and write a report of the session.  Spend about 30 minutes watching them play. Ask them to talk aloud as they play. Feel free to ask them questions, “Why did you do that?” “How did you figure that out?”

Write a profile of your participant that tells the reader:

Link it to your experience playing games and the readings/theories from class. If you are one of those people who wants guidance on how much to write, consider writing ~300 words describing the gameplay, and 300 words reflecting on it. If you do not know a child contact the professor. Detailed rubrics will be included in Canvas.

Assignment 3: Class Games (200 points)

Over ten weeks (weeks 3-12) we will play three different games as a class. Participation in these games will make up 20% of your grade. We will first play Minecraft Edu, then ECO, and lastly Guild Wars II. Each week you’ll be expected to play the game at least 2 hours to receive 20 points for that week of gameplay. Minecraft Edu and ECO will provide the teacher (me) with a record of who plays and for how long, for Guild Wars II I will upload more details on how to show your play time in Canvas.

Assignment 4: Game Journal (200 points)

In addition to play the game, each student will be responsible for keeping a “gaming journal” regarding what you have learned and your gameplay that occurs in the aforementioned games. This should help you prepare for weekly discussions and use writing as an ongoing means of exploring course content. The journal will consist of three types of entries:

You will complete your journal over ten weeks (weeks 3-12). However, you will turn in your journals three (once after each game): after week 6, week 10, and week 13. Of the ten weeks, you only need 7 entries for big ideas and reflections and 6 for gaming. For example, in week 5 you may decide to only write a reflection and big idea entry but not a gaming entry.

***What you turn in: a pdf of your Journal entries. All entries should be dated and labeled with headings indicating what kind of entry it is. ***

Gaming Journal entries can be informally written, should cite course readings if appropriate, and can serve as an ongoing means for students to work through the course topics through writing. As such, a more informal tone is fine.

Twice during the semester, you will turn in your journal. Feedback will be given based on three criteria: Reflection, Growth, and Effort. Please see the Rubric for the Game Journal.

Assignment 5: Final Project (200 points)

Choice 1: Create an instructional unit.

You will create an instructional unit that uses games for learning or applies principles from games to reshape learning in your instructional environment. This should be bigger than just a lesson. It should encompass a topic in some course or area of formal (or even informal) learning and cover it through a set of lessons and experiences. Perhaps you want to redesign a curricular unit in a course that you teach. Perhaps you want to develop a new unit for a museum or a science club or a writing workshop or a Sunday School unit. In addition to developing the curriculum you will write a 1-2 page explanation of the how and why behind the curriculum and your choices:  


Choice 2: Make a game for learning.

You will create your own game with purposes for learning. This is a technical and design challenge. If you make this choice, we encourage you to use an existing platform like Aris (for augmented reality) or Twine. Warning: Don’t get so caught up on the technical side of things that you neglect the actual design of your game. In some cases, a detailed layout of a game intended to be designed for technical platform may be adequate (i.e., you want to design a full-blown role-playing game but are not a full 100-person technical team). Finally, if you are designing a game you will probably only need to design level one, or part one, or one section of the game.

*A detailed rubric will be uploaded on canvas for both of these assignments.

Assignment 6: Weekly Reading Discussions (300 points)

Throughout the term, you will be asked to participate in reading discussions and activities online. Each week you will receive a participation score for your participation in the discussions.  Your initial post should be done on Wednesday and two responses to your classmates should be completed by Friday. Your initial post is worth 20 points, and both responses are worth 5 points each for a total of 30 points each week. *Thus only 10 posts need to be completed to get full scores. Discussions should demonstrate that you read and understood the reading for the week. More detailed scoring rubrics will be included on the canvas. 

Course Schedule & Readings


Please see pdf of the syllabus for detailed schedule

Grading scale

There is no curve for the class. Grades will be assigned based on the scale below, with your final grade rounded to the nearest tenth of a percentage point.

Grading scale


93 – 100%


90 – 92.9%


87 – 89.9%


83 – 86.9%


80 – 82.9%


77 – 79.9%


73 – 76.9%


70 – 72.9%


67 – 69.9%


63 – 66.9%


60 – 62.9%


Resubmission Policy

Resubmission of assignments on which you lost points is possible by two weeks from the date I submit feedback, or Friday, April 17, whichever comes first. You only get to resubmit once per assignment. You may only resubmit if your original submission is complete (i.e., if you submit a partial lesson plan by the original due date, you do not get a chance to resubmit). If the original submission was late, then you cannot resubmit. You may only do this for up to the first 6 weeks of the course unless explicit permission is given by the instructor.

USU Criteria for Make-Up of Missed Assignments or Projects

Students will be allowed to make up assignments or projects at full credit only if they meet one of the following criteria:

If there are extenuating circumstances, a student may petition the instructor for time beyond the deadline. Documentation of the circumstances cited to justify the make-up is required.


As stated in the USU Student Code, plagiarism is “the act of representing, by paraphrase or direct quotation, the published or unpublished work of another person as one's own in any academic exercise or activity without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes using materials prepared by another person or by an agency engaged in the sale of term papers or other academic materials.” Plagiarism is harmful both for the author of the original work and for the plagiarizer. Any individuals involved in plagiarizing work will receive an automatic fail for the assignment or project and will be immediately reported to the university administration.

Persons with Disabilities

Students with documented disabilities who are in need of academic accommodations should immediately notify the instructor and/or contact the Disability Resource Center at (435) 797-2444 and fill out an application for services.  Accommodations are individualized and in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992.


In accordance with University policy, incompletes are not to be given for poor performance.  There will be no incompletes given except for conditions beyond the student's control, including:

Other, unexpected emergencies may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the cause for the incomplete, appropriate documentation of the circumstances is required for an extension to be considered.

Written Assignments

Unless otherwise advised in advance, all written assignments are to be completed in the following format:

  1. MS Word file with your name and assignment type in the file name.

  2. 8.5 x 11, single-spaced.

  3. Times or Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, your name on first page.

  4. Submitted by electronic copy through email.

All assignments must be original work

Plagiarism will result in a failing grade. The preferred style for bibliographic referencing is APA (American Psychological Association). You can find details about APA documentation on the following helpful website: http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/DocAPA.html. For educational research, the most popular database is ERIC (Education Resources Information Center). This can be found online at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/.

10 Pointers for Good Academic Essay Writing

  1. A good general rule to follow in the structure of your papers is “tell them what you’re going to say, tell them, then tell them what you said”. In the introduction, provide a roadmap of what you are going to say in the paper. It will help your own organization and organizes the paper for the reader to follow your arguments along.

  2. Be explicit about your questions, thesis, perspective and put it up front in your introduction. It’s best not to leave your reader(s) guessing what the paper is about.

  3. Provide signposts or points to your roadmap, e.g., “in this section, the following point…” or “to summarize” or “having covered the…we will now turn to…”

  4. Section titles are also good as signposts but be sure that the content of the section reflects the title of the section.

  5. Use transition sentences that build from pervious information and connects to the next.

  6. Explain terms. Don’t put them in quotes and assume the reader will know what you mean. Try very hard not to make assumptions about what the reader knows even though you know who the reader is and he/she might be an expert in your topic. The point is for you to demonstrate that you know the material.

  7. Be consistent with your bibliographic referencing style.

  8. Be careful not to over-generalize, e.g., “many theorists…” when you are only referencing one study.

  9. Don’t assume everyone sees or agrees with your perspective, you need to convince the reader of your perspective.

  10. Summarize in the conclusion, what you wrote about in the body of the paper. Tie your conclusions back to your original question…how have you proven, answered, shown, presented information that addresses it. Don’t introduce new information in the conclusion. It detracts from the cohesiveness.