Online Games for the Virtual Classroom: Instructors Learn New Tools in Workshops Hosted by Teach for HSE
In early December, Teach for HSE, a programme aimed at helping HSE instructors expand their teaching methods and skills, held a series of master classes on how to integrate online games into one’s teaching. The master class was led by winners of the spring competition held by the Fund for Educational Innovation, and it was open to instructors of all HSE campuses.
‘How can we motivate students to actively participate in our online classes? How can we keep them engaged?’ This is the question many instructors at HSE University have been asking themselves since the University’s transition to online learning. To help them find answers to this question and exchange successful resources and methods, Teach for HSE organized a series of master classes on the use of online games as a pedagogical tool. The classes were held online.
‘The format of the master classes makes it possible to try out the games first hand—that is, the instructors themselves got to be team members, play the role of students, and see the game from the student’s perspective,’ says Oksana Chernenko, Director for Innovations in Education at HSE University. ‘I think it is very valuable, because in practice, during class, the instructor only sees the game from the “captain’s bridge”. Therefore, we make interactivity our top priority here.’
According to Oksana Chernenko, the topic of online games was not chosen by chance. ‘Games foster camaraderie among students, help them develop soft and other skills, provide motivation, and ensure that they actively participate in class, especially if it is online.’
We used game formats before HSE moved all instruction online. But now the question is, How exactly do we adapt it to the new reality of the learning process?а
In total, Teach for HSE has organized three master classes led by the winners of the spring HSE Fund for Educational Innovation competition.
Oksana Chernenko, Director for Innovations in Education, HSE University
In the competitions organized by the Fund for Educational Innovation, colleagues promote innovative tools and methods they have developed in their teaching by presenting them and providing evidence of their efficacy. The Fund has been holding these competitions for over 10 years now. This year, in light of the online transition, there has been a huge interest among teachers in what digital teaching tools their colleagues use, so it is especially timely.
In the 2020 spring competition (competitions are usually held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall), we introduced the category ‘Using digital tools online’ We also had, per tradition, an open nomination. These nominations are like beacons showing what is most in demand in education now. The winners of the spring competition are now leading these master classes on the use of online games.
Each master class instructor chose a topic they are interested in and presented their digital tool. Maria Gordenko, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Computer Science at the HSE Moscow campus, gave a master class entitled ‘The Discussion Game as an Element of the Educational Process’ (using the example of the discussion game Oranges) to a rather large audience. 74 instructors joined the master class and took active part in the game, developing group- and teamwork strategies.
‘A business game allows you to simulate a specific situation and hone certain skills in practice, and it helps students better understand and assimilate the material due to the fact that they are working through a real situation,’ says Maria Gordenko. ‘At the master class, my colleagues and I talked about the history of business games, their classifications, and the methods and tools for implementing them. Of course, we devoted a lot of time to online games. Working in teams, all the instructors participated in the discussion game “Oranges”, which is aimed at working out a common solution for two opposing teams. I hope that my colleagues managed to learn some new tools and ideas and that they will apply them in their courses.’
Mikhail Plaksin, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Economics, Management, and Business Informatics at HSE – Perm, led two master classes: ‘Envisioning & Planning in Microsoft Solution Framework for Agile’ and ‘Scrum: Ceremonies and Artifacts’. Participants in the first game were introduced to the special concepts of peer team, role team, stakeholders, problem mashup, and others, as well as the specific roles of MSF.
‘Participation in the master class did not require a preliminary study of MSF for Agile software, but the game involves very detailed instructions, and it is more familiar to people who are somehow connected with computer science,’ explains Veronika Saltykova, head of the Teach for HSE. ‘Therefore, a group of volunteers played the game as if “on stage”, while the rest of the participants could observe and ask the presenter questions during the game.’
In order to maintain a methodological focus, Veronika Saltykova explains, ‘the game itself was preceded by a theoretical introduction, and once the game was over, the presenter and participants analyzed the results obtained and analyzed the methodology of the game itself.’
Mikhail Plaksin’s second master class, ‘Scrum: Ceremonies and Artifacts’, was aimed primarily at advanced users who had previous experience with Scrum, one of today’s most popular kinds of Agile software.
Henry Penikas, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Economic Sciences, participated in all three of the master classes. He noted that the presented games develop two skills that are important not only for teachers, but for all people of today’s world: ‘First is the ability to work in a team. I'm afraid the pandemic and remote communication pose significant challenges to the development of this skill, especially for students entering adulthood. It is important to be able to listen, ask questions, and hear others. Moreover, there is a second advantage of games—one that is more in the background and even more important for teachers and researchers than for students. These are, first of all, the Agile and Scrum approaches demonstrated by Mikhail Plaksin. In my opinion, the future of research lies precisely in the application of these kinds of approaches. Therefore, I recommend that all teachers get acquainted with Agile and Scrum. Mikhail Plaksin's master class was the perfect opportunity to do this!’
In light of HSE’s transition to online learning, the format of short but informative master classes has proved popular among instructors. Therefore, in the near future, the programme will hold several more similar events.
Veronika Saltykova, Project Team Manager, Teach for HSE
The most in-demand topic right now is, of course, approaches and tools for teaching online. In December, we plan to hold a master class on organizing team and group work in an online format using various digital tools (Trello, Miro, and others). It will be led by Natalia Antonova, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Social Sciences. A master class is also in the works on the use of 3D modeling technology to solve academic and practical problems. It will be taught by Iliana Ismakaeva, a lecturer of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at HSE – Perm and winner of the spring competition of the Fund for Educational Innovation. Early next year, there will be another master class on online games, which will also be led by another spring competition winner, Maxim Storchevoy, Associate Professor of the St. Petersburg School of Economics and Management (HSE - St. Petersburg). We believe it is extremely important to promote innovative pedagogical practices and developments, share them with colleagues, and exchange new pedagogical approaches for teaching online in order to support teaching in today’s difficult conditions.
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