Gamified explorations in school context

Can games serve as a tool in student recruitment or in orienting students to their new school environment? Facilitated by CONNEXT Finland these contexts were explored in small, agile game experiments at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Experiences of student recruitment

Many vocational schools and universities make a great effort to advertise themselves to potential students, Metropolia being one of them. Webinars have been commonly used as a tool, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lacking the personal experience of the campus environment reduces the attractiveness of this tool. The activation of participants in a webinar environment can also be challenging, as potential students often remain quiet and are shy to ask questions.

An element of fun was introduced through gamification into Metropolia recruiting webinars, as high-school students were able to look for answers themselves to questions relating to their future interests instead of waiting for others to tell them. The game challenges allowed the students to familiarise themselves for example with Metropolia’s videos. The picture on the background of one of the game challenges was taken during one of our high-school events at the Myyrmäki campus.  This visualisation allowed the students to see what the campus grounds look like, and this was an entertaining way to get the students excited to participate.

In the gamified Metropolia webinar, students were able to approach the topic of moving into higher education in a relaxed online setting. This allowed for increased dialogue with the participants during the webinar. The gamified webinars achieved an active rather than a passive atmosphere.

According to feedback forms collected during the gamified session, the information that Metropolia provided during the webinar was found to be interesting and informative. 61 players played the game itself during the webinars. Gamification allowed Metropolia to experiment with new techniques and develop experiential webinars for high-school students. Gamification brought value to potential students and allowed them to use recent technology while gaining important information about future study opportunities. 

Gamified orientation to studies

The start of a new course, area of study or degree programme is always one of the most exciting and nerve wracking times for a student.  The amount of new knowledge about structures and expectations that students need to be aware of in order to fully function is formidable. Every year teachers discuss how to share large amounts of information with their students without increasing their anxiety or sense of being overwhelmed. The aim is to provide them with a visual, experiential as well as an auditory, lecture-based learning experience.

During orientation studies at Metropolia, students are welcomed and immediately introduced to the group of people they will be studying with. The push to find like-minded study partners and develop friendships begins. As they negotiate their new relationships, they are introduced to the tools for their studies: the intranet page structure, how to find information, what study platforms are used, rules and regulations as well as the curriculum they will follow over the next three and a half years. As one can imagine this leads to confusion, feelings of insecurity and a sense of being overwhelmed. 

A game was developed as a solution to this challenging situation which was visualized as a ‘Learning Path’. The first step was to meet with first year students already in their second semester to test the game and garner feedback. The game challenges were meant to take new students on a visual journey through their studies. Together with the first year students, different activities such as short videos, links to internet pages and quizzes were fine-tuned based on what the players found while exploring. 

The students very actively participated and were excited about co-creating as they felt their own experiences were taken into account. The plan is to have one more focus group session with first year students during the spring semester. The goal is that with a more dynamic, visual and collaborative way to access and learn important data, students will have a fun, experiential memory of the topics and retain more information.

These gamified explorations were funded by Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and facilitated by CONNEXT for inclusion project. 

Authors:           Elsa Mäki-Reinikka and Leigh Anne Rauhala, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Pictures:          Wokandapix/Pixabay, screen shot from game platform