A pioneering Alternate Reality Courseware gaming engine providing experiential learning through a realistic, virtual experience over the course of days or weeks

Alternate Reality Courseware (ARC)

The recipient of numerous awards including the Academy of Management Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award and two silver Reimagine Education Awards, ARC is a pioneering alternate reality gaming engine. ARC is a new way of providing experiential learning through a realistic, largely unbounded virtual experience that can take place over the course of days or weeks.

ARC is in a class of its own, providing students with a deeply immersive experience that blurs the line between gameplay and reality. As students interact with the in-game characters and storylines – which are carefully crafted to allow theoretical learning objectives to be experienced in the flesh - they will see the realistic outcomes of their own strategies and decisions within the ARC world. Surveyed students find that ARC is highly engaging and educational, and analysis suggests substantial increases in learning outcomes as well.

ARC was designed, from the start, to offer a solution to the seemingly intractable problem of marrying classroom learning with “real world” experience. The system allows an instructor to create numerous scenarios designed to complement, and support, in-classroom learning. The students interact with non-player characters, and each other, to solve problems, and thus turn theory into practice.

In the class, the simulation serves as the backbone of the experience: students are placed in the role of executives and are asked to lead a company in real time. Using the platform over the course of several weeks, students navigate a wide variety of scenarios that can touch on anything from strategic issues to interpersonal challenges. The class is centered around the simulation, which can cover dozens of issues.

Each lesson is backed up by readings, and learning is reinforced through class discussion along with lectures and cases. Students are therefore incentivized to engage with this classroom material to solve problems in the game. In addition to this classroom learning, the instructor, along with teaching assistants, can take over the role of non-player characters in the simulation to answer questions, reinforce lessons, and add challenges.

Activity within ARC is graded, and time is dedicated to debriefing the experience in class in a “flipped classroom” experience. This allows for instructors to introduce concepts in a lecture and have their students encounter a situation where they can immediately apply that knowledge, reinforcing the lesson.

Upon accepting the challenge, students log into ARC, either via their smartphone or computer and find themselves in teams of four to six players. The game can be played anonymously, where each student is encouraged to set up their own identity – picking a name, gender, and picture. In this mode, they will never learn the real names of the people on their teams, creating a safe environment to experiment with leadership styles and approaches without the fear of real-world consequences.

Integral to the game is the continuous feedback provided to students as they navigate the sets of issues presented to them. Lessons are delivered in-game, through interactions with characters and conversations with one another, and in a meta-game area through professor feedback, videos, leaderboards, and badges.


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