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A Hybrid Approach to Projects in Gaming Courses. Amber Settle DePaul University joint work with Joe Linhoff and André Berthiaume Microsoft Academic Days Conference on Game Development in Computer Science Education (GDCSE) March 2, 2008. Necessity of group projects.

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a hybrid approach to projects in gaming courses

A Hybrid Approach to Projects in Gaming Courses

Amber Settle

DePaul University

joint work with Joe Linhoff and André Berthiaume

Microsoft Academic Days Conference on Game Development in Computer Science Education (GDCSE)

March 2, 2008

necessity of group projects
Necessity of group projects
  • Group projects are ubiquitous in computer science education, and computer game development in particular:
    • Game development is a team effort
    • Students must be able to develop games of a large size and complexity
    • Students need quality demos to demonstrate their abilities to employers
  • Achieving these goals without the use of group projects is difficult
an impossible balance
An impossible balance?
  • Instructors have other goals in the classroom:
    • Conveying technically-challenging material
    • Providing experience with structured programming processes
    • Encouraging student creativity
    • Maintaining student morale
  • Good use of group projects requires:
    • Instruction about interpersonal skills
    • Encouragement of positive interdependence
    • Reflection on the group process
  • There is only so much time in the semester/quarter!
a hybrid approach
A hybrid approach
  • Individual projects early in quarter
    • Independent or cumulative projects
    • Build individual competency with an emphasis on preparing for group work
  • Comprehensive final project
    • Optional or required team work
    • Produce a large, fully-functional product with the tools used throughout the quarter
depaul cti
DePaul CTI
  • School of Computer Science, Telecommunications, and Information Systems (CTI)
    • 1000 undergraduates/2000 graduate students
    • 14 Bachelors degrees/15 Masters degrees
    • Quarter system: 10 weeks plus 1 week for final exams
  • Particularly relevant programs:
    • Computer Games Development
      • In existence since 2003-2004
    • Computer Science
      • Downward trend stabilizing
    • (Tied for) 2nd largest program with 150 majors (each)
  • GAM 244: Game Development I
    • 2D Game design and development
    • Tool: Game Maker
  • GAM 374: Action Games Programming
    • Prerequisite: Two quarters of C/C++
    • Tools: C/C++ and OpenGL
  • Both count as major requirements in Computer Science and Computer Games Development
  • Approach to projects differs in each course
gam 244 game development i
GAM 244: Game Development I
  • Freshman-level course
  • Taken by many CTI majors, including
    • Computer Science
    • Digital Cinema
    • Interactive Media
    • Information Technology
  • Exposure to entire game development cycle (idea  specification  implementation)
  • 2D games using Game Maker
gam 244 course structure
GAM 244: Course structure
  • Four projects that are fully functional, individually created games
    • Single-level game
    • Multi-level game
    • Functional demo
    • Complete design document and implementation
  • Final project completed by a team
gam 244 final project
GAM 244: Final project
  • One quarter of fourth individual projects are chosen as final projects by instructor
    • How well is game presented in design document?
    • How much can the game be expanded?
    • How well did the implementation support the design document?
  • Project teams are formed
    • (Mostly) self-selected with a maximum of 4 people
    • Led by the person who created the game
gam 374 action games programming
GAM 374: Action Games Programming
  • Junior/senior level course
    • Computer Science
    • Computer Games Development
  • 3D games in C/C++ using OpenGL
  • Other course tools
    • Source control
    • Educational game engine
    • A wiki
gam 374 course structure
GAM 374: Course structure
  • Fall 2006
    • Seven individual, independent projects
    • Final project with optional team formation
  • Fall 2007
    • Seven individual, independent projects
    • Three mini-games interspersed between projects
      • Put the independent skills together in one deliverable
    • Final project with optional team formation
  • Provides detailed knowledge about students’ strengths and weaknesses early in quarter
  • Reward for strong students to have game chosen for final project
    • Chance to lead a team
    • Recognition by the instructor/fellow students
    • Can be a punishment …
  • Identified team leader provides structure
  • Less time spent working as a team
    • Efficiency
    • Team dynamics
  • Finding an appropriate metric to measure effectiveness
    • GAM 244: 57% raised score; 43% lowered score
    • GAM 374:
      • 47% joined a team; final project scores equal average of strongest student
      • 53% worked alone; final project scores dropped from individual projects
problems with the metric
Problems with the metric
  • Individual grades versus team grades does not measure each student’s contribution to the group
  • No data about students’ backgrounds
    • Do the individual projects develop skills used in the group project? Or are students using pre-existing skills?
  • No data about students’ experience with and attitudes toward group projects
  • Measurement and improvement of team efficiency
a promising result
A promising result
  • GAM 374: Action Games Programming
  • Fall 2006
    • 53% of students worked alone on final project
    • Lack of team efficiency on final project
  • Fall 2007
    • 93% of students worked on teams for final project
    • Students were more efficient on final project
    • Mini-games brought the ideas together
future work
Future work
  • Find a better metric
    • Individual contribution to the project
    • Background
    • Attitudes toward group projects
    • Efficient application of skills
  • Refine individual projects
    • Integration of skills
    • Efficient application of skills