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Using role-playing games to broaden engineering education

Jennifer R. McConville (Department of Architecture, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Sebastien Rauch (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Ida Helgegren (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Jaan-Henrik Kain (Department of Architecture, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

In today’s complex society, there is an increasing demand to include a wider set of skills in engineering curricula, especially skills related to policy, society and sustainable development. Role-playing and gaming are active learning tools, which are useful for learning relationships between technology and society, problem solving in complex situations and communication. However, use of these learning methods in higher education, and in engineering particularly, is limited. The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of a role-playing game for learning about complexities related to sustainable water and sanitation management within a civil engineering curriculum.

Design/methodology/approach

The game has been used during three consecutive years in a Masters’ level course. Surveys and course evaluations were used to evaluate the effectiveness of this method from both teacher and student perspectives.

Findings

The results show that students gained knowledge on complex subjects, and both teachers and students had positive experiences. Better integration of the game within the rest of the course could strengthen its effectiveness.

Originality/value

The experiences gained from this study should assist others in the development and use of such active learning techniques in higher education.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Quality Fund (Kvalitetsmedel) at Chalmers University of Technology provided funding for game development and adaptation of the game into an educational context, respectively. Sida has in no way influenced the writing of this article. The authors thank everyone who has been involved in the development and testing of the game, including members of the SanWatPUA network, teachers at Water Environment Technology at Chalmers University of Technology and students in course BOM150. In addition, the authors thank Vivien Lee (RWTH Aachen University, Germany) for her contribution to this work through an IDEA League scholarship.

Citation

McConville, J.R., Rauch, S., Helgegren, I. and Kain, J.-H. (2017), "Using role-playing games to broaden engineering education", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 594-607. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-08-2015-0146

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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