Susan Opp was involved on a team of educators that placed second at a national competition. (Photo: Jesse Cantley)
What sounds more appealing: filling out a scantron or drafting your own fantasy baseball team?
During the recent Educause Breakthrough Models Academy competition in Cambridge, Mass., members of the "X Team,” which included Susan Opp, Cal State East Bay's associate vice president for Academic Programs and Graduate Studies, came up with an alternative to remediation and high-stakes placement tests. For their efforts, CSUEB won second place.
“I had the opportunity to come together with people from across the United States to talk about big issues that we saw in higher education,” said Opp.
The Breakthrough Models Academy brings education professionals from around the nation together to brainstorm and design program models that makes college more accessible, affordable and effective.
Opp participated on a four-person team made up of university educators. The X Team, as they dubbed themselves, proposed LifeTracks at the competition as a way to replace remediation and placement tests with alternate reality games, a popular form of gaming that involves characters interacting in a fictional world.
“We came together as a team and figured out what really mattered to us,” Opp said. “We decided to focus on students being underprepared for college-level work.”
They proposed that prospective college students complete several missions while playing games in the LifeTracks series, which includes games such as SportsTrack. The student’s work would be gathered in an e-portfolio that educators then review to evaluate whether students meet learning standards necessary for college-level work.
In alternate reality games, failure is common, repeated attempts are encouraged, working in teams is helpful, and the successful end result is all that really matters. The team harnessed those educational benefits to create a fun way to test students, Opp explained.
The X Team’s proposal was the only one that focused directly on student learning or gaming, according to Opp, adding that the baseball themed SportTracks was unique among competition entries.
The X Team started with baseball as a theme, because it is filled with statistics, a feature expected to interest students from a range of socio-economic, geographical and cultural backgrounds. In SportsTracks, students act like the general manager of a baseball team and solve realistic problems a manager may face, while also learning college level material.
One of the student’s first set of missions is to resize a stadium, reduce the seats by 20 percent and parking spaces by 15 percent while also submitting a proposal to the city council. The mission teaches nine math student-learning outcomes and four English student-learning outcomes emphasized on the California State University System’s entry level math and English tests. To complete the mission, students must learn and use math and English skills such as evaluating and estimating square roots and supporting generalizations with specific reasons and examples.
Opp hopes to capitalize on the X Team’s strong showing by earning funding to launch the SportsTrack proposal.
“We are hoping that we’re able to put this in development, so we can do trials and determine if it helps students,” Opp said.