October 2010 Site of the Month

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October 2010 Site of the Month 
Goblin Threat


Mary Broussard, Instructional Services Librarian at Lycoming College; and Jessica Urick Oberlin, Librarian at Warrior Run High School and Intern at Lycoming College

Interviewee: Mary Broussard

Institution: Snowden Library, Lycoming College

Interviewer: Robert Perret

Tutorial Description:  The Goblin Threat game was created to be a fun way for undergraduate students to learn the basics of plagiarism in a non-threatening game environment.  It is a Flash-based game where users hunt for goblins in various scenes (dorm room, library, etc.) and then defeat them by answering trivia questions about plagiarism.

Q: Who was involved in making this tutorial?
A: Mary Broussard – Instructional Services Librarian at Lycoming College, Jessica Urick Oberlin – Librarian at Warrior Run High School and Intern at Lycoming College.
I (Mary) did all of the drawing and programming for the game.  Jessica became involved with writing the questions and providing creative suggestions for details that made the game more game-like.

Q: What was the concept behind this tutorial?
A: I had created a traditional plagiarism tutorial, but the subject of plagiarism is so dreaded by students and faculty alike that I wanted to find a new, fun way of teaching the same material.  I played some online games that students recommended.  I particularly liked the casual point-and-click games like Escape Artist and Dream Chronicles.  While the graphics of games such as Dream Chronicles were beyond my abilities, I realized the programming did not have to be complicated.  With some critical thinking and Beginning Flash Game Programming for Dummies, I was able to create what I wanted..

Q: How did you make this tutorial?  What software, programming, etc. was involved? How long did it take to develop the tutorial?
A: All artwork and programming were done in Adobe Flash.  I started the game in January and completed it in August.  However, I set it aside for about four months while I was stuck on how to program the hidden goblins.  So there were about three active months of development.  I wasn't working on the game 40 hours a week during that time, but I'd have to make something up for anything more specific than that.

Q: Did you test the tutorial with any students before it went live?
A: I had a wonderful group of about eight students who met with me twice to talk about games (in exchange for home-cooked food).  They had a number of suggestions for educational games, including using the popular online "escape" games as a model.  They previewed this game several times.  As the game neared completion, I sent it to several colleagues and posted it on one of the major library listservs inviting additional feedback before promoting it to our entire campus.  At each stage, there were suggestions for improvement that were incorporated if I agreed and was technically capable.

Q: How has the response been to having such a game flavored tutorial?  From students?  Instructors?  Others?
A: The response to this game has been overwhelmingly positive.  A number of our faculty require their students to complete this game as homework and have raved about the game in faculty meetings.  While a few students found the game juvenile or felt finding goblins was a waste of time, most students were quite positive about it in the satisfaction survey performed during the first weeks of the game’s release.  Several dozen librarians and professors from other universities have asked if they could link to my game or use it in various orientation activities.  I had not intended this to be used outside of Lycoming College, but I am pleased to have created something that others find so useful.

Q: Is this tutorial in addition to or in lieu of traditional instruction?
A: While the game can be played during class, it was designed to be given as homework.  Professors can require a printout of the final page to be submitted as proof of completion.  I encourage professors to follow up with an in-class discussion to provide students an opportunity to ask questions and learn from each other.

Q: Playing through the whole game is fairly time intensive.  Do you have students do this in class or out of class?  Do you have a means of tracking usage, and which questions students struggle with?
A: Most students who participated in the satisfaction survey when the game was first made public reported taking less than 20 minutes to complete the game.  This seems reasonable to assign as homework, which I believe is how most students are being exposed to it.  Some are even choosing to play it on their own without being required to do so.

We used to be able to see how many people were visiting a particular Web page on our site through the college’s overall Web statistics program.  This was one of the most visited pages for the first month after the game debuted.  However, our IT department made changes and these statistics are no longer available.  Unfortunately, my programming skills are very limited, so there is no code within the Flash document that records how long students take, which questions they struggle with, or how many start but don’t complete the game.  I would love to add this capability some day.

Q: What sort of assessment is in place for this tutorial?
A: The game has built-in assessment in that students can only get to the certificate of completion if they have answered all of the questions right.  They have an unlimited number of attempts for each question.  We felt that the repetition would help the information be absorbed.  The results are not stored or sent anywhere due to programming limitations.

Beyond progressing to the end of the game, we conducted a satisfaction survey in the first few weeks after the game was made public.  We asked how long the game took to complete, if it was educational, if it was enjoyable, and suggestions for improvement.  Several suggestions from faculty were incorporated into the game.

At the same time the game was released, we conducted a survey of incoming freshmen students to learn more about what they knew about plagiarism and how much preparation they had received.  The results were enlightening, although we suspect the better students had more motivation to complete the survey and that the results might not reflect all students.  The results were analyzed for any evidence that the questions in the game should be adjusted, but we decided that was not necessary.  We plan to re-administer this survey with freshmen in the future.

Q: When an incorrect selection is made the sound effect is clearly Homer from the television program “The Simpsons” saying his trademark “D’oh!”  This use is unattributed.  Some might find some irony in the context of this tutorial.  Any thoughts?
A: Good point.  I apologize and agree that must be fixed immediately.  I did not assemble the credits until the game was complete, which is exactly what I tell students NOT to do for this exact reason; important things get omitted.

Q: What did you learn in the course of creating this tutorial?
A: I learned a good deal of Action Script programming during the production of this game.  With two years of experience as a high school English teacher, Jessica knew more about writing questions than I did.  She also had many creative ideas to vary the questions, which sometimes challenged my programming abilities.  I learned through every round of feedback from students and colleagues. Even before the previously mentioned attribution omission, I struggled with practicing what I was trying to teach.  I feel fairly confident in avoiding plagiarism in writing, but find it additionally challenging with multiple forms of media.  This has allowed me to walk in the shoes of a student once again, and empathize with their confusion.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I hope to continue creating educational games that are as widely accepted as this one, and hope other librarians will do so as well.  Many of the library games that I have found online and in articles have been large, complicated projects and were not successful.  I am not a trained programmer and there was no budget for this project other than the time we spent to create it.  Educational games do not have to be complicated or even use technology at all and it can make topics such as plagiarism palatable to the instructors as well as the students.

October 2010 PRIMO Site of the Month