University of Missouri researchers are developing an educational video game for middle school students to play online.
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a group of researchers at the University $2.7 million to develop the game for students studying off-campus. With matching corporate funds, the University has $3.1 million to support the project.
MU Assistant Professor Sean Goggins said Mission HydroSci is a story based, leveled game that teaches students how water systems work on Earth.
“We hope to develop a game that is engaging and fun for middle school students to play so that they learn and become interested in critical concepts related to hydro science and earth science, and that interest and engagement that comes from the fun of playing a game helps students to be interested in science and pursue science and math orientated careers,” said Goggins. “It’s very much like a Sim City for earth science.”
Goggins said more middle school students are learning online every year.
“What we’re trying to do with Mission HydroSci is use where kids are and provide an engaging game that helps them learn important scientific principles,” said Goggins. “The student’s life is already at the screen and Mission HydroSci is focused on bringing science learning to where the kids already are.”
Goggins said researchers have been developing prototypes of games like Mission HydroSci for two years. Goggins said the game is now being tested by Missouri middle school students.
“We have a working prototype that we developed in advance of getting the money and at this point we are on schedule to have a working first version of the game by mid-summer,” said Goggins. “From there we plan to build and test levels of the game, so the first set of students that go through will be level one and we’ll finish level two by sometime at the end of the year.”
Goggins is responsible for the development of automated learning analytics and automated assessment that he says will help teachers know which students are successfully completing the game and which students require additional help. The video game would collect data on students’ performances so that teachers could adjust it to address individual needs.
Goggins said right now it’s a PC computer based game, but researchers are working to deploy it on other platforms such as MAC computers and iPads.