Exploratory Learning Through
Educational Simulation & Games

Course Syllabus
Fall 2013
Mondays @ 4pm Pacific - North Ed 272
Educational Technology Department
San Diego State University


Bernie Dodge, PhD
Home Page | Other Social Media
Office: NE-288

Email: bdodge@mail.sdsu.edu
Gmail: bdodge@gmail.com (use this address for sharing gDocs)


This course deals with aspects of the design process that are sometimes neglected. To design an instructional game well, you must be both systematic and intuitive, analytic and artistic. In mastering the ISD process, you've learned to handle the cognitive side of instruction (which, almost by definition, is the most important). In EDTEC 670, you'll also learn to deal with the affective side of instruction. Throughout the course we'll be addressing the questions: What makes some activities interesting or fun? How can we maximize enjoyment without sacrificing instructional quality? It's a difficult and fascinating challenge for any instructional designer.

EDTEC 670 is organized around two major projects and a number of smaller exercises:

Project 1: Board Game Design and Development
The first part of the course will focus on the creation of a board game that teaches new content or reinforces content that learners have already been exposed to. The content and context for some of the course projects will be provided by our DesignLAB partners; others might be generated by those in the class. The deliverables for the course will include a detailed design document that captures the process from the start and a complete, playable board game that will be produced (and potentially sold) at the GameCrafter site.

Project 2: Location-Based Augmented Reality Game
In the second half of the semester, we'll focus on the use of smartphones and specific apps to create an adventure game or scavenger hunt that takes place in a physical space. The arena in which the game takes place might be primarily outdoors, making use of the built-in GPS functions to trigger actions at a particular location. It might also take place indoors with QR codes serving in lieu of latitude and longitude. The games developed will be used for employee onboarding, public relations, nature walks and team building experiences and more. We will likely be using ARIS as our platform.

Exercise 1: What's Fun?
The first assignment of the course is to create a 2 minute YouTube video in which you describe and show us an example of the kinds of games you find to be fun.

Exercise 2: Analysis of Play
The second assignment of the course is to carefully observe someone playing a game. An observation protocol will be provided that will capture the activity of a single player over the course of a complete round of playing. Data collected by everyone in the class will be compiled for class discussion throughout the semester.

Exercise 3: How do Games Work?
Understanding game mechanics is critical if you want to design games well. Every game has one or more mechanics embedded in the rules or in the physical appearance of the game. In this exercise, we'll analyze existing games, contribute to an online database of game mechanics and look for patterns across games to apply to new situations.

Exercise 4: Exploring Game-Based Learning Environments
There are differences of opinion about the wisdom of teaching with games, a lack of consensus about how to go about it, and much to learn from existing models and examples. In this exercise, participants will divide the issues up and respond to a design problem by applying what they've learned.


Upon completing this course, you'll be able to:

  1. Explain selected psychological theories and models useful to describe motivational and affective aspects of instruction. The models will include the following: Keller's ARCS model; Csikszentmihalyi's flow model; Malone & Lepper's intrinsic motivation taxonomy.

  2. Explain selected frameworks developed by master practitioners to analyze and design games and game-like experiences.

  3. Analyze the experience of playing a game by means of an observation protocol and taxonomy and discover patterns based on the observation of multiple games.

  4. Design an educational board game that is flexible and effective, and document its rules, physical attributes, context of use, rationale, and variations.

  5. Create a location-based augmented reality game using smartphones.

  6. Describe current designs for implementing game-based learning and apply them to a given situation.

  7. Reflect on and explain the design processes you use in creating motivating educational products and experiences.

Course Schedule

Much of the work of the class will be done on your own schedule, either solo or in teams. Unless otherwise noted below, both sections meets synchronously at Mondays at 4pm. Our synchronous class meeting will take place using Adobe Connect via Blackboard. We'll use Google Hangouts for small group meetings. You'll need a Google account (not necessarily a gmail account) to participate. Additional meeting times will be scheduled with subsets of the class later in the semester.

This will be taught as a flipped class. That is, most new information will be given to you in the form of readings, recorded presentations and solo exercises to be done ahead of time. We'll use our synchronous time together for discussion and activities that take advantage of having dozens of great brains all in one virtual place, not for lectures.

This class will also be deeply involved with EDTEC's Learning DesignLAB, a system through which we engage with external clients to develop class projects based on authentic problems.

This class will make use of a strategy called Team-Based Learning. You'll be assigned to a team after the first class and will stay with the same team throughout the course.



In-Class Activities

Post-Class Homework


Aug 26

  • Buy the first book
  • Exercise 1: Introduce yourself and a game you find to be fun with a 2 minute YouTube video
  • Email bdodge@gmail.com the URL of your YouTube video and the Google Account you'll be using for group work.
  • Identify a game and some people to play it to prepare for Exercise 2.


Sept 2

  • Labor Day
  • No Synchronous Session, but plenty to labor on.
  • Look over the video introduction and favorite games of your classmates, following the directions at the bottom of Exercise 1
  • Read Designing Games Chapter 1


Sept 9

  • Carry out Exercise 2
  • Read Designing Games Chapter 2



Sept 16

  • Q&A about completing Exercise 2
  • Discussion of Chapters 1 & 2 in the Designing Games book
  • Archived Recording (1:20)


Sept 23

  • Create your team coat of arms
  • Work on Exercise 3 with your team


Sept 30

  • Refine your Exercise 3 draft based on peer feedback by October 4.
  • Complete the analysis using the Worksheet 1 template. For sponsored projects, contact your partner and set up a meeting to interview them for the information you'll need to complete the analysis.


Achieve Brilliance Changelings Designers Excellence FabFive GOATS


Oct 7


Oct 14


Oct 21

  • Read Chapters 5 & 6 of Sylvester
  • Read Chapters 12 & 14 from Mosely & Whitton.
  • Continue refining & playtesting your game


Oct 28


Nov 4

  • Augmented Reality Game Selection
  • In-Class playtesting of board games
  • Final board game submitted for publication (ideally)
  • Archived Recording (20 minutes)

Nov 11

  • Veteran's Day. Campus is closed.
  • Work on your AR Design Document


Nov 18

  • Consultation on AR Project (no class)


Nov 25

  • Optional online consultation


Dec 2

  • Final Project Work Session (Online or on campus... your choice)
  • Sign up for 30min consult
  • Continue work on AR Project
16 Dec 9
  • Continue work on AR Project
  Dec 16
  • Game night @ Bernie's
  • Final project completed
January 24 - 26, 2014
  • Participate at a site near you, including SDSU!



There are several required books for the course which may be ordered online by clicking on the link below. The campus bookstore at SDSU will not be stocking these books.

  • Sylvester, T. (2013). Designing games. Sevastopol, CA: O'Reilly. [Paperback] [Kindle]
  • Moseley, A., & Whitton, N. (2013). New traditional games for learning. [Paperback ] [Kindle]

An additional set of readings is available online in the Course Documents portion of our Blackboard site. It includes the following articles:

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
    Chapter 4: The conditions of flow
  • Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.). Aptitude, learning and instruction. Volume 3: Conative and affective process analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

An optional book you might want to read during the course if you're particularly interested in board games is:

You can download the book without illustrations for free. The paper version includes pictures that make the concepts much clearer.

In addition to the readings, you'll be making use of Cardboard Cognition, a resource created by previous generations of EDTEC 670 students. Cardboard Cognition is a compendium of dozens of educational card and board game designs.


Your final grade will be determined by your performance on the design of an educational board game, the development of an augmented reality game, and additional exercises and homework.

Both major design projects will be team efforts. Each individual on the team will be graded separately, though the overall performance of the team will have an influence over individual grades. It behooves you, therefore, to put some energy into team building in order to maximize everyone's success. The projects will be weighted as follows:

Augmented Reality Project 35%

Board Game Design Document and Prototype


Exercises and Homework 25%

This is a graduate level course. Grading performance in an amorphous area like game design is not easy, but not impossible either. Please keep in mind the following definitions of grading standards from the SDSU Graduate Catalog:


Outstanding achievement; available only for the highest accomplishment.


Praiseworthy performance; definitely above average.


Average; awarded for satisfactory performance.

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