Gaming curriculum prepares students for digital careers

Baylor gaming curriculum allows students to learn video game design and computer science skills. Photo courtesy of Milo Ruiz.

By Alyssa Foy | Reporter

In a workforce that increasingly requires technological knowledge, the School of Engineering and Computer Science is preparing Baylor students with extensive digital skills and conducting substantial interdisciplinary research.

For students interested in video game design, the school offers a specialization in video game development in collaboration with the film and digital media department.

Dr. Matthew Fendt, lecturer of computer science, said a unique aspect to Baylor’s gaming sequence of studies is that gaming is offered as a concentration within the department rather than as a major.

Students can focus their studies on game development but also graduate with a computer science degree, an understanding of the industry and flexible programming career opportunities.

Students can take classes such as computer graphics, operating systems and computer ethics, leading to a gaming capstone class senior year. Student-designed video games are published online and available on Steam, a video game distribution site.

Fendt leads the gaming research for students interested in learning outside of the classroom. The research focuses on “how our interaction with affects our ability to adapt new knowledge, improve learning and elicit an emotional response,” the Baylor gaming department said.

Fendt recently published a research paper in collaboration with Eric Ames, an adjunct lecturer in museum studies, titled “Using Learning Games to Teach Texas Civil War History to Public Middle School Students.”

In this study, researchers set out to study the relationship between different methods of learning and students’ reception towards the video games’ material.

In an eighth-grade class, one group of students was taught about the Battle of Galveston with a traditional method of textbooks and one group of students was taught by playing a game that was developed in collaboration with the teacher.

“We found that the students that played the game came away much more excited about the material,” Fendt said.

In the study, by examining a connection between education and media, researchers were able to use video game data to draw conclusions about another subject matter. Some of Fendt’s other ongoing collaborative research projects include app development for health information and education.

Katy junior Zac Steudel is a student in the mobile app development class, where game programming and research can intersect in the classroom. Steudel works with a team of other students in the class and produces an application about diabetes education. The app will be part of a research project led by Dr. Shelby Garner, tenured associate professor at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing.

Garner’s research project includes experts in multiple disciplines who are studying the impact of technological resources on diabetes education and prevention in India.

Participants will be tested before and after their use of the mobile application. The team will then analyze the data efficacy of the learning material. A base application currently exists, but Steudel and his team intend to renovate, add more features and increase the functionality of the finalized product.

“Our goal with the group project is to create a whole new app that’s maybe more interactive, maybe has some interesting games,” Steudel said.