Online Courses in Technical Communication Level Up
Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, teachers were starting to increase their online presence. Post-pandemic, the need for virtual learning and hybrid settings became a requirement for many classrooms. In this article the authors, McDaniel and Telep, use their knowledge of video game design and roles in higher education to expand the pedagogy of the virtual classroom. Classes about video games and non-game specific classes are used as examples in the article. The benefits from McDaniel and Telep’s observations, research, and inferences apply to anyone thinking about projects creatively, improving their teamwork skills, and utilizing a virtual space. The authors can make a thorough argument for this pedagogy because they are persuasive in their article much like a video game needs to be persuasive to motivate its players.
Designing a class around games means integrating game design in the social and academic features of the class. For instance, class orientation and introductions would involve fun icebreakers where students play a problem solving game together. Establishing a healthy and open rapport is something that numerous teams require, especially those in the technical communication field. McDaniel and Telep’s three game-based tactics seek to improve the class environment for the teacher as well as the students.
The first tactic’s mission is to foster creative thinking by encouraging non-linear organization and experimenting with brainstorming activities. As technical communicators we must become familiar with pitching original ideas and working in non-linear timelines. We copyedit and collaborate with others in the content creation, reviewing, and publishing processes, often in multifaceted roles. Therefore, we will work on projects that go through different work cycles and in non-linear steps. Technical communicators also must be comfortable pitching ideas on how to best present material for a variety of audiences much like a video game creator must think from the perspective of the players.
The second tactic focuses on teamwork using game-based tools. Technical communicators work as part of a team and can use game-based tools for a variety of tasks such as self-composing a group. This allows individual students from different majors to act as experts within the team, and leverag virtual spaces to create content remotely. This dynamic might sound familiar because many teams within the technical communication field are composed of experts such as editors, publishers, authors, researchers, etc.
Lastly, the third tactic is all about iteration, prototyping, and playtesting. This basically means that the students are asked to constantly revise their ideas and work as they progress through the class. This is how many video games are made but also how many technical communicators work, as they go back and forth amongst the team in order to publish a piece that has been reviewed, edited, revised, and finally approved.
The authors recognize that their personal takeaways are anecdotal and supplement that with many references to other research. Despite the somewhat limited number of experiences McDaniel and Telep draw upon, their inferences would benefit many online classrooms. As a current technical communication student, I would love to see more of their suggested methods of teaching in my classes. Personally, I am a big fan of the second tactic, using teamwork and game-based tools. This would be perfect for technical communication students who are in publishing, editing, and other project heavy courses. Hopefully there will be an increase in gamification utilization in the classroom in all levels of education!
Game Design Tactics for Teaching Technical Communication in Online Courses, by Rudy McDaniel and Peter Telep
Viewpoint Written by Eliana De La Garza, Texas State University
Edited by Jonna Sharp, Texas State University