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Gaming class goes online through YouTube

SU professor says he's moving online education in a new direction

Syracuse University professor Scott Nicholson is teaching a class of more than 300 people from the comfort of his own home..

There, Nicholson, an associate professor in SU’s School of Information Studies, or iSchool, records a daily video blog about how libraries can bring people together through gaming programs, whether it’s an older board game like Monopoly or a newer electronic game like Dance Dance Revolution.  What makes his course,“Gaming in Libraries,”  different from other online classes is that his is taught entirely through YouTube.

  “We’ve seen that universities have their classes on YouTube, but it was always just a camera in the back of the room showing a class that was in session,” Nicholson said.  “I’ve been doing video blogs for about four years about board games, and I’ve learned how to do a one-on-one video blog so it really feels like I’m looking right at the camera and talking to you.”

  Every day, Nicholson posts a 10-to 15-minute video on SU’s YouTube page.  Students and other participants can then post questions and reactions to Nicholson’s video on a forum at the American Libraries Association, a social networking site.  While the videos and the discussion board are open to the public, those enrolled in the class are required to post video responses and hand in assignments to the iSchool’s private online learning management site.

  Thus far, a handful of traditional students from Syracuse and other colleges have enrolled in the one-credit class, which will run through June. In addition, librarians from Syracuse, Mississippi, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon have posted on the ALA’s public forum. The class has also been an international affair, with gamers and librarians from Scotland and Spain joining the conversation as well.

  “It’s like teaching a class with an open door for the world to come and participate,” Nicholson said.

  The goal of the class is to help students, librarians, gamers and members of the gaming industry understand the basics of developing gaming programs in libraries.  In addition to teaching, Nicholson tours the country showing librarians how they can use board games, card games and newer electronic games to bring people to libraries.

“Gaming brings people to libraries that haven’t been there in a while,” Nicholson said.  “It allows (librarians) to show them all the other stuff they have that they might be interested in.”

In a traditional class setting, Nicholson said he instructs between 10 and 30 students.  His first video blog for the course has received more than 500 views, and he said he hopes the class will gain popularity in the weeks and months to come.

“It’s really this idea of building a community and building participation outside of that one classroom with 30 people and opening it up to the world,” he said.

While his class is free, Nicholson believes universities will begin to use YouTube as a marketing device, providing a few free introductory lectures  to allow students to decide whether they would like to pay for the rest of a class.

“The idea is you give away a little bit, you give away some knowledge … and then you charge for the rest of it,” Nicholson said. 

Nicholson acknowledged that teaching a class via Twitter (140 characters at a time) might be difficult but said he wanted to explore other areas where he could push online education forward.

“I might be in World of Warcraft, teaching a class where you have to go into a raiding party and beat up bad guys, as well as learn as you’re going along,” he said.

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