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Unreal Collaboration: Exploring the Use of Formal Collaborative Learning Strategy in Games Development Coursework

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technical Session 6: Modulus Topics Part 2

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Ronald Erdei University of South Carolina Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Ronald Erdei is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. His research focuses on instructional practices aimed at reducing barriers to the learning process in college students. Specific topics of interest include: computer science pedagogy, instructional scaffolding, and collaborative learning in college students.

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Brantly Edward McCord Purdue Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16


David M. Whittinghill Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Dr. David Whittinghill is an Associate Professor of Computer Graphics Technology and Computer and Information Technology. Dr. Whittinghill's research focuses on gaming, simulation and computer programming education and how these technologies can more effectively address outstanding issues in health, education, and society. Dr. Whittinghill leads projects in pediatric physical therapy, sustainable energy simulation, Chinese language learning, virtual reality, and games as a tool for improving educational outcomes. Dr. Whittinghill is the director of the Games Innovation Laboratory (

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Computing students and professionals alike commonly complain of an unpleasant sense of isolation. It is a well-documented cause of attrition throughout the discipline, one to which those from backgrounds already underrepresented in computing are particularly vulnerable. Though no silver bullet exists, collaborative work and learning strategies (such as pair programming) are a well-researched, commonly-practiced means of deterring this sense of isolation. However, studies on the employment of collaborative learning strategies in college-level computing coursework have focused almost exclusively on the use of pair programming methodology in traditional programming courses. A gap exists in the literature with regard to the employment of collaborative learning strategies in non-traditional programming courses, such as those teaching modern game development using visual scripting languages.

This paper will present the findings of a pilot study integrating formal collaborative learning strategy into a game development course (CGT 245: Game Development I) taught at a large Midwestern university in the United States (Purdue University). The study spanned two offerings of the course (Fall 2017 and Fall 2018), and the coding platform employed in the course was the Blueprints Visual Scripting system (Unreal Engine). The learning strategy employed in the course, formal collaborative learning, consists of students working together to jointly achieve specific shared tasks, assignments, and learning objectives over a period of time ranging from 1 class period to several weeks. This paper first discusses the pedagogical and assessment changes this integration entailed. The findings are then presented, with subsequent discussion guided by constructivist learning theory and social interdependence theory. Finally, implications and future research endeavors are discussed.

Specific findings include: student attendance was higher when collaborative learning was employed; over 95% of the students enrolled in the course successfully completed the course with a grade of C or better; over 90% of the students successfully completing the course immediately matriculated into the next course in the course-series, CGT 255: Game Development II; a robust camaraderie among classmates was observed to develop when collaborative learning was employed, camaraderie which continued into coursework the following semester.

Erdei, R., & McCord, B. E., & Whittinghill, D. M. (2019, June), Unreal Collaboration: Exploring the Use of Formal Collaborative Learning Strategy in Games Development Coursework Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33488

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