FarmVille can teach engineering skills, too, Missouri professor says

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FarmVille in classWe've heard of Zynga's iconic game teaching valuable lessons in addiction, design and even copyright law, but engineering? That's what Missouri University of Science and Technology professor Ivan G. Guardiola thinks FarmVille is capable of. Guardiola's 28 students enrolled in the Introduction to Operations Research course must play the game for one week. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

"The unique attributes of this game make it ideal for presenting the students with a problem that evolves, aims to define the student's decision-making rationale and allows the student to address conflicting and competing objectives in an environment of continuous change," Guardiola said in a release.

This week-long portion of the course, titled the "FarmVille Challenge," used to eat up a month of the students' semester. Within this week, eager undergraduates compete to see who can come away with the most coins and experience points. Students make plans at the outset based on mathematical models, but those plans can quickly change with shifting game conditions.

"It is up to the player to determine how much land to plow, which seeds to plant, how many seeds to plant, and when to harvest the plants," Guardiola said. "Decisions are completely up to the player. In engineering, we use data to make decisions, but that approach has limitations because situations are constantly changing. So you have to assess your situation continuously and adjust accordingly."

According to Guardiola, a majority of his students agreed that playing FarmVille has improved their critical thinking ability. (Really? Because I thought players log in to turn their minds off for a bit.) However, more than one-third of students considered FarmVille to be too time-consuming. Then again, who ever said college wasn't altogether time-consuming?

Do you think FarmVille could make for an effective teaching tool? Would you enjoy a class that used FarmVille or another Facebook game as part of its curriculum? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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