An interactive game might soon be one solution to answer issues related to student retention and dropout rates in colleges and universities.

E.I. Games, a company that develops game-based learning solutions, in partnership with Ball State’s Center for Information and Communication Sciences (CICS) developed “The Phoenix Student Success Game,” which was the gold winner at the 2019 International Serious Play Awards.

“There never has been more of a need in colleges and universities than there is now for resources that help students to prepare to be successful in college and university environments,” said Dennis Trinkle, director of CICS who led a six-member team comprising of Ball State graduate assistants.

Trinkle said he had previously worked with E.I. Games on developing an entrepreneurship game which was released last year. With the student success game they wanted to address the issues both first-generation and traditional college students face when joining college.

He described the game as “a type of hero’s journey game” where students play the part of university administrators making decisions about support and about resources made available to students.

Trinkle said it makes it “a little easier” for them to make decisions in situations that are “challenging and emotionally difficult,” instead of directly being in those scenarios.

Kevin Allen, chairman of E.I. Games said as students play the game, they are angaged in 28 different situations “where they have to make a decision as to what is the right emotionally-intelligent answer to how to keep students in the university.”

“When you take someone out of their current role it gives them a completely different perspective, almost like an out-of-body experience so to speak, where they’re looking at the circumstances much more objectively,” Allen said.

Based on their own research in the creation of the game and the quantitative work done by the Ball State team, Allen said “there’s a very promising evidence for the ability of this game to have a direct impact on student success.”

He said students learn better in the presence of “digital-based resources” and the research from their other games “demonstrate that the learning is more effective, more engaging and will result the more lasting presence of game-based simulation.”

The game also contains a four-question survey to determine whether the student is at risk at that moment and then inform an administrator, Allen said.

The team at Ball State conducted some qualitative focus group work where they exposed freshmen to the game. He said they found “a 100 percent of students who went through the game all agreed they were far more likely to seek advice.”

He said, along with other positive comments on the game, that “proved to us they felt that they had more tools and more direction on what to expect for the freshman year before they got there.

“That gives us a real level of confidence that we’re very much on the right direction and obviously, we’re looking forward to more in depth studies as we launch the product this fall,” Allen said.

Speaking about the game, Trinkle said while there’s a lot to learn by reading a book, “you can’t always be in person and there’s a lot you can’t convey by just sharing materials.”

“You can’t ride a bike by reading a book. You’ve got to eventually go out and ride the bike,” he said.

He said students need to both experience the issues in college and also be supported while experiencing them.

Allen said his company has had discussions with at least “six land grant-sized universities” that are on track to conduct the first launch. He said E.I. Games also works with companies like Google, Expedia and Oracle for emotional intelligence leadership, sales and marketing training.

Currently, he said, they’re working on a diversity, inclusion and equity game and are due to begin piloting the game late August.

“At the end of the day, it’s one thing to teach a skill, but the first and most important thing you’ve got to do is you got to make the person feel that the person they are, as they are, can actually do the thing that you want them to learn,” Allen said.

Contact Rohith Rao with comments at rprao@bsu.edu or on Twitter @RaoReports.