Dear LIFT selection committee member,

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1 Dear LIFT selection committee member, As the program manager for the Digital Media Institute (DMI) I am very pleased to submit a proposal for this year s LIFT grant on behalf of the DMI staff. The Digital Media Institute is a part of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and DMI employs talented student staff that work on highend instructional technology projects for faculty and departments across the University. Although the staff at DMI is made up primarily UT Austin undergraduates, we have a long track record of completing very challenging projects on time, and to the highest standards of quality and innovation. As a part of CTL, we are constantly examining the issues surrounding the learning experience of the 21 st century student. We believe that the learning experience of the future will look quite different than it has looked in the past, and we also believe that the students themselves should be directly involved in shaping this future. This project is an opportunity for UT Austin students to actively engage in both the design and the development of a next-generation instructional innovation. In my position here at UT, I have been involved with development of dozens of instructional technology projects, many of which have been quite similar to the types of projects that are funded by the LIFT program. The constant challenge with these types of projects is to create something that has meaningful, lasting impact. Many of these projects are left unfinished, or are not supported long-term, or never demonstrate impact beyond a very select group of people. As you will see outlined in our proposal, this project is designed to have meaningful and broad impact for the University in both the short-term and the long-term. It is a true cross-disciplinary effort that will touch students from all over campus. In addition, it will help build an infrastructure that will last for years to come. We think this is an exciting project with a great deal of potential, and we are grateful for the opportunity to submit this proposal to you. Sincerely, Peter Elam Program Coordinator Digital Media Institute

2 Environ Educational game to promote high-level decision making skills in students, and to build an infrastructure for educational game development at UT Austin Requested Amount $100,000 College/School/Unit(s) Center for Teaching and Learning - Digital Media Institute Program (http://dmi.utexas.org) Space Requirements No additional space would be required for this project. Primary Participants Name Unit Address Peter Elam, MA Program Manager - Digital Media Institute Matt O Hair, M.Ed. Education Technology Specialist Digital Media Institute Student Staff Faculty and Graduate Student Subject Matter Experts Center for Teaching and Learning - Digital Media Institute Center for Teaching and Learning - Digital Media Institute Center for Teaching and Learning - Digital Media Institute Several departments from across UT Austin 1

3 Project Description Overview The Digital Media Institute (DMI) is a part of the Center for Teaching and Learning at UT Austin. DMI employs talented student staff that work on high-end instructional technology projects for the University. DMI also actively promotes partnerships within UT Austin, and with external organizations that are leaders in fields like instructional technology, design, and development. DMI recruits students from across the University, and DMI students work on projects from colleges and departments all over campus. It is in our DNA to be collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and to form partnerships within the University and with external organizations. DMI students working on the prototype Moving forward, the DMI program would like to develop a focus on educational games, and to help create an infrastructure at UT Austin to enable the University to become a leader in high-quality educational game development. As a part of the Center for Teaching and Learning, we believe we are uniquely positioned to foster the development of this infrastructure, as it will involve units all over campus. The University is already active on many fronts that are laying the groundwork for this infrastructure, and UT has unique advantages that could allow it to become a leader in educational game development. However, developing a high-quality educational game is very difficult, and in these early stages it is important to develop early successes to build both credibility and momentum. At DMI we have developed an early-stage prototype of an educational game called Environ. Environ is a game that puts students in the role of a decision maker. The game is set in near-future Earth, and the player must take a series of actions to help improve the Earth s environment without destroying economic output. Resources are limited, so the player must deeply analyze different courses of action to make difficult and complex decisions. We are seeking a LIFT grant that would fund the development of this game past the early prototype phase to a finished product that could be used in classrooms across campus, and across the world. The game is grounded in effective pedagogy and would be a valuable teaching tool for courses in a variety of disciplines. In addition, Environ can serve as a showpiece, developed with the help of subject matter experts across campus, which would be a critical piece in establishing the University as a leader in educational gaming. Innovation Level Environ incorporates a very innovative pedagogy that promotes critical thinking and high-level decision making skills. The game is set in near-future Earth, where environmental issues have started to significantly damage the world economy. The player is given a limited amount of money, and a limited amount of political capital, and is presented with a series of decisions. Every decision costs a specific amount of money and political capital, and impacts the global environment and economy. Each decision affects the cost and availability of later decisions, and every choice represents an opportunitycost. With limited resources, students learn that they must analyze and prioritize in order to have maximum impact. They also learn how early decisions affect later opportunities, and how complex systems interact. 2

4 Sometimes the right decision is too politically costly, or an investment in one technology precludes the investment in another. In other words, they are put in a position to appreciate the complexity and difficulty of the decisions that world leaders must make. In addition to innovation inherent in the game, Environ is developed in an innovative way. DMI employs undergraduate student staff from across the Screenshot from the Environ prototype university. The game is not simply designed for students, it is a game that is also designed and developed by students. Benefit to UT Teaching tool for classrooms at UT and across the world - As UT looks to shape the learning experience of the 21st century students, we must consider what that experience will look like. Environ promotes active learning and high-level critical thinking and decision making skills. It also forces students to view complex problems in a cross-disciplinary way. Environ will be playable on the web, and could be used as a component of a variety of courses across campus. The subject matter is relevant to courses in Engineering, Natural Sciences, Geosciences, Public Policy, Economics, Political Science, and other disciplines. It could be also used in middle schools and high schools around the world. There is some precedent for this at UT Austin as well. Alien Rescue, an educational game developed at UT (and a project which the team applying for this grant has worked on), is used in middle schools across the country. Foundational piece for educational game development infrastructure at UT - The city of Austin has the third highest number of video game development companies in country. The University has started down the path of developing expertise and infrastructure for video game development, but that infrastructure is in its infancy. As a leading research university, UT can leverage its expertise in education, as well as its enormous reservoir of subject-matter expertise, to become a leader in educational game development. The Digital Media Institute is perfectly positioned to partner with the relevant programs on campus, and to help foster the development of that infrastructure. Organizations that form the existing infrastructure include the Digital Arts and Media track of the Bridging Disciplines Program, the Game and Mobile Media Applications program, the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy, the new Digital Arts program in Fine Arts, and the Electronic Game Developers Society. These organizations form a solid base of expertise, and DMI recruits heavily from many of them. However, none of these organizations have a focus on education. DMI, as a part of the Center for Teaching and Learning, has a direct focus on education. Educational games aimed at adolescent and adult audiences are notoriously hard to develop, and it can be difficult for a development studio to build credibility and gather momentum. A high-quality, successful educational game builds credibility, and raises the profile of the University as a place for serious game designers and developers. This, in turn, attracts even higher levels of talent to UT, which benefits all of the programs related to game development. It also opens the door to new opportunities, which may include revenue-generating titles, or partnerships between UT and established 3

5 game studios or educational technology organizations. There is a virtuous cycle, but that cycle is built upon successes. True cross-disciplinary project - DMI has deep expertise in both education and multimedia development. The content of Environ touches upon a large variety of subjects that are outside our expertise, but within the expertise of many faculty and graduate students across campus. A great strength of a physical campus is the variety of disciplines that are in close proximity to each other, yet true cross-disciplinary collaborations are uncommon. A significant portion of the money from this grant will pay for faculty and graduate student time from departments across campus. We need the input of these subject matter experts to guide the development of the game, and we need the perspectives of their various disciplines. Environ is a crossdisciplinary project at its core. Scope of Project Environ has only been developed to very early stage prototype. Although it may appear the development of the game is far along based on screenshots, Environ is far from a finished product. The scope of this project is to finish the development of Environ, publish it on the web, and have it used as a component of the curriculum of one or more courses at UT Austin. Plan for Evaluating Success and Effectiveness Evaluating the effectiveness of Environ is very important to our team, and we will use a variety of instruments to establish that effectiveness. Straightforward metrics for success include number of UT courses that use Environ in the Spring 2015 semester (at least 4), total number of students in those courses (at least 200). Mixed qualitative/quantitative metrics such as usability scores, Environ s effectiveness as a learning tool, and the level of student engagement will be assessed using data collected from the following sources: Formal user testing on Environ beta version Feedback from informal user testing with students in game development focused programs (such as courses that are a part of the Game and Mobile Media Applications program) Survey data from students in UT courses that use Environ Focus groups with UT students in courses that use Environ Survey and interview data from instructors at UT that use Environ in their courses Project Timeline and Milestones Aug 15 - Engage faculty and grad student subject matter experts to start consulting on Environ content. Begin full-scale development Oct 1 - Complete Alpha version of Environ, conduct internal user testing Jan 15, Complete Beta version of Environ, conduct external user testing and collect feedback March 1 - Complete development of Environ March 30 - Starting from this date, Environ is used as a component of courses across campus, and possibly beyond campus as well April 15 - Student and Teacher evaluation data collected May 1 - Final report Sustainability Plan The Digital Media Institute is a permanent program of the Center for Teaching and Learning. The maintenance of Environ will require far fewer resources than its development, and the DMI program commits to support Environ after its development and release. Environ is being developed with the Unity game engine, which allows us to output versions designed for the ipad or other mobile devices. A revenuegenerating mobile version of the game could be developed with minimal effort if the project team determines that is a desirable long-term direction for the project. 4

6 Budget Requirements Budget Breakdown Cost Type Amount Requested Salaries/Personnel Staff Salaries Student Staff Salaries Faculty/Graduate Student Stipends Game Development Materials, Supplies, and Misc. Costs TOTAL Justification Staff Salaries - Digital Media Institute staff will manage all aspects of the project, hire and supervise student staff, participate in Environ production, and evaluate the effectiveness of the game. Student Staff Salaries - DMI will hire student staff to work on all phases of design and production for this project. This includes game design, UI design, 3D modeling, programming, visual asset creation, sound effects, music, etc. Faculty/Graduate Student Stipends - We will buy the time of faculty and graduate students from disciplines across campus to consult in the core game design, and to lend their subject matter expertise to the content of the game. Game Development Materials, Supplies, and Misc. Costs - Misc. costs associated with game development. Includes things like plugins for Unity, music licensing, online code repository and versioning fees, specialized software, and other miscellaneous expenses. 5

7 Appendix Quotes of support I support the Digital Media Institute s proposed education game, Environ, and believe this to be an excellent candidate for a LIFT grant. After seeing a demonstration, I have full confidence that Environ could be used as an effective STEM learning tool for UT Austin students and the general public. Environ fills the gap for a much needed, and effective STEM teaching tool that s both educational and engaging. The Webber Energy Group fully supports Environ and would be happy to provide subject matter expertise to help with the development of the game. Research students within the Webber Energy Group would provide this subject matter expertise. Playing a role in the development of Environ is vastly beneficial for my students, and myself as it gives us the opportunity to take our research to a larger global audience. Once completed, I believe Environ will be a fun and informal way for my students to become engaged in topics like energy and the environment. I would gladly use Environ in my courses as a teaching Michael Webber Webber Energy Group Cockrell School of Engineering The GAMMA program has worked closely with the Digital Media Institute program, and there is a great deal of cross-pollination of students between the two programs. Environ is a very intriguing project that will help build the UT Austin ecosystem for game development, and help establish the University as a premier destination for students interested in game development. Paul Toprac Associate Director & Senior Lecturer Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) Program at UT Austin We frequently have students apply for the Digital Arts and Media Bridging Disciplines Program with a particular interest in developing games and other digital media for educational technology use, and these students tend to be among our best applicants for the program. The DMI program has provided a wonderful, intensive opportunity for these students to learn skills for game development and digital media, and for other BDP students to learn about how educational technology can be a powerful application for their skills. Using DMI to develop further resources for game development infrastructure on campus would be a great opportunity for undergraduates to get involved further with educational technology at UT. Jeanette Herman Director, Bridging Disciplines Program School of Undergraduate Studies 6

8 The Austin Mobile Community Design Hub, currently in development at the UT Center for Sustainable Development, will act as a mobile storefront for community engagement and sustainability. We see Environ as having the potential to be a great additional feature to this mobile hub. The Hub will allow students and faculty to travel directly to community members and stakeholders, engaging new constituencies with issues of sustainable design. The Hub will be used extensively throughout the school year, not only by the UT community-engaged classes each semester, but also by the City of Austin Office of Sustainability in conducting outreach efforts throughout the region. Potential venues where the Hub might engage and contribute in Austin include: neighborhood meetings, community gatherings, festivals, street fairs, and local schools and it is currently in discussion to locate this HUB at the new City of Austin Central Library!when it opens in Barbara Brown Wilson, Alice Gerhart, Sarah Wu Center for Sustainable Development School of Architecture I find your Environ learning game project of interest. There may be a role for this in my Signature Course Sustaining a Planet. The game s limited resources, causing the player to carefully analyze different courses of actions in order to make difficult and complex decisions, is very much in line with themes in our course. I look forward to how it turns out. Jay Banner Director of the Environmental Science Institute and Geological Science Professor Jackson School of Geosciences 7

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