Founded in 1964, Royal St. George’s College ranks as among Toronto’s best schools. Its top-tier academic program for approximately 450 students includes an education in core values such as solidarity, respect, humanism and equality. Thanks to the quality of its instruction, alumni of Royal St. George’s College usually go on to study engineering, finance and business at the most renowned universities in Canada and the USA.
Like so many other schools and universities worldwide, this institution is also searching for new teaching methods that adapt to the twenty-first century and are capable of motivating students. With changes storming through society and youth in recent years, Royal St. George’s College has strived to keep pace with major social and educational transformations.
The challenge: practical and interactive learning
Royal St. George’s College has identified three major challenges within this major transformation in education:
• Provide interactive education. Today’s youth are accustomed to interacting with content, moving freely through YouTube videos and actively searching with Google. In sharp contrast with this daily reality, schools usually provide a traditional education based on transmitting information in a single direction (from teacher to student). Royal St. George’s College was looking for a way to break the mold and provide students with a more interactive format.
• Useful and practical education. Standing before theoretical and abstract models, this Canadian school was also facing the challenge of providing practical learning that students could use in their daily lives. The school was searching for a method that would let students put what they learned into practice and bring acquired skills into the real world.
• Increase student engagement. Royal St. George’s College sought to motivate and engage students by offering them something innovative and fun that would appeal to them personally and emotionally. The challenge lied in overcoming passivity and a lack of motivation in students.
The solution: the Merchants video game
Royal St. George’s College only found one solution to all these challenges in Merchants, a video game for learning negotiation and conflict resolution skills. In this Gamelearn-designed serious game, students are transported back to Renaissance Venice, where they must face hard-nosed negotiators to become the best merchant of their era. The school opted to use this video game in its business course, which addresses many subjects normally taught in freshman and sophomore university classes.
Merchants afforded Royal St. George’s College at least four benefits:
• Greater motivation and engagement. The video game format is more attractive and engages students easily. The prolific visuals, existence of characters, music and narrative thread of the educational product lure students into immersing themselves in the story with higher levels of motivation and also better learning outcomes.
• A product with multiple formats. Everyone is different when it comes to learning. While some students learn better by reading, others learn better with photographs or videos. Video games have the advantage in that they combine audio, texts, simulations and images, thus providing an interactive and multi- format experience that reinforces knowledge transfer while reaching all students.
• An advanced simulator. The Merchants serious game contains a sophisticated simulator to ensure that students get direct practice. With this simulator, students are challenged by 6 ‘real’ negotiations in which they will need to listen to their counterparts, identify their interests, gain their trust and then tender a win-win agreement for both parties. The simulator lets students practice what they’ve learned and simplifies learning by doing.
• A challenging and well-structured course. Moreover, the teachers at Royal St. George’s College gave a very positive assessment of the video game’s structure, which is broken down into 45-minute fragments and thus fit perfectly into class formats. The contents matched the curriculum of the subject and the game is also complex and challenging for the students. Unlike other video games, which lack options and have relatively obvious answers, Merchants makes the students think, deliberate and offer their own solutions.
Results: more motivated students who are better prepared for their future jobs
The initiative launched by Royal St. George’s College in Toronto was an enormous hit with teachers and students alike. The Merchants video game bolstered the reading of lessons associated with the content, provided students with direct practice and achieved greater engagement with its contents. 81.8% of the students said that the serious game will help them become better professionals when they join the job market. The students highlighted the depth of the contents, impression left by the video game and advantage of being able to use the simulator to put what they learned into practice. Attractive visuals and fun were the final ingredients needed to transform students into effective negotiators, which will no doubt be useful in their personal and professional lives.