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Stern2STEM: Implementation of a Feed Forward Model for Educational Game Development

By Patrick Heaney, Katherine Smith, John Shull, Brian Eller, Anthony Dean, Yuzhong Shen, Jennifer Michaeli

Student veterans, who currently comprise only 3 percent of all college students in the United States, are a tremendous potential asset for diversifying and strengthening the nation’s public and private engineering workforce. Their diverse experiences and skillsets acquired through military service, including leadership, discipline, maturity, and perseverance, set them apart from traditional students and will be an asset in their careers as future engineers. Additionally, military experience has provided many student veterans with extensive technical training and experience with new technologies and equipment – skills which can be leveraged to provide highly trained and experienced engineers. However, student veterans also face low-retention, low participation rate, and increased time to degree at a higher rate than traditional students. The Stern2STEM program at Old Dominion University is designed to mitigate some of these challenges and improve student veteran educational attainment in STEM degree programs through programmatic academic support. Educational gaming is a critical component of the program as it allows for support of current student veterans and outreach to active duty service members preparing to transition to pursue an engineering degree. A feed forward model for integrating identified student needs in the development of game modules has been implemented. Characteristics and needs specific to student veterans have been identified during one-on-one academic tutoring sessions and are used as input for game development. This leads to enhanced game effectiveness by focusing the instructional design on specific content areas critical for student success and driving the development of interactive interventions which address specific weaknesses identified in the target student veteran population. The iterative improvement of the gaming modules, based on user feedback and performance, is also discussed.