A new trend in pedagogy includes online education. Although popular notions of “flipping a class” or hybrid courses might include online lectures, electronic quizzes, and YouTube videos, Dr. Tasha Dubriwny and Dr. Lisa Ellis are also introducing games to the WGST 200 (Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies) curriculum.
The WGST 200 course is introducing multimedia engagement (e.g. podcasts, audio roundtable lectures and discussions with distinguished scholars, crossword puzzles, games) as a distinct element of how students learn. Dubriwny states that the goal of making the WGST 200 course hybrid (both online and meeting once a week in a traditional lecture hall) is to “appeal to the 21st century students, who like to be online.”
Dubriwny explains that the games, in particular, “grapple with main concepts in unique ways” to provide concrete examples of gender as a social construct and to explain intersectionality. Dubriwny and Ellis developed the content for the games and worked with Instructional Designer for the College of Liberal Arts Shweta Kailani to develop the games.
The focus of the first game is gender and welfare. Dubriwny and Ellis have designed the game to give students a more hands-on understanding of the feminization of poverty and how our welfare system works. Students playing the game on their computers, tablets or phones will first be randomly assigned one of three characters. The game allows students to choose the path of their character as they attempt to survive on a limited income for one month. Students have the opportunity to apply for various types of aid (TANF, SNAP, CHIP, the School Lunch Program, and so forth), and they also encounters questions about, paying bills and family dilemmas. Dubriwny thinks this game should challenge the stereotypes about welfare mothers as “gaming the system” by demonstrating just how difficult it is to live in poverty in Texas.
The second game is an “Alternate Reality Game” in which students will be able to confront gender inequality and intersectionality in a familiar space: a public university campus. Over the course of the semester, students will be playing the game in their lived environment. Once registered for the game, students become part of an alternate reality on the Texas A&M campus. As employees of “State University,” students are asked to investigate, solve, and otherwise take part in campus conversations about diversity and inclusion (for example, race relations on campus, LGBTQ issues, and sexual violence). Although the game development is still in process, Dubriwny and Ellis are working to make the game interactive. The students will respond to campus crises through blogs, scavenger hunts, and audio recordings mimicking phone calls.
Dubriwny states that WGST 200 is always a great class, but the program is looking forward to revamping the course to be the best of both worlds, online and traditional courses. “The online component will extend the opportunities available to students” to engage and think critically about challenging topics.
Dubriwny holds a joint appointment with the Department of Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies. She also teaches courses in “Gender and Communication,” “Gender, Health and Activism,” and “Gender and Citizenship.”