January 11, 2007
by Kelly Downs
Microsoft Research supports ‘game play’ in the classroom
RIT continues to capitalize on the popularity of the growing gaming industry by incorporating games in its information technology and computer science curricula. Microsoft Research recently selected RIT as one of six funded experiments, Assessing Games Across Introductory Computing Curricula, from a pool of 71 entries from universities around the world. The $80,000 grant, secured by Jessica Bayliss, professor of computer science, and Andrew Phelps, director of game design and development in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, is the latest funding stream provided by Microsoft Research over the past several years. In 2005, Bayliss developed a pilot program, Reality and Programming Together, integrating game concepts in introductory computer science courses. Microsoft Research was a primary funder for the launch of the program. The goal is to increase student interest and retention rates. Phelps’ collaborative virtual world, Multi-User Programming Pedagogy for Enhancing Traditional Study—known as MUPPETS—also caught the attention of Microsoft Research, winning a targeted funding award for $84,000 in 2005. MUPPETS educates students about programming and graphics. This virtual world is fostering collaborative relationships among students of varying class levels. Other universities such as University of California Santa Cruz and the University of Hawaii are using the MUPPETS technology in their computing curriculums. “RIT has gained a great deal of visibility within Microsoft Research in the past several years due to the work of Jessica Bayliss and Andy Phelps,” says John Nordlinger, program manager for external relations and programs at Microsoft Research. “The development of the game programming environment MUPPETS and the integrated game curriculum Reality and Programming Together has created a synergy in producing better computer scientists. And because of that, RIT is outshining other universities and generating an abundance of highly skilled graduates for hire in the game industry and beyond.” With this latest grant, Bayliss and Phelps will use various assessment tools to look at how both programs impact student retention rates.