By Colleen Kearney Rich
Mason doctoral student Neda Khalili has been working with students in the Game Design through Mentoring and Collaboration program since it began in 2007. The students and their learning processes are the basis of her dissertation research.
Through her observations, she has found that the introduction of the student mentor aspect to the program really made a difference in how the program and the learning evolved.
“[Using student mentors] really helped the instructor because students who were falling behind could get some one-on-one help without holding up the instructor’s lessons,” says Khalili. “Likewise, students who were more advanced could get specialized help to learn techniques that had not yet been taught.
“Often we would find students who were working at a higher level would continue their work at home and come in with their own questions to ask the mentors.”
Students chosen to be mentors are those working at an advanced level who often have participated in the program for a number of years. Working with the group this summer were a few high school graduates who were already attending college or would begin college in the fall.
The game design program was also designed so students could continue working on their games at home. “We have tried to use software where you can download a learning edition at home for free,” says Kim Sheridan, the coprincipal investigator on the project. When downloading isn’t possible because of Internet connections or other technical issues, the participants can get the software on a CD or flash drive.
“With the mentors, we expect them to be working on a project of their own,” Sheridan says. “They get bonuses if they upload their work.”