Gr8 Success! – a serious game for teaching soft skills

Marelize Santana -- Fri, 10/26/2018 - 09:34

Gr8 Success! – a serious game for teaching soft skills

Meet Faith Sibiya and Carl Thomson. They are two typical varsity students. Faith is an eccentric foot-dragger and always finds an excuse to do that really important assignment… tomorrow. Carl, on the other hand, is an inattentive fusspot. In less than six months’ time, both of them have to set foot in the world of work.

Do they know that industry requires more than mere technical skills and know-how? And even more important: do they know which soft skills they require to navigate independently in all walks of life?

With this important learning outcome in mind, two researchers from the North-West University’s (NWU’s) School of Information Technology have come up with a solution. They have designed and developed a unique table-top game for promoting soft skills acquisition in technical students in the South African context.

More employable graduates
According to the two researchers, Lance Bunt and Japie Greeff, the table-top serious game, Gr8 Success!, offers an innovative alternative to traditional academic learning.

The game – which forms part of Lance’s master’s study– is constructed upon the findings of an international research study by tech giant Google. The study identified soft skills such as communication, empathy, enriched teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving as the most valuable factors in predicting success in their company.  

“The study disproves the popular belief that hard skills are more crucial for workplace success than transferable soft skills,” explains Lance. He adds that an opportunity to put this to the test presented itself when the structure of the NWU’s BSc IT programme underwent an alignment process across its three campuses in 2017.

The alignment necessitated change that would address the emerging concerns about the employability of graduates. In short: lecturers were looking at new ways to introduce soft skills training to final-year students.

Board game to advance implicit learning
Both Lance and Japie are members of the Serious Games Institute of South Africa (SGI-SA), which stepped up to the challenge and developed the Gr8 Success! board game to assist lecturing staff with an innovative solution that can be easily incorporated into teaching and learning practice.

Japie explains that although digital games for learning are very popular, their research shows an emergent re-evaluation of table-top games as these allow for a unique social experience. When playing the game, the players engage in different kinds of social dynamics – such as social play, turn-taking and collaboration.

The game was designed as an entertaining activity first and an educational experience second and, according to Lance, this approach was taken to ensure a fun, playful experience in which implicit learning takes place.

The researchers explain that the board game was designed as a table-top game to contrast with previous SGI-SA works. Gr8 Success! is SGI-SA’s first-ever physical, multiplayer board game, taking researchers into uncharted territory.

Let’s play!
Set at a fictional South African tertiary education institution, Gr8 Success! introduces players to eight exaggerated versions of tertiary education students in the form of character cards.

During the course of the game, participants can modify the core components of these characters’ behaviour and soft skills characteristics by placing modifier cards on top of these characters. To win the game, eight spheres of effectiveness have to be filled on a character card.

It would be fascinating to see how this game could transform our two typical students, Faith and Carl, from happy-go-lucky to ready for the world of work.

Japie Greeff and Lance Bunt says the table-top serious game, Gr8 Success!, is an innovative alternative to traditional academic learning.