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Robert Appelman
School of Education

Richard Doty

Last modified: Monday, November 5, 2001


Developing computer games for learning that have the mass appeal of those popular for entertainment is a challenge faced every day by Indiana University faculty member Robert Appelman of the School of Education.

The clinical associate professor manages a popular course in the Department of Instructional Systems Technology (IST) on the impact of games and simulations in instruction. The course is taught by Adjunct Professor Joanne Henning.

"Game learning is different from game play, and our goal is training IST students to design games that are authentic and foster learning," he explained. "This is all about attention and learning." Appelman said the challenge for his students is to try to make the learning games as interesting as the entertainment games.

"The computer games and simulation field today is a multi-billion-dollar industry with very sophisticated technological support," he said. Evidence of this is the recreation of historic battles like Waterloo and Gettysburg in a computer game format. Even the outcomes can be altered from historic reality to help sell the games, just as movies frequently deviate from what actually happened. "I would certainly rather have this type of game be authentic, but the developers don't always have this option if they want to sell the product," Appelman said.

Using the analogy of an architect and a building, he said he wants the students to design the learning experience that takes place in a virtual environment, but not be responsible for actually building the games. "To be able to achieve this, our students have to understand what is going on in the computer game industry, so we spend a considerable amount of time studying this business."

The IST Department at IU is the oldest and largest in the country. The l50 graduate students are highly selected, as only 60 percent of those who apply are admitted.

For more information, contact Appelman at 812-856-8456.