I love College Football. My undergrad didn’t have football, so once I started grad school, I became a fanatic; talking about it, reading about it, following the polls, and, of course, watching College Game Day. If you have done the last one, you have no doubt seen ads for ESPN U’s College Town on Facebook. I finally broke down and started playing. In it, you play the Dean and have to build up a University to compete with your friends.
In playing it, I started to see things that mirrored my coursework, experience, and research on higher education. Here is a list of how this simple program may help us in the long run.
Mindlessly adding students hurts your satisfaction – In the game, you build structures that will increase your enrollment once they “recharge” and can add new students. If you just keep pumping out the students, your “spirit” sinks and you cannot build new halls or recruit new students. If schools do the same thing, just increase numbers, each student will be less and less happy as they feel like a number, rather than a person.
Custodial staff influences student satisfaction – After a certain period of time in the game, your buildings will get dirty. If the building is dirty, the spirit points you receive from it will be no more. We sometimes take the custodial staff for granted, but they serve to keep students happy in a very basic way; making sure their homes are clean and presentable (whether that home is their residence hall or academic building).
Greeks bring students to campus – In the simulation, Fraternity and Sorority houses “recruit” students to campus. They are available at the base levels, and provide more students than “small dorms”. Greek Life is a draw to institutions, and sometimes that is for the wrong reasons and perceptions (Animal House, Old School, Dad’s old stories). It is up to us as Educators to make sure that Greek experience is a positive and worthwhile one once they arrive on campus.
Athletics changes an institution – Since it is created by ESPN, one of the major goals is to build up the athletic programs to increase prestige. While this may sound self-serving, it also has a base in fact. Big name sports will increase your enrollment, your cash flow, and your experience. But, as they show in the game, it takes a long time to build up a major program, it is very expensive, and incredibly time consuming. Athletics can be a major positive, but working with them as a part of the overall mission is easier than making them the overall mission.
Collaboration with neighbors adds to your institution – By having three friends and a little bit of money, you can actually increase the size of the institution in the game. While the idea of “adding” to an institution in this way may sound literal, it does not make it untrue. No school is an island (even Hawaii Pacific), and by working together, we can make each group better. Isn’t the idea of collaboration what brought the #sachat community together in the first place?
Doing different events will give you a new skill set - While playing, you can host traditional sporting events at your venues, but you can also host some different events. For instance, I hosted a dog show at my basketball arena. It doesn’t provide as much money as a basketball game, but I did earn nearly triple the experience points, which allows me to build new types of structures. If your institution is presented with an idea for an event that is completely different, look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, and help round out the perception of the institution at the same time.
If you haven’t had a chance to play around with the program yet, I recommend it just to see what the GameDay announcers are promoting. But just remember, underneath the SimCity like exterior, there may be real lessons to learn from it.
So have you played with College Town, and did you pick up on these things? If not, does this post inspire you to give it a try?