Kimberly Jordan just decided to ask a question.

Jordan had seen the Ohio University Gaming Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab in action before, knowing that one of the aspects of the lab creates and works with simulations. Being an assistant professor of instruction in the management department, she wondered if there was a way to collaborate with the GRID Lab. 

“It’s just been in my head to ask,” Jordan said. “So I asked somebody who I know, ‘Do they do leadership simulations or have they ever thought about it?’ And they said, ‘Contact John Bowditch.’”

Jordan reached out to Bowditch, director of the GRID lab; from there, a collaboration was born.

“I am helping to coordinate resources to make this project possible,” Bowditch said in an email. “As the Director of the GRID Lab, I am making sure that the students that work on this project have access to the hardware, software, and other tools needed to complete this project.”

Jordan’s Management 2590 course called Strategic Leadership Onboarding is working with the GRID Lab to learn about leadership and apply critical thinking skills within the course. The collaboration course is being offered Spring Semester 2021.

The goal of the class is for students to close the gap between where they are today and where they want to be in the future. 

“The biggest opportunity is working with a new tool, Forio, to deliver interaction experiences,” Bowditch said in an email. “We see this as another way of telling stories, or a ‘storytelling engine,’ and any opportunities for students to apply storytelling techniques is valued.”

Though it’s offered as a part of the Strategic Leadership Certificate through the College of Business and the Robert D. Walter Center for Strategic Leadership, anyone can take the course.

“You get the advantage of helping to create and build a product,” Jordan said. “You get the advantage of working on something, in a way, outside of your class, to work with the creators. There’s a lot of benefit for students, both the MFA and management students.”

When Jordan reached out to Bowditch and Eric Williams, a professor in the McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies, she brought research and $1,000 in funding from her faculty learning community to do a project.

“She had some examples that other universities have done and she said ‘I’m sick of going to them for our educational needs, can we create something like this?’” Williams said. “And our answer was, ‘Yeah, of course.’”

The use of game technologies to make business classes more interactive and immersive was a natural next step, as the GRID Lab has partnered with the School of Business to hold the Business of Games Summit for the past three years.

For the Onboarding class specifically, students in the MFA in communication media arts program learn how to use digital art in order to educate and work with clients. These MFA students will be the ones making the experience in the game for the Onboarding class. They are writing the Onboarding class’s script, designing the characters, doing the audio and video and more.

Jordan, Bowditch and Williams are all excited about the collaboration opportunity as it will not only benefit students, but highlight the importance of collaboration among different departments throughout OU.

“One of the cool things is, projects like this really offer an example of how a university collaboration should work,” Williams said. “What we’re really proud of at the GRID Lab and the McClure school is that these technologies work across topic areas, and what we’re trying to do is create a model for collaboration. Hopefully, people will see this as a really good example for professors and students, undergraduate and grad students to all collaborate together and make something that makes OU proud.”