Academic Case Study
The pandemic has been a huge catalyst for university professors to rethink their syllabus by designing innovative and engaging courses to accommodate both hybrid and remote learning. And with the modern needs and expectations of today’s advanced tech savvy students, an increasing number of faculty are turning to technology to facilitate this.
Traci Levy, Ph.D. and associate professor at Adelphi University, transformed her fall 2021 POL 348: Family & Sexuality in Political Theory class to a fully remote course. To keep it interesting and engaging for students, instead of a virtual classroom lecture and discussion structure, Dr. Levy thought outside of the box and designed “The Challenge and Inequality of Care” role-playing game.
Taking inspiration from the Reacting Consortium’s role-playing pedagogy, she created an educational game about informal (unpaid) caregiving in the United States. The purpose was to help her students understand the challenges and eligibility realities of varying employees regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Traci Levy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Political Science Department
Director, Gender & Sexuality Studies
“I wanted students to feel free to really indulge in their roles. Since the roles were assigned to them and were separate from their own identities, students may have been encouraged to share perspectives and say things that would never be true or accurate for themselves.
I wanted them to really embrace that, without feeling weird or judged by people outside of the game community, who may not have understood the context of what was going on.”
As she thought about implementing this, rather than solely relying on Zoom classrooms or chat platforms such as Slack, Discord, and Twitter, Dr. Levy sought a secure and closed community platform to complement her course, that included:
The assortment of functionalities to support gameplay online
The ability to easily communicate and disseminate class resources
A central space for students to truly embody their assigned character roles
Real-time student interactions
A reflection strategy to help students to de-role out of character to digest what happened, and process their emotions
The Challenge and Inequality of Care game takes place over four weeks, and classes meet for 2.5 hours weekly. It is set in the present and transforms the classroom into a fictitious hospital workplace in the United States. Students are each assigned an employee role in hospital units that are mostly not patient-facing, including janitorial, public relations, and legal.
The game distributes jobs to replicate salary and benefit hierarchies among different demographics and types of workers. It also sparks conversations around jobs that tend to be disproportionately performed by women or people of color and racial-ethnic minorities.
The game intentionally raises the demands of caregiving challenges and requires students to make tough decisions. They get immersed in this world to feel the real-life pressures, and it helps them understand the policies and implications in a much more profound and personal way, instead of simply talking about the policy.
It was Raftr’s look and feel and intuitive format that initially caught Dr. Levy’s attention. Once she discovered the multitude of features and its expansive ability to support her role-playing game, she opted for Raftr’s classroom management and community-building platform to help bring her game to life virtually.
Over the fall 2021 course, the engagement by students surpassed expectations. During this period there were:
average of sessions per user
unique private message groups, each housing multiple conversations
Students utilized the dedicated Course Raft, a group with 8 subgroups (channels) specific to the different hospital units, to help students convene with their assigned departmental micro-communities. While students connected virtually via Zoom, Dr. Levy emphasized the need for a written component to help students reflect and process what occurred. Despite the intense nature of the roles and responsibilities, students found ways to debrief, unwind, and enjoy the shared experiences with their classmates:
“My favorite part was writing in Raftr. Writing in the app was a great way to destress and to have a reason to think of funny hashtags. Most importantly I was able to get a glimpse of what was going on in the other work unit meetings and support groups through what the other characters were sharing in their Raftr post.”
Sophomore, Communications Disorders
“Raftr was a fun ‘place’ to recap what was discussed that day, while in character in a lighthearted way. Raftr alleviated the stress of the game because we got to chit-chat with everyone, use emojis, and elaborate on our stories.”
Senior, Psychology major
“Many students who played ‘The Challenge and Inequality of Care’ game reported enjoying Raftr as a platform that allowed them to share information, advance gameplay and helped them absorb what happened. Students also reported that posting on Raftr in character helped them further develop their roles. Importantly, students indicated that sharing memes, gifs, and comments on Raftr helped them manage their emotions after game sessions, and became a fun place,” according to Dr. Levy.
By adopting Raftr’s classroom-management platform for her role-playing game, Dr. Levy shared the significant benefits of partnering with Raftr, which included:
Providing a safe and authenticated online environment for her students to authentically transform into their roles, engage with fellow students, and gain a meaningful understanding of the FMLA policies and those impacted.
Receiving excellent support from Raftr’s team, who readily provided resources and assistance whenever she ran into a challenge.
Garnering a valuable way to evaluate her students’ understanding of the curriculum and the role-playing game.
Dr. Levy hopes to use Raftr for her course again and brainstorm additional ways to utilize platform features to enhance the game experience. She’s also interested in discovering new ways to leverage Raftr’s technology to support her other courses.
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