Georgia Gwinnett College has received two awards through the Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG) prestigious Excalibur Awards program. The awards were presented at a ceremony held Oct. 26 at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta.

TAG’s Excalibur Awards include several categories. Georgia Gwinnett’s “Solomon Project” team received the education award, as well as the creativity award.

“One of the hallmarks of a GGC education is the innovative use of educational technologies,” said Dr. Mark Iken, vice president for Educational Technology. “This is the second year that a GGC team has been recognized for their work in developing and implementing innovative and effective strategies for improving and enriching the educational experience. We are very proud of their achievements.” The college’s “iTouch Chemistry Project” won TAG’s 2011 award in the education category, and that same project recently earned a national Blackboard Catalyst Award for Mobile Innovation.

This year’s winning project is aimed at addressing low student interest, engagement and limited academic success in traditional, required first-year college classes. It leverages a wide range of easily available technologies to maximize student engagement. Through this innovative use of technology, students are immersed in exciting mystery and adventure games in which they are active agents. The game narrative unfolds in real-time, in the classroom, across campus, over students’ phones and especially online.

“GGC’s mission and vision is open access and includes innovative education that inspires our students to learn, adapt and succeed,” said Dr. Jennifer Wunder, associate professor of English and co-creator of the Solomon Project with David Gabrell, assistant director of Digital Media. “That’s why this project, which makes cost-effective and creative use of existing technology and draws students into the learning process in new ways, is so important to a campus where students lead big lives and don’t always learn best using traditional modes of instruction.”

The game works by deeply engaging students in the learning process while ensuring their mastery of educational outcomes related to critical reading and thinking, problem-solving, research, collaboration and effective oral and written communication.

Unlike the “gamifying” approach, the Solomon Project is an entirely new game with interdisciplinary applications and a global focus that can function as a course and be delivered in a hybrid online environment. In turn, it maximizes student performance on multiple levels and in a variety of ways that allow them to be full participants in the narrative by doing the following:
•    Receive and send documents, e-mails, text messages and voicemails from and to other characters
•    Engage in video chats with characters in secret locations
•    Collaborate with each other online via websites, discussion boards and Google tools
•    Share videos they receive or create
•    Track and analyze clues using software resources
•    Practice geocaching and cryptex coding to unearth caches of materials hidden on campus
•    Analyze news reports of events unfolding across the world and factoring in the mystery they are trying to unravel.

Because the game’s plot is explicitly designed around course outcomes and the top 10 skills most prized by Fortune 500 companies – every challenge students face and every task they complete is tied directly to one or more outcomes to which they are constantly working. This hybrid education approach has the potential to revolutionize the ways academia advances learning in common core-curriculum classes.

The Solomon Project is a collaboration between the Office of Educational Technology and the School of Liberal Arts. Team members include Wunder, Gabrell, Nicholos Bess, digital media developer, James Rowlett, audio visual technician and Jordan Sevier, a 2011 GGC graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English.

“We received a record number of entries for this year’s awards program and it was a challenging decision process to choose from so many great entries. So our winners are shining examples for the community about how organizations can grow and thrive through the creative use of technology,” said Tino Mantella, TAG president and CEO.

For more information about Georgia Gwinnett College, visit www.ggc.edu.  For more information about TAG and the Excalibur Awards, visit http://www.tagonline.org/excalibur-awards.php.

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