Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Rebecca Quintana’s students act as college admissions officials with U-M’s ViewPoint technology

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SOE lecturer Rebecca Quintana’s course, Video Games and Learning, was highlighted in Engaged Michigan for using the ViewPoint educational simulation tool. ViewPoint is U-M’s digital tool that allows educators to create and implement simulations in the classroom. It gives students information and roles to play, and it provides a hub for communication and decision-making. It brings in real-time updates and breaking news as well. 

Quintana implemented ViewPoint because she wanted her students to engage in complex, interactive work. She and a small team of graduate students decided to create their simulation about university admissions since “it’s something everyone can relate to, but the process is somewhat opaque,” she said. “Students don’t know the mechanisms behind it, and for that reason, we thought it would be motivating for them to learn about.”

Each of her sixty undergraduate students were assigned roles in ViewPoint as admissions counselors for a specific university with a particular admissions stance. From there, students read hypothetical applications stored in ViewPoint and worked with each other to decide whether or not to admit the applicants. The applications included information such as a student’s GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, and academic interests.

“The roles are a big part of this simulation,” said Raven Knudsen, an Educational Studies graduate student. “When you’re assigned a role, you can see a person’s secret mission and biases. This helped us add conflict to the simulation.”

Quintana’s simulation focused on admissions to six schools with ranging acceptance rates: Duke University, Harvard University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, University of Texas, and U-M. Robert Moeller, one of her senior undergraduate students, said it was interesting to participate in the simulation just days after news of the college admissions scandal broke. Moeller, who was assigned the role of a college admissions counselor for Harvard, had difficulty making decisions when an applicant had connections to the university or their parent had donated a significant sum to the university.

“I myself wouldn’t want to take donations or connections into my consideration of their application, but I was supposed to think about this as if I were an actual college admissions officer,” Moeller said. “I don’t believe cheating is right, but would a college admissions officer let these types of things influence their decision?”

ViewPoint was originally created after Elisabeth Gerber, a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy, found a need to streamline her policymaking simulation. After collaborating with the Office of Academic Innovation to develop the tool, ViewPoint is now used across U-M’s three campuses and in other institutions, like Ball State, Boston College, and Michigan State.

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