Syllabus: Gamelet Design for Education


CSCI 4830 [undergraduate], CSCI 7000 [graduate] Topics in Computer Science

Alexander Repenning <>& Clayton Lewis

>>PLEASE put 'gamelets' at the start of the subject line for any course-related email<<

Mondays 4:15-6:45

Coleman Lab, Discovery Learning Center 1B40

University of Colorado, Boulder


Ever since the dawn of the video- and computer-game era people have thought that the power of the games medium could be

harnessed to the goals of education. In this course you will learn how to create simple (think Pacman), Web-based games called gamelets to address specified learning objectives.


This course is part of the Trails project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Students from computer science,information science, education, and the arts work together in teams to develop educational tools, often pilot-testing them in  local K-12 classrooms. More:




We expect you to contribute about 6 hours work per week in addition to scheduled class time.


Please note that little of the required work will consist of programming as such. You will be expected to read material from psychology and education and to apply ideas from these fields in your work.


Because of the importance of class attendance, especially in working effectively with your team, we expect you to attend class. If something prevents your attending you must explain, preferably in advance.


With few exceptions, there will be an assignment due each week. We will present material needed for each assignment the week before, but we won't be able take up questions that emerge after you begin an assignment in class. We will use the course Website for such questions during the week before the assignment is due, and you are expected to check the site for this discussion between classes.


Working together on warmup assignments W1-4 (defined below) is strongly encouraged, but each student must post an assignment to receive credit. You must have contributed substantially to each part of an assignment to post it; you cannot simply post another student's work, nor can you split up the work on an assignment among two or more students and submit the pooled answers. Remember that the purpose of an assignment is not to submit something but to learn something.


Submissions that are not adequate can be resubmitted; resubmissions are due within a week of the request.




To earn a B: Submit solid, acceptable work on all requirements. Any required resubmissions are submitted within a week of request. Teammates acknowledge that you have done your fair share of the team's work. Attendance is regular.


To earn an A: Meet requirements for B, plus submit work on many of the assignments that is noteworthy for thoroughness, clarity, and/or creativity. Your work on your team project clearly goes beyond your pre-existing areas of expertise (for example, if you are a CS major, your work goes beyond program design and coding.)


To earn a C: Demonstrate reasonable commitment to the course, as evidenced by attendance, submitted work and progress reports, but fail to meet requirements for B.


You are responsible for your team members feeling that you are meeting your commitments and contributing your fair share of work. If they do not feel that way, you must seek assistance from the course staff.




Weekly individual progress reports

what you did (briefly described)

how much time you spent

once team project begins, report any problems in your team, especially team members not doing their fair share of work or not meeting commitments to the team, or problems in how your teammates evaluate your work.


Warmup Exercises

W1 AgentSheets intro exercise

W2 Cognitive Task Analysis Intro

W3 Learning Analysis Intro

W4 Fun Analysis Intro


Team Course Project


            progress reports:


                        P1 sponsor, learning objectives, team members

                        P2 project work plan

schedule division of labor

coordination plan

                        P3 storyboard, review with sponsor

                        P4 cognitive task analysis, revised design

                        P5 learning analysis, revised design, review with sponsor

                        P6 fun analysis, revised design

                        P7 implementation

                        P8 play testing report and design revision, review with sponsor


            FR final report (written)

                        summary of P1-8

                        final implementation deployed on Web for Gamelet Expo event


            Participation in Gamelet Expo

at the time scheduled for the final all gamelets will be available for public play at the Gamelet Expo. All students must attend to provide and receive feedback.


How to submit work


All assignments and reports will be posted to a Website for the course. Initially, at least, we'll use a Yahoo group for this. You will receive an email invitation to join this group in the next day or so. Staff will review work only on that site... if you have trouble posting your work let us know.


Work status


Your work status will be posted on the course Website, using a code identifier that will be assigned to you.


Lab Access


You will have access to the Coleman Laboratory 24/7. You will be given the code for the keybox located near the west door. You can activate your BuffOneCard for access to the DLC, or enter via the bridge from the second floor of the Engineering Center.


Obtaining AgentSheets Software


All projects will be implemented using AgentSheets, a visual programming system that allows programs to be deployed on the Web. You can obtain the software for installation on your own machine at Alex Repenning will assist you in extending the life of your trial installation during the course.




Jan 10              Introductions, introduction to AgentSheets


Jan 17              HOLIDAY

Jan 24              Cognitive Task Analysis; W1 AgentSheets Intro due

Jan 31              Learning; W2 Cognitive Task Analysis Intro due

Feb 7               Fun; W3 Learning Analysis Intro due

Feb 14             Project planning; W4 Fun Analysis Intro due


Team Course Project


Feb 21             P1 due: sponsor, learning objectives, team members

Feb 28             P2 due: project work plan

schedule division of labor

coordination plan

Mar 7               P3 due: storyboard, review with sponsor

Mar 14             P4 due: cognitive task analysis, revised design

Mar 21             SPRING BREAK

Mar 28             P5 due: learning analysis, revised design, review with sponsor

Apr 4               P6 due: fun analysis, revised design

Apr 11             P7 due: implementation

Apr 18             P8 due: play testing report and design revision, review with sponsor

Apr 25             Final project report due


Saturday, April 30 4:30-7PM: Gamelet Expo. Attendance is required.


Assignment W1


You should plan to spend 12 hours over the first two weeks in learning the Agentsheets platform by working on this assignment. You're encouraged to work on this with other students, ESPECIALLY if you are new to programming. Be sure you complete W1.1 before spending time on W1.2.


W1.1 Implement a virus simulation with following features:


There are a number of healthy people

There is one sick person.

People move around randomly.

When a healthy person is next to a sick person, they become sick.


W1.2 Implement some or all of the following extensions, or introduce your own ideas.


*Sick people die after being sick for a certain period.

*Sick people die with a certain probability.

*Infection is not certain but rather occurs with some probability.

*The player can control the probabilities with which things like death or infection happen.

*Sick people recover with some probability.

*Sick people who recover become immune with some probability.

*Allow players to see plots of the number of infected people vs time.

*Describe an educational activity that your simulation supports. Be specific about what players would learn.

*Introduce a way the player can immunize people, and/or infect people.

*Introduce doctor agents that cure sick people when they contact them.


How to submit your work

(If you need help with this, ask!)

(Note that you must submit work in your own name even if you worked with someone else.)


(1) Create a folder with your name on it in the Yahoo group.

(2) Within that folder, create a folder called W1.

(3) When you are finished with your AgentSheets projects, use Ristretto to create applets for each of them. This will create a folder for each.

(4) Create a zip file for each of these folders.

(5) Create a file description.txt that describes the project(s) you prepared for W1.2.

(6) Upload the zipped folders, and your .txt file to your W1 folder in the Yahoo group.


When you are finished, you should have the following:

a folder in the Yahoo group with your name on it

a folder called W1 inside that one

that folder should contain a zip file for W1.1 and one or more zip files for W1.2, and a file description.txt that tells what you did for W1.2.


Your weekly progress report should also be placed in your folder in the Yahoo group.


One more thing that will help us:


Pick one of your simulations.

Pick an interesting state of the simulation, and make a 256x256 jpeg screen dump, screendump.jpg.

Write a file readme.txt that describes the simulation.

Stick these files into the folder you get from Ristretto before zipping and submitting as above.