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This is Not a Game: Early Observations on Using Alternate Reality Games for Teaching Security Concepts to First-Year Undergraduates
Tanya Flushman, California Polytechnic State University; Mark Gondree, Naval Postgraduate School; Zachary N. J. Peterson, California Polytechnic State University
We describe a novel approach to delivering an introductory computer science course for first-year undergraduates, using computer security topics to explore core CS concepts. Our course is a first attempt at merging aspects of capture the flag-style challenges, puzzle-based learning, and alternate reality games (ARGs), with the goal of improving student engagement, increasing awareness of security as a discipline and professional opportunity, and providing context for the social relevance of security to our lives. Our challenges synthesize hands-on problem solving, immediate feedback on incremental progress, scaffolded learning, a loosely-connective narrative, and a sense of intrigue to draw students into active engagement with course material. In this paper, we motivate the use of ARG characteristics to connect course tasks, we discuss our goals, course design, and a mixed-method evaluation of our objectives (using reflective journaling, cognitive interviews, and pre- and post-surveys using an adaptation of the Computer Attitude Scale instrument), and summarize our preliminary findings.
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