Education

UC Davis students play online game to reshape university

Video: UC Davis students play online game to shape university future

UC Davis students put their online skills to use in an interactive experiment that started Wednesday. Students contributed ideas and then saw the most popular ones gain traction online in real time. The university plans to use the ideas to shape f
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UC Davis students put their online skills to use in an interactive experiment that started Wednesday. Students contributed ideas and then saw the most popular ones gain traction online in real time. The university plans to use the ideas to shape f

Hundreds of students at the University of California, Davis, jumped online Wednesday to add their creativity to a broad effort to envision the university of the 21st century.

In less than five hours, more than 1,300 students, faculty and staff offered about 8,700 ideas for UC Davis’ future in what was being touted as a future forecasting game, Envision UC Davis. Some gathered in the Student Community Center to go online. Others headed to the West Quad to chow down on free pizzas and enjoy the shaded picnic benches.

While not a game in the classic sense, Envision UC Davis was created by online game designers. It brings the shared game experience to users who offer ideas and comment on other people’s suggestions in no more than 140 characters. Users in real time were able to see which ideas were gaining momentum.

The marathon game began at 11 a.m. Wednesday and will continue for 36 hours until 11 p.m. Thursday. The contributions will aid in the university’s larger effort to figure out what UC Davis will look like for future generations.

Nicolas Rivera, a second-year student majoring in international relations, sat at a bench and focused on the Envision website. He said he was urging planners to provide more places to eat and more comfortable social settings for both individual and group study. The best of those locations, he said, “usually get occupied very quickly. And usually people who are in them stay in them all day.”

Rivera, 20, called the game a “great opportunity for Davis to get a view of what students think … to get more voices heard.”

This is our attempt to look far into the future for what UC Davis might become.

Gary Sandy, project director for Envision UC Davis

Gary Sandy, Envision UC Davis project director, stood in the Control Room “master board” in Mrak Hall about 1 p.m. Wednesday and detailed how constellations of participants were building on each others’ ideas in real time.

“What you’re seeing here is a display of the 20 most active ‘futures,’ ” or areas of interest, such as education, the environment or energy. Around each central orb on the screen, he said, were comments from different contributors.

“This is our attempt to look far into the future for what UC Davis might become,” he said. “How will the university position itself to address those issues?”

The answers could guide decisions on climate science, food production and food safety, he said. “Those are areas where we really lead the world.”

At the “master board,” a motion of the cursor revealed the underlying ideas.

“College education should be free,” said one participant’s post. “Students leave university having learned basic life skills like cooking, cleaning, finance, taxes, health care, home maintenance,” offered another. Improve transportation, said at least two contributors.

At another bench on campus, senior Gloria Garcia, 23, of Reedley said the game idea was innovative. “It caught my interest this morning.”

Her idea: Do more to help students who transfer from two-year colleges acclimate to the university experience.

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