Part of quality online course design is ensuring that students have opportunities to practice with course content in active, engaging ways. Providing students with lectures to read and hear passively is a start, but is generally not enough to help learning happen. To make real learning happen online, it’s important to encourage students to engage with the concepts they are learning actively.

Another best practice of online course design and teaching is providing opportunities for formative assessments, that is, low- or no-stakes practice activities with feedback that lets students know if they are on track for summative assessments, such as final exams.

Yes, but who has the time?

These kinds of practice activities and formative assessments are great, but they can take time to create, facilitate, and respond to, and most of the instructors we know don’t have excesses of time!

Thankfully, there are tools available to help create quality learning activities quickly and easily. StudyMate games are a quick and easy way to include these sorts of activities in your classes. Furthermore, the feedback is built into the game, so once they are created, they don’t require additional time for facilitation. Best of all, students find the games to be enjoyable and effective ways to study course concepts.

StudyMate games are built using one of three types of questions:

  • Single answer (such as a term and its definition)
  • Multiple choice
  • Calculated (math problems)

Instructors provide the questions, and the OSU instructional design team can help create the games. Games include flash cards, matching, crossword puzzles, and a Jeopardy! – like challenge game.

You can even use this software to create a glossary of terms for your class:

Try some StudyMate games used in Charisse Hake’s Math 105 class.

To learn more about StudyMate and to see other sample games, visit the StudyMate Sample Games Page.

To learn how to create StudyMate games for your class, contact instructional design specialist Shannon Riggs at

We worked with some Fisheries & Wildlife instructors last year to develop a sperm whale dive simulation in Flash. This was designed to bring their data to life, and give students a deeper understanding of what was happening as a sperm whale dove to great depths, hunted food, and resurfaced. This was delivered as a simple 2D animation, with some limited interaction (which I’ll post later, if the instructor approves).

Soon after delivering the 2D version, PDT started experimenting with a 3D version of the dive that was closer to an fully interactive video game. The plan was to make this game using Unity3D instead of Flash. At the time, we had a student worker, Wes Starr, who was learning to use Autodesk’s Maya (a popular 3D modeling program). The two videos featured in this post are samples that he generated (output from Maya) so we could seek feedback on the whale’s motion.–nNTt4tA

We are still experimenting with the Unity3D version of this simulation (or game), but since the 2D version works – this notable revision has ended up a low priority project. I thought it would be nice to share these work-in-progress videos. 🙂