September 16, 2014

The Scientist: Prof. Erik Andersen Designs Games That Help You Learn

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When Prof. Erik Andersen, computer science, began working at Cornell a few weeks ago, he hit the ground running, immediately diving into his research. Andersen, who received his Ph.D. at the University of Washington this past year, investigates potential applications of video games in an educational setting.

“My research is in trying to make interactive learning experiences as effective and engaging as possible, both for creating educational video games that try to teach things in fun ways and get huge numbers of players,” Andersen said.

According to Andersen, these future educational games could help students in a wide variety of subjects, including foreign language, reading comprehension and mathematics. In addition, analyzing the way in which participants play these games could provide insight into how students approach problems.

“If we could understand what students are thinking while approaching problems, we can more easily provide help that’s specific to each individual student,” he said.

One example of these user-specific educational games is one of Andersen’s current projects, a foreign language-based video game.

“My dream is to have a game that simulates being immersed in a foreign country,” Andersen said. “The player would interact and converse [with] characters in a different language. Unlike the way you would learn a language at Cornell, … which is great but is not as fully immersive as actually visiting the country, we would try to simulate natural language learning via a video game.”

AJ Mast / The New York TimesLearning is fun | Prof. Eric Andersen, computer science, studies ways to make video games that are also educational.