Professor Mariana Lebron in classroom

Innovative gamification project teaches team leadership

When COVID-19 forced Towson University to turn to remote teaching, Mariana Lebrón, associate professor of leadership and management, encouraged her students in a Youtube video to think of the new learning space as a creative challenge.

“Since we last saw each other, things have changed quite dramatically,” said Lebrón. “The theme for the rest of the semester will be re-imagining teams in our new virtual world. It will take the ability to think outside the box.”

Gamification is growing as a unique leadership strategy to engage employees more effectively.

Lebrón has implemented gamification projects into her recent curriculum. Not only do the projects teach students to work in a team, the final products will help organizations and companies strengthen teams in the workplace.

students displaying the board game they created for class
Management professors Rebecca Swab (second row, far left) and Mariana Lebron (second row, far right) trialed their game project in fall 2019 with students.

“With the changing multigenerational workforce, gamification is growing as a unique leadership strategy to engage employees more effectively in recruitment, training, and retention.”

Lebrón designed the project with the help of Rebekah Swab, assistant professor of management, and industry partner Ryan Bruns, a board game executive, to represent key characteristics of effective teams in common board game elements.

Last fall, Lebrón had just 12 students involved in the project. This spring, she has 70. But the recent challenges posed by social distancing measures have not discouraged the 16 teams from making games. In fact, the circumstances forced the students to create inside a unique modality, and they rose to the occasion.

visual of students' game
“Treasures of Carias” virtual game board

One of the teams from the spring 2020 term created a game titled “Treasures of Carias,” in which four archaeologists search for ancient Greek artifacts. It involves the use of unique software to create a virtual playing platform.

“I have a background in e-sports and tech, so when COVID-19 posed a challenge, I stepped up to transition the game from physical to virtual,” says Joshua Finkelstein, a business management student graduating this year, and “Treasures of Carias” co-creator.

“One of the biggest challenges for everyone on my team was getting from the conceptualization stage to implementation,” he says.

Many of the students’ games facilitate team building by creating roles for the players, in which each has a certain part to play to progress to different stages. Others, like “Emergency Landing,” require participants to communicate actively in order to escape the secluded island.

“The game reflects the way our team worked together to create the final product. It required honesty and feedback, and it would not be the same without all five of us working on it,” says Taylor Sigur, a business administration major with concentrations in leadership and management, and who is graduating fall 2020.

“Creating this game taught me valuable lessons about myself,” says Sigur, who helped design “Emergency Landing.” “I realized that I have qualities of a leader, and team members value my opinions and feedback.”

Additional contributors include students in the business administration/management and leadership major who co-created:

“Treasures of Carias:” Giovanna Barbaro, Julia Atayi, Brian McKenna, Anthony Vendettim

“Emergency Landing:”  Thomas Vondersmith, James Pine, Payal Patel, and Victor Batista.