TopLang: An UPSKILLS simulation experience

Description and scope

TopLang is an interactive, text-based game which simulates the experience of working as an intern in a Research and Development company that specialises in linguistic analysis using digital and NLP methods. It has been largely inspired by Lives in Transit, a game created within the University of Zurich with the purpose of simulating the experience of researching and writing global history, but was developed instead using the H5P plugin to ensure easier deployment and adaptability across a number of learning management systems  and even simple websites.   

In TopLang, the player adopts the role of a graduate who has just completed a course on a language-related subject and gets the opportunity to apply for an internship in a big company, after having completed an “upskilled” curriculum that focuses on digital skills. The first four levels of the game, which serve as a means of building up the storyline and immersing the player in the scenario, focus on the process of applying for the internship and culminate in the player having to make a decision about whether to join the company’s language analysis or NLP team.

Apart from the distinct focus of the tasks to be completed as an intern in each team, the two separate paths of the game also underlie two different ways in which TopLang, or indeed an adaptation of it, can be used in an educational setting. If the player chooses the Language path, they will be asked  to complete a number of tasks of varying difficulty, as part of their day to day work at the company, all the while being given the chance – for most of these tasks – to check the relevant materials from the UPSKILLS learning content. The Language path thus showcases a way in which TopLang can be used/adapted to gamify the students’ learning experience by providing a storyline that could act as a “cell” for teaching a particular class or even full course. On the other hand, the NLP path showcases a way in which TopLang can be used/adapted to gamify the students’ assessment upon completion of a course/module. In this regard, it comprises a stratified quiz, presented through  a series of interactive videos, where the player is called to answer questions that require bringing in disciplinary knowledge after an NLP course/module is completed.

Finally, the last level in each path introduces an engaging dilemma which will lead the story to a culmination, adding an exciting resolution as the goal of the overall game.

While TopLang can be used as a standalone game, it should be noted that the player would probably need to have covered some ground on the areas touched on in the UPSKILLS learning content in order to play it (especially if they decide to go down the NLP path). In view of this, a primary aim of the game is to not only show how the UPSKILLS learning blocks can be gamified, but also – and perhaps primarily – to showcase that game-based learning through simulation can be cost-effective, ‘easy’ to implement and versatile enough to deploy in various educational settings.

Creative Commons License

This UPSKILLS game is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Please forward any type of feedback on this game to Stavros Assimakopoulos from the University of Malta

Game design and implementation

Stavros Assimakopoulos

Input on storyline and tasks:

Silvia Bernardini, Adriano Ferraresi, Jelena Gledić, Sarah Grech, Marc Tanti, Lonneke van der Plas, Michela Vella