Work hard, play hard – that was certainly the motto for collaborators from Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) and the University of Glasgow who have created two new online computer games that will teach Scots pupils entrepreneurial skills

THE power of partnerships to bring good ideas to fruition quickly and effectively has been a hugely positive feature of the past 12 months.

In the education sector, this is perfectly illustrated by a collaboration between Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) – the country’s leading enterprise education charity – and the University of Glasgow on the ‘gamification’ of enterprise skills.

In April 2020, the YES team took an enlightened view of lockdown by beginning a projet  of team building and upskilling through a series of online training workshops. In one, they undertook a challenge to run an imaginary company which then sparked the initial idea for the new gaming project. 

Now, thanks to the University’s computing science students, two online, interactive business games will be launched this summer.

One game will enable secondary school pupils to collaborate in a business simulation over a period of one month, reacting to market events and competing against teams in their own and other schools. 

The second is a decision-making game, which will encourage groups of students to consider how internal and external factors can influence the success or failure of a business. Both can be customised to work for any industry or sector; they’re fun, dynamic and filled with tangible learning tools.

“The business skills test that we did as part of our own training got us thinking about the different ways we could digitise our own enterprise education programmes,” said Mark Armstrong, Young Enterprise Scotland’s Head of Operations. “At the same time, Glasgow University put out a call for live projects that they could help solve. It was stars colliding. 

“We worked closely with the students to explore the idea of learning through gamification and with the project coming to a close at the end of March, we’re now testing the prototypes of two games for two different age-groups before launching a pilot with willing teachers and pupils ahead of the summer. 

“It has been a great project. These games are a creative and fun application of ‘learning by doing’designed to engage school pupils in enterprise and to teach them the entrepreneurial skills that will help them in the real world.”

Two teams of third year students were assigned to YES as part of the Glasgow University Software Team Project which in the past has led to some highly innovative and successful initiatives, including a citizen science project for the RSPB and partnerships with local start-ups. 

The benefits to the students include valuable real-life experiences with opportunities to develop client-facing relationships, working to deadlines and the planning and execution of a design brief. 

For organisations looking to explore new ideas it is a service that offers no financial risk. 

A particular advantage of the University’s service is that the students retain the Intellectual Property rights (IP) of their hard work, but the work can also be published to open-source platforms to allow universal access. In February, both the students and YES took part in a discussion panel about enterprise and education as part of an international event hosted by the Service Design Academy to inspire other educational institutions and businesses to collaborate in a similar way.

Tim Storer is a Senior Lecturer within the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, which is ranked in the top ten of UK Universities. 

He said: “Through the course we can activate up to 25 very diverse projects in a year. As a learning module the students have the chance to experience a realistic workplace scenario to prepare them for their future careers. 

“The challenge for the students is how to develop and maintain a large-scale software project with professional tools such as Gitlab and the Django web framework. For the project with YES, they had to work closely together to maintain both front-end and back-end as well as provide a secure platform. 

“Critically, unlike other academic modules that can be very prescriptive, with all of these projects the students have to define the requirements of the projects themselves in collaboration with their customer. It is an excellent opportunity to learn and work with customers on real projects that test their personal abilities both as developers as well as team players. 

“The results are always rewarding and we know that many become passionate about their projects, sometimes working late into the night to complete jobs. This is a degree that can take you into any industry or sector and the experience they gain from this is very valuable.”

The power of the YES/Glasgow University partnership is that it encapsulates enterprise learning in action.  The computing science students and YES have both benefited, while the games themselves are a model of the learning by doing ethos which the YES team takes to Scotland’s young people. 

This article was brought to you in partnership with Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) as part of The Herald's Future of Education campaign