Faculty brings mobile hunt to Cal State L.A.

Gaming technology allows students to discover campus through text messages

A student and faculty stand below the Golden Eagle statue.

CSULA Librarian Michael Germano and student Gloria Farag participate in a mobile-based scavenger hunt around campus. The game leads players across Cal State L.A. by asking them to tackle challenges at different sites.

In an effort to better orient students around campus—and the University Library, in particular—one faculty member is turning to a platform where he is confident he can reach students: text messaging.

This fall, Business Librarian Michael Germano will be introducing his students to a pilot technology program called SCVNGR (pronounced “scavenger”). The geo-gaming technology allows Germano, and others at the University, to design interactive tours, games and “scavenger hunts” that are played from any mobile phone, mobile web or application by text messaging.

The “games” are not just designed for fun and laughs, though. They are built with the explicit purpose of educating players about their location, the services offered and ways to get around. For instance, in Germano’s tour of the University Library, students are asked to visit locations like the reference desk, circulation and the library display case through clues, word scrambles and other hints. Once they have correctly located each spot, players must answer questions about the location, and they are awarded points for correct answers, as well as for the amount of time it takes them.

Interested in giving the game a try? Take the Cal State L.A. campus tour (csulaTOUR) the next time you are at the University. Once on campus, text csulatour to 728647 to start; then follow the questions to discover locations and learn interesting facts about the 175 acre campus.

“What’s nice about SCVNGR is you have to get out there,” Germano said. “You have to get out there as a group, or by yourself and problem solve. This technology is a useful tool for presenting information to students in a way that is comfortable and makes sense to them.”

The University gained free access to the SCVNGR technology and its applications for one year through a grant awarded by Califa (the nonprofit membership cooperative serving libraries and information organizations in California) and SCVNGR. The full-year license, valued at up to $10,000, began in May.

“It’s actually a really cool tool, and it can be used in teaching, in any kind of orientation, and fundraising,” Germano said.

In Germano’s class this fall, he said he plans to use the mobile gaming system to get his students moving around the library. He said it will serve as a useful tool for teaching students how to get the most out of the library and its services.

Anyone interested in learning more about the applications for SCVNGR around campus or for use in their courses may contact Germano at mgermano@calstatela.edu.