“World of Workcraft” role play for English language learning, an innovative teaching method at IMT-BS


Institut Mines-Télécom Business School (IMT-BS) is reshaping its English language courses through a role play where students aim to become the next international business superstar.

Third-year students in Engineering programs at Télécom SudParis and Management programs at IMT-BS often neglect language courses in their final semester since they are too busy with recruitment processes for  future internships or jobs. “ By turning English courses into a role play where students take concrete steps toward joining an imaginary international company, we seek to increase student engagement in these courses, which are sometimes seen as non-priority, despite the fact that they are mandatory.” explains Ben Hill, designer and coordinator of foreign language programs at  IMT-BS.

Drawing on a “gamification” approach, the “World of Workcraft” game is based on an experience points (XP) system, in which participants may gain points by performing various tasks. They earn the most points for the main tasks, which are also referred to as “boss battles”: being interviewed for a job, writing a series of professional e-mails and writing a report on a given topic. Secondary tasks include preparing for these goals by attending the courses designed for this purpose. Progress goals are customized and determined by each student, based on a sandbox approach.

Participants work together in teams, and every week there is a challenge, in which the best team earns bonus points. “This system, which is at once competitive and collaborative, pushes the students who are most engaged to motivate the others,” says the instructor. The ultimate goal is for students to develop and validate the skills they need to work in an international environment, while gaining enough XPs to earn a passing grade of 10/20.

Feedback from this course has been positive. “ The flipped classroom approach empowers students to take ownership of their progress. Some really get into the game, leading them to achieve far more goals than required,” says Ben Hill, with satisfaction. Building on this success, the instructor has adapted the TU (Teaching Unit) to work-study programs and is thinking about expanding the use of the role-play format for teachers and designers of courses in other disciplines.

This is an educational innovation project submitted for the 2021 IMT Teaching Awards.

Illustrator: Lionel Tarchala