Professors wanted a better way
to teach the skills of critical thinking and scientific reasoning, 
students wanted engagement and video games,
the answer: Operation ARIES!
 Operation ARIES! is an intelligent tutoring system that using principles from the science of learning and serious learning games.  Students participate in a game-like setting that begins when they sign up to be agents for the Federal Bureau of Science to save the earth from aliens from the ARIES constellation that are attempting to colonize the Earth. These aliens are taking over the Earth by turning humans into mindless consumers by using bad science. Students have to learn scientific principles to be able to identify the alien spies and prevent the earth from being colonized.
The training proceeds in three stages: the Training Module, the Case Studies Module, and the Interrogation Module.
  • In the Training Module, students learn about science by reading the Fuath's Guide to the Bean's World of Science that was written by aliens (the Fuaths). Students receive adaptive tutoring based on their level of prior knowledge from an Intelligence Tutoring System (ITS) known as AutoTutor. Students are tutored by a fellow student and expert avatars using natural language.
  • In the Case Studies Module, students learn to identify alien scientists' poorly conducted research by evaluating realistic case studies, some of which are faulty.  Students play against another (rather obnoxious) player for points that are award for correctly identifying flaws in research.
  • In the Interrogation Module, students interrogate potential aliens spies.  Students must generate their own questions about the suspected alien's research and earn points for correctly identifying alien and human scientists.
The game covers 21 scientific concepts shared among psychology, sociology, biology, and chemistry.  The storyline of Operation ARIES! involves an epic story of love, revenge, uncertainty, spies, aliens, political intrigue, suspense, surprises, and saving the world. The story elements are presented across the game to maintain engagement.

ClickClick here to read more about the science behind Operation ARIES!

Introduction to Operation ARIES! (90 sec)


The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305B070349 to Northern Illinois University.  The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S.

Department of Education.