The Mark R. Warner Student Services Building (CA) is a hub of activity on the Annandale Campus. The building houses the Barnes & Noble Bookstore, Starbucks and numerous offices that cater to students’ needs – making it a one-stop shop for students.
In mid-July, however, staff started to notice a different buzz and realized that students – with their noses buried in their smartphones – were starting to visit the building more. Academic Success Counselor Margarita Martinez soon realized a portion of the building is a gym on the popular Pokémon GO app and the Annandale Campus has six different Poke Stops.
Pokemon Go is a free-to-play mobile game app that uses location-based augmented reality. It was released in most regions in July 2016 and quickly became a hit. Martinez found out her fellow coworkers were also playing and collecting Pokémon on the app. Faculty and staff saw another opportunity to connect with students.
“We’re putting together a flyer to advertise our Facebook group NVCC Annandale Pokémon GO and to encourage students to catch Pokémon on campus,” Martinez said. “The cool thing about the game is that some of the Poke Stops are historical landmarks, so you’re learning something. We want to use the Poke Stops on our campus to help new students navigate campus and learn about the resources available to them in each building.”
Orientation Facilitator Nahum Asmelash said the game builds a connection between them and students. Testing Center Supervisor Jason DeFreitas said they can use the game as a conversation starter.
“The students are on their phones when they walk in. The game creates a good interaction and opportunity to communicate with them,” DeFreitas said. “The cool part of it is that it bridges generations and takes away the intimidation element that some students might feel between them and staff members.”
First-year NOVA student Larry Nguyen said Pokémon GO has helped him explore campus and the surrounding D.C. metro area.
“I was one of those people who didn’t go outside a lot. Now I go out more and catch Pokémon in D.C. and Maryland and on campus,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen was one of Martinez’s students during the first summer session, and she noticed he contributed to classroom conversation but was a little quiet. Once she created the NVCC Annandale Pokémon GO group on Facebook, Nguyen became a member.
“Larry is a boss,” Asmelash said. “In class, he talked and got involved but not a lot,” Martinez said. “In the Facebook group, he is the first to respond to posts, and he gives a lot of information about the game. So the game built up the communication between us and other students who are playing on campus.”
The NVCC Annandale Pokémon Group has more than 10 members. Martinez said once they advertise the group, they will make connections with more students and make sure there are resourceful and educational elements for students trying to “catch them all” at the Annandale Campus.