Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gamification Revisited

When I set out to create an online version of my Intro to Ancient Rome class, I very much wanted to gamify the design.  Just as my undergraduates at UT Austin struggle to stay focused throughout the fifteen week semester, so do online students struggle to persist and complete for-credit courses.  By incorporating some of the features of gaming into the course design, I am hoping to provide to my online students additional incentives for staying on track and persisting to completion.  There is nothing novel about encouraging learning through gaming.  Most instructors do some of this as a regular feature of their campus courses (e.g. quiz bowl as review for an exam).  I am having a couple of games built for the course (one is on the voting process).  But what I wanted to do was gamify the course itself--that is, to incorporate gaming features into the process of working through the course.  After casting around for ideas that would work well in Canvas, not be too complicated or distracting, and that would not require a massive effort to design, I settled on something that I am eager to test. 

The graphic design needs are pretty minimal: I am having the graphic designers create a game board template that each student will save in a folder.  The template is the atrium of a Roman house, but emptied of all of its usual ornamentation.  I am also having the graphic designers create 25 icons/game pieces.  These include: a fountain, some statues, frecoes, lamps, books, a cat, etc.  Each of these game pieces will be hidden throughout the modules.  The link to the game piece will be live for a specific amount of time and then will go dead.  If the student is working through the module on time, they will have access to the game piece.  As well, the instructor will be able to award extra game pieces for particularly good performances on the modules, short essay questions, exams, or the discussion board.

Students will be able to place the game pieces they earn on their game board and save the board.  At the end of the class, they will be able to redeem their game pieces for some amount of extra credit.  Special bonuses will go to high scorers.

There is nothing particularly sophisticated about this game--and that is why I like it.  I don't want it to distract from the learning but rather, to provide additional positive reinforcement for the practice of good learning hygiene.  In my campus course, I give students candy for speaking in class (it can be intimidating to speak in a 400 student class and this was a successful way of getting more students involved in class discussions).  Sure, it's middle school tactics and kind of cheesy--but it accomplished my goal of involving more than the front row students in class discussion.  I will be curious to see how this game plays out.  It is meant to be pretty easy to run and play.  I'm sure that there will be some kinks to work out in the first iteration but I am guardedly optimistic that it will work as intended.

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