The gamification of education and gaining experience points

13 Jan

Recently, a co-op student that I work alongside described a university course that he attends where the professor had turned the course itself into a game. If you attend class, you gain experience points. The more points you gain, the higher level you reach. These points/levels would at the end of the course be translated into a grade.

For me, this approach added a new wrinkle to the debate about the gamification of education.

The original idea of “gamification” saw educators/instructional designers applying the concept of game design to actual learning. This had clear learning benefits, from developing problem solving skills to improving learner engagement.

But I would suggest that turning the architecture of learning, i.e. a course, into a game offers something new.

A recent blog post by Nick Simons at Saffron Interactive explores this “something new” further. Nick writes, “gamification doesn’t simply mean designing and implementing serious games for changing behaviour and/or improving performance.” Instead he suggests that there are “many more, and possibly better, opportunities to use ‘game design techniques and mechanics’ for workplace learning than that.”

One of these opportunities, I would argue, is turning a course into a game. When I asked my co-worker whether his professor had explained why he had turned his course into the game, my co-worker said the professor had witnessed a decrease in student motivation and attendance as the course progressed. To combat the decline, the course itself became a game. Perhaps this professor is onto something!

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2 Responses to “The gamification of education and gaining experience points”

  1. Gordon Goertz January 15, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    The concept of gamification in education brings a radical concept into both the classical education environment and the corporate learning world. Your article speaks to a teacher who implemented the game with the apparent sole purpose of keeping students engaged throughout a semester, but I believe there could be a much greater positive impact – particularly in the corporate training world I work in.

    Eliot Masie, cited on http://www.wideopendoors.net, says that gaming allows learners to “fail to success.” In the corporate world – even as regards training vs. on-the-job performance, this term would ordinarily be considered self-contradictory. When one fails at work, the consequences are nearly always negative: a reprimand, loss of status among peers, and perhaps even loss of employment. When a worker fails in training within that work environment, the consequences may not be as severe, but they nonetheless do come to pass and they are negative!

    Consider, however, the company that incorporates gaming in learning; for example, a retailer that uses a sales simulation game. A sales person could log in and practice his skills in the simulator, much the way a learning pilot would use a flight simulator. When he does well, the simulated customer buys more; when he makes mistakes, the simulated customer buys less or is less satisfied with his experience. Working through such a game, the salesperson could hone his skills in the safe environment of the game rather than practice only on live customers, feeling free and safe to try out new skills and new methodologies.

    Using such an approach, even if technology were not involved (“simulating the simulator,” if you would, using peers) would in my mind raise productivity and retention in corporate learners, and perhaps open the door to greater team focus if the games were team-based. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Thank you.

    Resource:
    Gaming in Education. Retrieved from http://www.wideopendoors.net/educational_technology/gaming.html

    • mannis2 January 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Yes, a really interesting point about games creating not just a safe learning environment but a better learning experience.

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