Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Professor Talks About Gamification in Academia

University of Michigan Professor Lampe is using gamification in his 200-student lecture classes to make them more interesting. He says big-class lectures can often be as boring for the professor as they are for the students. A little bit of game-type action can spice things up and make classes more interesting. Near the end of the video he points out that gamification is becoming popular for employee training in private enterprise, so why not use the concept in universities and other educational institutions?

It’s noted that:

Just calling assignments “quests” and just calling grades “XP” isn’t enough, I think, to make it a really compelling experience. So the sharing went much deeper by having the flexible assignments and the choices about what to do and the stronger kind of guild participation elements and things like that.

The real gamified experience comes from the following most important elements:

  • Choices of learning quests
  • Rapid feedback
  • Group participation

To leverage the element of group participation, I think we also can learn from Harry Potter –  the House system.

Each student was a member of a house (I was Owls) and had a merit table associated to them. Merits were given to good students, good deeds, exploits on the sports field and so on. De-merits were awarded for bad behaviour. Every now and then all of the points for each student and each house were added together, the de-merits subtracted and then the house with the most points got a reward.

It was a simple system that worked for a number of reasons. The first was that it promoted teamwork and peer pressure…

gamification of education

The outcomes?

And so I thought with this one, it might have more interaction with students, more ability to, kind of, see what types of output they could create in more interesting ways. That part has worked out. So, in the past I’ve done a lot of like exams and reports. This time they’ve done two achievements that are very different. One is achievements of the explorer where they actually have to go out and do a bunch of cool stuff, including one of them is what we call colonize social media, and they go out and they participate. And they’re doing these really cool things including like stuff with Instagram and stuff with Pinterest and they’re really going out and working with Reddit and on one guy is doing Slashdot and a bunch of the students are really kind of pushing the boundaries of participating in online activities through this course. And many of them have said, it’s like what are their best assignments all year, just because it’s persistent, it takes place over a long period of time, plus it feels more relevant to what they actually do during the course of a day.

And then another set of quests we do is related to artistic talent. So a lot of students, for instance, created information visualizations and information graphics instead of making a report. So, it turns in a one-page thing which is an information graphic. But they were so much more compelling and so much more interesting than 90% of the student papers I’ve ever read, which are themselves 90% bullshit.

Professor Cliff Lampe shared that the positive experience of more interaction between he and students made it a worthwhile process. And students feel like they have control over their learning outcomes, they’re much more invested in what they learn and how they approach it.

What the video and interview on Slashdot. 


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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