I prefer to gamify my approach to grading for a number of reasons. The main one is to give students the freedom to try things, fail, and try again and still have it count as success. Often those who succeed most quickly and easily were either lucky, or had some advantage others did not. If what we value is not just what students bring with them already at the start of a class, but what they achieve during a semester and by its end, then we should set up the system to reflect that. Gamified grading (or a system that is based on points rather than percentages) also allows students to have the flexibility to adjust their schedule of work for a class in ways that recognize that they are also taking other classes, quite possibly working, and are whole human beings with lives that aren’t always predictable by them, never mind by a professor making a syllabus.
But just recently I discovered another reason to make the commitment that yes, I will seek to use this approach in the future. It is just the flexible approach one needs if there is a pandemic. I have had to make adjustments to my class this semester just as everyone else has when shifting online with a few days’ notice. But the grading system means that there is little need to radically overhaul that with the shift to online learning. Students have always had an invitation to do creative things to earn points. There are now new options even if some available on campus aren’t readily accessible.
When I met with my students using Zoom, I didn’t seize the opportunity to do the other thing gamification does so well, make learning fun, in one of the ways I mentioned in an earlier post and did today in a meeting of university administrators, namely sitting in front of a blank wall and adding a background via Zoom. Here is what my colleagues saw in yesterday’s meeting:
Some of them said they appreciated this as having given them a chuckle at a stressful time. But as far as pedagogical uses go, you could record videos of lectures with relevant backgrounds, and ask students to talk about course topics doing likewise.
As I mentioned in the Facebook group “Pandemic Pedagogy,” even though I will be teaching my course asynchronously, I wanted to have a face to face Zoom meeting on the first occurrence of the day and time our class would normally have met. So I sent students an email and said let’s meet via Zoom. Of the 22 students in the class, 16 were there in the Zoom meeting. That wouldn’t have been terrible attendance even under normal circumstances.
One immediate takeaway relates to a student who didn’t attend. I forgot to specify the time zone and so they tried to join at the wrong time. Watch out for that if you are in the same boat as me. We haven’t had to worry so much about where students are in the world this semester as we do from this point on. Another is that students are coping but also eager to connect and feel supported. Thank you to all educators who are making sure to provide that sense of being part of a supportive community that is in this together!
One thing I said I would come back to in earlier posts about cheating and academic dishonesty a while back was how that relates to my interest in gamification, and more broadly to my interest in less conventional types of assignments, ones in which cheating is simply not possible in the best cases, but not needed even in those assignments in which it could be done. Gamification sometimes achieves the former, but at the very least does the latter, because there is the possibility of failing and trying again.
Here are some other things related to gamification and other forms of game-based learning:
Also on the intersection of gaming and academia: Academic Writing as Fantasy RPG
Butler’s esports was highlighted in the local news not long ago. Butler’s esports space (the first of two) is already getting quite a bit of attention, with more undoubtedly still to come
And on some other benefits of learning through games, there’s a conference that I didn’t manage to share the call for papers for before the deadline, but which still may be of interest, focused on using gaming to “live in someone else’s shoes” for educational purposes.
Gamification for teachers is also among the recommendations in this:
Gamification is also mentioned in this post on microlearning:
Butler students developed a video game to help children with autism. And, while not a game, there is an interesting app with a Butler connection that helps students manage debt.