This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about video games. After Bethesda’s release announcement of Fallout 4 this past month, my house has been buzzing in excitement over PipBoys and player freedom. The Fallout franchise is probably best known for the interactivity of its games. This, according to Bethesda’s marketing director Pete Hines, is why Fallout 4 will stand out among other role-playing games.
The interactivity of modern gaming engages players at a very high level. Players are consistently driven to complete tasks, learn more about the world of the game, and experiment through frequent trial and error. This level of engagement is widespread: four out of five U.S. households own a device used to play video games. Additionally and contrary to gaming stereotypes, game players do not fit a specific age group or gender. While people between the ages of 18-35 are more likely to play video games than others (30%), amongst all age groups at least 15% of the population plays video games. There is also not a large divide between the genders of people who game. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 44% of game players are female and 56% are male.
Gaming clearly has a universal appeal. Recently, my biggest question as an Instructional Designer is how can the pervasive appeal of gaming be translated to the online classroom? The gamification of online learning appeals to instructors and designers who hope to consistently maintain their learners’ levels of engagement. This can be done in a variety of ways. For example, an online class could include interactive tours, a system of achievements, or quiz students through electronic puzzles. Maybe if students were able to approach online learning the same way they approach their PS4 or Xbox One, their level of engagement during the course would improve, resulting in better classes and more learning opportunities. Through more interactive lessons, students could “play” along with their classmates while simultaneously learning how to measure volume or identify a direct object.
The Blackboard learning management system offers instructors opportunities to “gamify” their courses and make them more interactive. The most popular example is Blackboard’s system of Badges and Achievements. Blackboard offers instructors the opportunity to give their students digital badges to reward them for achieving certain tasks in a class. Rather than a grade, which carries its own stresses and connotations for students, a badge may be a good alternative to encourage “players” to achieve. Instructors can organize these badges into tiers, allowing students to “level up” as they move forward throughout the course. Badges can also be rewarded for completing certain tasks, like attending an on-campus play or completing ten hours of community service. The opportunities to encourage and reward students are endless!
So here is my question to you now, does the gamification of online learning improve learning engagement for students or cheapen the online classroom?