This term I am experimenting with gamifying one of my classes. Over the last few years I have identified a need for an online computer skills class which will allow students to brush up on their ICT skills above and beyond the time spent in class: either for remediation or enrichment.
I decided that this would be a good opportunity to play around with gamification. Spreadsheets, databases and the like can be very dry and off-putting, and yet they represent key skills both in school and beyond, for the world of work. By gamifying the course, perhaps I could leverage more engagement. I wanted to go beyond the usual points, badges and leaderboards. I would need to use the course to generate marks for the school reporting system in any case.
I was inspired by Paul Andersen’s TED Talk:
I immediately set about creating a framework within which students could work at their own pace through various exercises to hopefully master various computer applications such as spreadsheets, databases and so on. I decided to use a framing story, with a central riddle which needed to be solved. Here’s what I posted on the course Moodle page:
Professor Jane Muller of the Faculty of Astrophysics at Harvard University has discovered an anomaly at the heart of the Universe, which threatens to destroy the very fabric of the space-time continuum! The Möbius Effect, as Jane has called it, was set in motion by an alien race which eats off the resultant chaos.
It’s pretty complicated, but basically, if you think of Time as a Möbius band, a bit like a continual play car radio tape rather than a linear progression, then you’ll understand that what has happened before is about to happen again, but more so! And it will continue to happen, and to intensify until someone can figure out a way of making it stop. Professor Jane Muller might just be that person.
I said it was complicated. The actual formula is
Jane has figured out a way to get around that and make time go back to normal, or relatively normal anyway.
But she needs some help – and that’s where you come in!
A computer virus, probably released by the same alien race that set off the Möbius Effect in the first place, has corrupted all her files, and she needs someone, a bit of a computer boffin, like you, to help her put all her work back in order so she can get on with the job of saving the Universe!
To help Jane you will need to work though each of the levels below, until you become a Level 10 Geek Girl and can help solve the riddle at the heart of the Möbius Effect!
The virus has taken out all Jane’s spreadsheet formulae, and without those formulae, her calculations will be way off!
Download each of the spreadsheets in turn, fix them according to the instructions Jane has left for you, and upload the file for Jane to continue with her work! You will be given experience points based on your performance.
You need 100 XP to become a Level 2 Geek-Girl
Each Spreadsheet completed correctly earns you 20 XP
I then set up a number of levels, each one with a series of tasks to be worked through. Each task, successfully completed, earns the student experience points. After a certain number of experience points the player levels up. I tried to set up each task so that it was fairly self-contained, had some kind of logical link to the framing save the universe narrative, and covered the syllabus adequately.
I planned to scaffold the tasks in a number of ways:
- in-class instruction and assistance
- online SCORMs and videos
Because all the tasks were set up on the class Moodle page, I was able to assign grades to each assignment. These grades are of course equated with experience points, but can be used as grades for reporting purposes. Because one can create a spreadsheet off Moodle, I plan to use this to create leaderboards created using a Mailmerge, together with the relevant badges earned.
This is the plan, but I know that I will need to tinker with it as I get feedback on how it is being received. I will follow-up with a blog on the programme in a few months.