I wrapped up a Coursera course in Gamification a couple of months ago, just now getting around to writing about the experience. There were two reasons for taking the course, both related to my job at innovative learning solutions. The subject matter of game theory and more recently gamification, is relevant to my job. I also wanted to see how Coursera structured this free online class.
Gamification is the application of game mechanics to non game related activities. It uses game like elements such as points, badges and leader boards to motivate people to perform certain tasks in the real world. The Nike+ dashboard is one example, where points and badges are accrued through the physical activity of running. You can track your progress and compare yourself to others. This can be a powerful motivator.
So it differs from Serious Games, which are games that try to teach. These are usually full fledged games that mesh with learning elements, usually with dubious results. It also differs from Learning Simulations, which are intensive, immersive experiences, usually involving complicated topics. Gamification is more like a layer added on top of real world activities.
What the course offered:
The 6 week long course was comprised of 1-2 hours of lecture videos a week, weekly quizes, three written assignments that were peer reviewed and one final multiple choice exam. All in all I spent 2-4 hours a week getting through the videos, reading extra materials, and finishing all the assignments. There were thousands of students enrolled, most of which dropped out. MOOCs are known for the high dropout rate. There’s little incentive to stay plugged into a class that’s free of charge. But although a 10% completion rate sounds bad, it’s still a few thousand people learning something for free. These services provide the platform and knowledge, the motivation to learn has to come from the students.
I also signed up for the Signature track, which costs a few dollars and provides a certificate of completion. Not sure how useful it is, but the price was reasonable enough. There is a push for more accreditation and certification with these services, so perhaps they could be useful down the road.
Some random thoughts:
Overall a good experience, well structured class. I didn’t have much more time to put into it than what I did. There were some useful forum discussions, but again, I was pressed for time.
Could have had less proposal writing, was hoping for more of a prototype assignment. It’s one thing to write a proposal to convince someone of the merits of Gamification, it’s another to build something that can be tested out.
There were some elements that are useful to keep in mind with regards to simulations. I was wondering if gamifying a simulation would be possible, or if adding these elements on top would become too much of a distraction.
All in all, when structuring a learning environment with game mechanics, it’s a balancing act. Meshing fun and learning into one system can be tricky.