Can Game Dynamics Improve Attendance, Grades, and Engagement In A Large Lecture Course?

Update: this proposal was not funded through the Digital Media & Learning Competition. We’re still seeking funding. Please visit Rey Junco’s blog for more details.

As my friend/colleague/mentor Rey Junco blogged yesterday, we’ve submitted a research proposal to the Digital Media & Learning Competition. We’re seeking funding for a study that will integrate game dynamics and badges into a large lecture course. Here’s how it would work:

Research Design
Before the semester begins, university students registered for a large-lecture introductory course will be randomly assigned to either a control section or an experimental section. Both the control and experimental sections will be taught by the same instructor and will follow the same schedule in the presentation of course material. Each section will contain at least 200 students for a total of 400 participants.

Experimental Section
Students in the experimental section will use their Android or iOS devices to engage in academic challenges in order to earn badges. Students will check in to the classroom after indicated class sessions. Once they check in, they will be presented with a challenge that involves answering five questions about that day’s lecture, developed in consultation with the course instructor. Students will receive a point for each question they answer correctly. They will also receive points for checking in to the class location, posting pictures of their notes, and posting questions about the day’s lecture. Additionally, students will receive points towards badges by participating in relevant challenges outside of class, including “social check-ins” with a study group, visiting a professor/TA’s office or supplementary instruction session, or checking into the tutoring center.

When a student accumulates a pre-determined amount of points, she or he will receive a badge. Students may earn one badge for each week of the course. At the end of the semester, students will receive course extra credit based on the number of badges they have earned.

Control Section
Students in the control section will have the opportunity to answer the same questions as the experimental group; however, these questions will be presented as quizzes using TurningTechnologies ResponseWare. ResponseWare allows students to submit answers by using either their mobile phones or their laptop computers. The quizzes will include the same content and be administered at the same time as the experimental group. Control group students will also be able to complete the other challenges, but they will be presented as extra credit opportunities accompanied by manual tracking methods and a traditional scoring rubric equivalent to the badge system.

Then What?
We will evaluate differences in student engagement, attendance, and academic performance between the experimental group and the control group. We don’t know what the difference will be, but we’re among a team of folks committed to conducting empirical research to see if they much-hyped “gamification of higher education” has any merit.

What Do You Think?
As much as I love comments on my blog (and if you really want to leave one, go ahead), I’d prefer if you would direct your comment directly to our research proposal. Our literature review, as well as additional outcomes information, is included in the proposal. Do you think this is a project worth funding? Would you be interested in the results? Would you have a use for the results in your every-day work?

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6 Comments on “Can Game Dynamics Improve Attendance, Grades, and Engagement In A Large Lecture Course?

  1. I love the gaming idea for everything. We created a gamified system for our teachers to help them learn and integrate more technology into the classrooms. There are five worlds and then different thing they do will earn them points to move through the levels and worlds. We introduced it last month, so I’ll let you know it goes. For people who are semi-competitive, even if it’s just with themselves, this is something amazing to do. Look at my Wii Fit Plus. I loathe exercising. My husband buys me an exercise game that is going to track my progress and give me gold stars based on performance. Sweet! You’ll have to keep me posted on this.

    • I’d love to hear more about how your professional development game system works out. I’ve heard lots about gamification for K-12 and college, but not much for adult ed or professional development.

      And….maybe I need to get a Wii Fit Plus.

  2. Wow, Liz. This is super exciting! As an advocate of both gamification (even though I think the word can be overused) and innovative learning approaches I really hope this is accepted.

    I see a lot of talk about gamification of education, mobile use in the classroom etc, but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to see a lot of case studies on the topic. One thing I wonder is that whether the badge thing will catch on, or weather there will be a cultural rejection by the students.

    Who knows, but it’ll be interesting to see the results. Best of luck to you and Rey!

  3. I was totally skeptical of gamification when I first heard Seth Priebach’s talk at sxsw….but the more Rey talked about it, the more I thought there might be something to it. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to find out :)

  4. Pingback: Seeking Funding to Study Game Dynamics in Higher Education | Liz Gross

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