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Jennifer Hardacker: Gamification Strategies

Gamification Lite: Using Gamification strategies to teach Film History and Analysis

Students who enroll in Film History and Analysis come from diverse places, and they’re heading to diverse destinations. Some come in with a love of film, dreaming about their own cinematic creations. Others come in thinking “film” means “movie” and expect that a class about movies will be easy. This can make Jennifer Hardacker’s job hard. Trying to design a course that will challenge media arts majors and also engage everyone else in the room is no easy task.

Enter gamification. Gamification of learning draws on those game elements that keep players trying for hours to level up, find Easter eggs, and beat their best scores. By bringing those elements into the learning environment, educators hope to increase motivation and engagement in learners. In Jennifer’s Film History class, this is achieved by a few simple but critical adjustments to the way students complete coursework and earn grades.

The key modification gives students with high scores the ability to “unlock” alternative assignments that might be seen as more creative or more fun. Higher scores going into a week unlock more advanced assignment options. Students are also invited to complete extra assignments, which can act as insurance in the case of illness or travel. This “insurance” can then be cashed in at the end of the class–students with sufficiently high scores at the end of term are not required to take the final exam. That’s pretty powerful motivation to put in a consistent effort during the semester, which yields better learning.

Watch the video below to hear Jennifer explain how gamification strategies work in her course.

Gamification – What It Is and How It Works

Whether you are moving wooden pieces, dealing cards, pressing the spacebar, or shooting rock/paper/scissors, the game you are playing will have some basic things in common with all other games: There will be some kind of rules, you will be able to score points, and you will be in competition with someone else (even if that someone else is imaginary, like Sol in solitaire or the computer in an online chess match). When gamification strategies are applied to learning, these common features are key to increasing motivation, persistence, teamwork, and engagement. Some examples of gamification include:

  • Redefining grades or scores as “points” students can earn to “level-up” to different or more advanced units/modules (including exemption from major exams)
  • Offering the option to “unlock” different or more advanced assignments with sufficient scores/points/grades
  • Issuing badges that students can collect for achievement and/or completion of coursework
  • Offering other kinds of next-level “rewards” (including exemption from major exams) for attaining a certain “level” or acquiring a specific badge(s)

Gamification can be incorporated into a single activity or applied to an entire course. Regardless of the degree to which a course is gamified, the most important thing to remember is that gamification techniques should be integrated into course content and other learning experiences and that learning outcomes should always lead course design.

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