Gamification Can I get MY students to read?

In my Freshmen Foundations section of the Introduction to Visual Communications class fall 2015 only two out of 20 students (in a majors only section) read the summer reading. Only those same two students read all the assigned textbook chapters. They unabashedly shared this information after the disastrous mid-term.

Students will not read the textbook (online or in print) or any lengthy amount of text, including assignments and project descriptions. Despite creating a variety of assignments and quizzes that require reading the textbook, in order to be completed successfully, and tying these activities to grades, students will not read or do only the minimal amount of reading to address the assignment.

I discussed the situation with my students and they openly admit to not doing the reading for not just my class but any class. They do not want to sit through a two-hour lecture twice a week to address the material that is covered in the reading. They prefer an activity-based class.

They learn through doing, not reading, so they say.

The activities end up being rather shallow though if they aren’t based on a deeper knowledge of the material that would come from reading first. And I can't tell them everything in just 4 hours a week.

Their generation is accustomed to reading and writing tweets and posting snapchats, not paragraphs or pages of text, they argue.

I am in search of methods that will provide the information I want them to learn in an easily accessible and engaging way that won’t feel like reading but will get them to learn the material.

The Playbook

  • Inspiration for the project
  • Gamification and game-based learning defined
  • Scope of the project: software and structure
  • Outcomes
  • Future directions
  • Want to get in the game? Where to start…
  • Mental shift
  • Closing credits

Game on!

Guess how many times Pokemon Go was downloaded in the U.S. from the Google Play market alone, as of August 8th? (5 pts)

An estimated 100 million times, generating about $268 million per day

Guess the stats of the average player by age and gender? (10pts)

Over 59% of Americans play games. That means that in America alone, over 150 million people play games. ~

In one study of college student reading habits, "only 24.8% of students indicated they read the assigned materials before coming to class. According to students surveyed, 62.4% spent one hour or less on their assigned readings while 31.9 % of the students indicated they read between one and two hours. Thus, 93.9% of the students spent less than two hours on assigned class readings." ~ documents/BAIER%20ET%20AL%20PAPER.pdf

What if I could harness the power of the game? Is it possible to motivate students to read more if they feel like they're playing a game? That's what I'm going to try to find out...

Gamification is a concept that applies the elements of game play to non-game activities. Challenges, quests, competition, teams, power-ups, badges, and leaderboards are all examples of game elements that might be incorporated into the classroom. For example, an assignment such as writing an essay is presented as a quest and awarded with XP instead of a letter grade. As XP is earned more challenges are unlocked.

Game-based learning uses games to teach concepts and skills. A quiz is presented in the form of a game of jeopardy, for example.

I proposed a two-year study: the first year I study what activities and types of gamification and game-based experiences motivate students to read/learn content. In the second year, I employ the most successful gamification and gaming methods learned in the first year to one class while using traditional methods in another to see how they compare in terms of engagement during class discussion, content read/learned, and performance on exams, papers and projects.

In addition, I proposed to teach a Game Design course in the Communication Arts Department this spring using software called Unity 3D in which students would conceptualize, prototype and create basic traditional and computer-based games. Unfortunately, the upper level special topics course was cancelled due to low-enrollment.

The Technology

The Technology Grant I received funded my attendance at the Serious Play Conference in Chapel Hill, NC this past summer where I learned about 3D Game Lab, one of the main tools I used to gamify my class.

CELTSS provided funding for texts and Udemy online training in gamification and game-based learning.

The Structure of the Course

  • Earn XP for completing assignments
  • Earn enough XP to level up
  • Conquer 12 levels to beat the best selling app of all time
  • Earn badges by advancing to certain levels
  • XP and badges will determine end grade
  • Earn coins for Achievements
  • Use coins to buy passes, sneak peaks and more
  • Trade what you buy
  • Teams compete in class to earn additional XP
  • Final project: design a game based on a chapter/content area of the reading

Overview of the 3D Game Lab environment.

Pros and Cons

PROS: Fairly easy to use + makes gamification possible + students really liked the organization of the assignments + may have increased number of students completing assignments + overall positive response from students

CONS: Great deal of time to set up + did not improve student reading, quality of work or student success + difficult to manage partial credit + unable to enter specific exam or project grades

Study skills, 3D Game Lab and 3D Game Lab Final survey results:

TAKEAWAYS: Provide a running list of assignments by due date; create element of competition; offer multiple options for assignments to demonstrate understanding of a topic

Where do I go from here?

Use 3D Game Lab again next fall for Intro to Vis Comm making adjustments to the way points are earned and levels are achieved and by adding to the variety of possible assignments.

Add to my database of games related to the course material and incorporate some of the games my students produced as their final projects into my course next fall. Several students made Jeopardy style games and one student created an amazing escape game that went beyond just asking questions and forced students to apply their knowledge to work their way through the game.

Continue to experiment with different types of reading material and assignments.

Want to Get in the game?

  • Introduce one game element into your class; most people start with a jeopardy-style or Q&A game
  • Design a game around one concept you want your students to learn
  • Focus on intrinsic rewards as opposed to extrinsic - the reward should be the excitement of learning not extra credit
  • Read Explore Like A Pirate for LOTS of great ideas
  • Think about the games you play and how you might adapt aspects to your course

Mental Shift

At first I wasn't sold on gamification because I thought it was all about rewarding students for learning when learning is what they came here to do. However, after much research, I see this as a way of learning to speak their language in order to get and keep them engaged. Think about how many game-type activities you are involved in throughout the day with the grocery store and gas points you earn, the various apps you use. It's not really a choice, it's the way we live!

Closing credits

Thanks to ETO and CELTSS for funding this project.

Thanks to Henry and Miles Osterweis for their help gamifying this course!

This presentation was created with Adobe Spark.


Created with images by jaycross - "IMG_3550.JPG" • Hans - "glasses read learn" • BibBornem - "reading book girl read" • RyanMcGuire - "running sprint cinder-track" • stux - "pokemon pokemon go pocket monster" • TimothyDavidGreenfield - "Pokemon go" • TheAndrasBarta - "dice game pawn" • InspiredImages - "figures games piece" • StartupStockPhotos - "student typing keyboard" • MichaelGaida - "air bag wind sock weather" • niekverlaan - "volunteer voluntary guide" • Pexels - "mathematics colorful game" • katherinemuchadoo - "-342 : guinea pig pwn"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.