Learn By Doing

A Lifelong Learner Shares Thoughts About Education

Using Gamer Rewards Instead of Grades to Boost Engagement

From IT News For Australian Business

Clearly defined goals and fair, incremental rewards are two game design techniques that could motivate the ‘gamer generation’ in the workforce, according to a US academic.

Lee Sheldon of the Indiana University believes managers may have to rethink how they engage the next generation entering the mainstream workforce.

“As the gamer generation moves into the mainstream workforce, they are willing and eager to apply the culture and learning-techniques they bring with them from games,” said Sheldon, a gamer, game designer and assistant professor at the  university’s department of telecommunications.

“It will be up to management, often of pre-gamer generations, to figure out how to educate themselves to the gamer culture, and how to speak to it most effectively,” he told iTnews.

Last year, Sheldon replaced the traditional grading system in two of his game design classes with a system that is based on experience points (XP), which were typically used to track progress in role-playing games.

Students commenced the program as avatars at level one, which corresponded to zero XP and a grade of ‘F’. They gained XP by completing ‘quests’, ‘fighting monsters’ and ‘crafting’– in other words, giving presentations, sitting quizzes and exams, and handing in projects.

Like in the popular online game World of Warcraft, the students were grouped into ‘guilds’ and had to complete quests solo, as guilds, or as ‘pick up groups’ with members of other guilds.

So far, students have responded to the classes with “far greater enthusiasm” than before, Sheldon reported.

“The elements of the class are couched in terms they understand, terms that are associated with fun rather than education,” he told iTnews.

“There will always be a portion of the class who will not be motivated to learn no matter what an instructor may try. Those that are not as involved, one or two out of a class of forty, are pretty much drifting through life anyway thanks to factors the classroom can’t really address.”

Sheldon’s class structure has attracted the interest of educators from other institutions. At Indiana University however, he said colleagues had questioned the efficacy of applying the techniques to “regular”– non-game-related — classes.

“What they are missing is that we are teaching the gamer, social networking generation,” he told iTnews. “I have no doubt the students will respond positively to any number of non-game-related classes taught in a similar manner.”

Many specifics of game design could also be directly applied to the workforce, he said. These included: clearly defining goals for workers; providing incremental rewards; and balancing effort and reward.