Even before the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the world hard, the future of the education system is already gearing towards the application of the virtual learning process that most educational institutions globally are currently using. The American International University – Bangladesh (AIUB) has responded to this immediately and the program has come to fruition earlier than anticipated. Some universities in different countries have already been offering online graduate, post-graduate, and short courses for the past few years and have proven effective and convenient by the people who availed of this educational system. This is a dynamic process and the inevitable technological advancement has made learning and education easily available and at arms reach. I took up some short courses with certification in two years and have enjoyed the learning experience immensely. The first online course I took in Coursera was called “Gamification”, from The Wharton University of Pennsylvania, and quite timely to apply in the virtual classroom, especially having more than 40 students in one course.
Ever since our university made the bold move to be the first to respond to the idea of inculcating online classes, the idea of using “Gamification” in my courses has certainly crossed my mind. “Gamification” has been around for a couple of years now and a popular technique in countries such as the USA. This idea is very timely for both the digital native generation and the digital migrants wherein online games and streaming are the most popular entertainment these days. So, what is this intriguing “Gamification”? Professor Kevin Werbach of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has explained the many uses of the emerging field of gamification wherein game designers use the techniques of game applications in solving problems in different fields such as education, business, and health, among other things. According to Werbach, “Gamification is about learning from games, not just in the sense of learning about the games themselves, but understanding what makes the games successful. Also, understanding what makes the games engaging, understanding what games can do, and why games have power, then taking those techniques, and thoughtfully applying them to other situations which are not themselves games” (Coursera, 2017).
The main concern of virtual classes is sustaining the interest of students and how the teacher can prolong the attention of every individual throughout the required time duration per class, so I have been gradually trying to introduce and incorporate “Gamification” in one of my courses and used a medieval-themed fantasy world storyline. I used some graphics of game assets and elements from the net like a map of an entire kingdom and separated them by states. I named the kingdom the “Justice Kingdom” since the class was made up of law students. The students teamed up in four groups with a leader of their choice as their heads of state and came up with titles for their respective kingdoms. They were assigned different designs of castles for each kingdom and crown avatars for their rulers. Each member has their leaderboards and the columns and rows are classified with the different components for computing marks. Every time they excel in any of the given activities or assessments, they get rewarded with badges that have specific equivalent incentives.
In games, one must achieve the objectives and follow the mechanics to receive interesting and successful results. It’s innate in humans to be competitive and always up for challenges and using gamified class activities assists in strengthening teamwork, camaraderie, problem-solving, and collaboration among classmates and friends. In this way, it encourages them to level up and aspire to do better in the next activity and gives them the satisfaction of preparing for the next battle to claim their rewards. The goal is to create an immersive experience to inspire and motivate them to get involved a study harder for the next level. The interactive leaderboards and achievement charts are ways to show direct and clear immediate feedback on the students’ progress. As Prof. Werbach explained in one of his sessions, “Seeing the points received and the level of their performance, that in itself becomes a motivator. The action produces the feedback, then the feedback becomes a form of motivation, and the motivation leads to more actions.” Some students were inspired to pro-actively present works beyond what was expected of them and developed more confidence in accomplishing assigned tasks. Others were challenged to perform better and teams worked together in a more efficient and effective way.
Gamification is a broad area to trifle with and I have barely touched the very core of its entirety and go deep into how it can be applied in interesting ways. It has limitations and concerns and may or may not work in certain subjects or courses and outside of the traditional formal education system, but if designed right, it can be an integral part of the education process. There are a lot of factors to consider applying the idea of gamification in the evolution of blended learning, and this is just one of the many ideas that can be applied in mundane classroom tasks to promote motivational and fun learning that is intrinsically rewarding in the end, not just to the students but to the teachers as well.
The writer is an Animation Lecturer of the Department of Media and Mass Communication (MMC) of the American International University – Bangladesh (AIUB).