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Dr Peter White: Protagonist

What happens when game design principles team up with educational technology? This blog post will look at the adventures of Peter White (the protagonist), Adjunct Lecturer at Bathurst campus, and his undergraduate internal class ITC114 Database Management Systems.

The background story

ITC114 is a core subject for various Computing courses. In the last few years there has been a decline in student progression, resulting from poor student engagement with the subject content. After much reflection on teaching strategies and educational technology and acutely aware of this trend for a few years now, Peter decided to act.

Increasing, enhancing and maintaining student motivation and engagement in the classroom, whether virtual or face to face, has always been a major challenge faced by educators. In this fast paced information-consumption environment, where there is a growing tension between deep and surface learning, this challenge, as evidenced by research (Chen, Burton, Vorvoreanu & Whittinghill 2015,  Conole 2012, Kirkwood 2014, Philip & Garcia 2013) is further exacerbated by the changing learning and thinking habits brought about by the digital age.

A recent study by Chen et al (2015) looked at this question through the lens of game design principles. The case study revealed that a key to increasing student motivation and engagement lies in certain game design principles that specifically target intrinsic motivation and self-determination. Chen et al (2015) suggest that although game design looks at rewarding a learner for participating in and/or completing tasks and activities, the reward should not be designed as the ultimate goal but rather a supporting mechanism. Read more about this case study here.

Armed with studies on game design principles and intrinsic motivation, our protagonist began his quest.

First, Peter created a virtual currency designed to encourage participation in the face to face classroom.

Introducing the Mulligan

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What is a Mulligan?

(It is important to read the fine print)

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White, P. (2015). ITC114 Database Management Systems Lecture [PPT]
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White, P. (2015). ITC114 Database Management Systems Lecture [PPT]

While he prepared his arsenal of formative and summative quizzes to be exchanged for Mulligans, he happened upon a Yammer post, Tech Tip for May, by Alissa Brabin (Faculty ED). The tech tip revisited the smart student response system Socrative.

Peter was intrigued, so he explored the tech tip and decided to try it out in his first face to face class with a reserve of Mulligans on hand.

He began small with a short quiz to capture the student’s current knowledge, and then followed it with a second quiz which looked back at a concept the students were covering in the current classroom session. Socrative revealed that only 66% of students grasped the concepts, so Peter knew he needed to go back to the specific concepts students had yet to grasp.

Peter was pleasantly surprised at the end of his first exploits with Socrative and the handy Mulligans. Students came up to him after class proclaiming that it made paying attention throughout the lecture really rewarding.

The adventure so far…

Well, Socrative is working quite well. Lecture 3 had about 60% of the cohort in attendance, about 25 students, which is far better than normal. Some 18 or so students attempt each quiz as they pop up during the lecture (usually 2-3 quizzes per lecture). There was a small number of students who did not have access to electronic devices and who asked if they could be accommodated. Socrative allowed Peter to print the quizzes which accommodates these few without devices. Access sample printed Quiz 3 and Quiz 4 here, to see what the students receive.

What Peter is starting to see is that these in-class quizzes may well be a far better test of engagement. Having the quizzes display a link in Interact2, Peter watches the results arrive in real time and have a full report on each student. Understanding student needs and pinpointing knowledge gaps have never been easier.

Students have also found Socrative a far better way to self-assess their knowledge in real time when the lecturer is available for further questions.

Another interesting outcome is the eager uptake of Mulligans by students. The normal procedure is to get students who scored a Mulligan to write their name, the date, and their number of Mulligans acquired on a list. For Peter, it is a nice way to double check who can actually claim a Mulligan.

It is early days in the quest, but Peter suggests that this engagement is driven by total self-interest and a want for more Mulligans. It is starting to look like the intrinsic motivation in game design principles may well be the correct direction after all.

And so the quest continues…

(For further information, you can grab a coffee with Peter White if you are ever on the Bathurst campus – your treat). Learn more about Socrative on the WIKI