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Gamification Rescues Course with High Failure Rates

Formative Assessment Teaching with Technology

Gamification Rescues Course with High Failure Rates

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In the fall of 2017, Niki Bray had a problem. The University of Memphis instructor and instructional designer was tasked with redesigning and teaching an Intro to Kinesiology course that had failure rates of 43 percent on the first attempt and nearly 50 percent on the second attempt.

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[dropcap]In [/dropcap]the fall of 2017, Niki Bray had a problem. The University of Memphis instructor and instructional designer was tasked with redesigning and teaching an Intro to Kinesiology course that had failure rates of 43 percent on the first attempt and nearly 50 percent on the second attempt. Historically, the course used the traditional lecture format, which is based on the philosophy of transferring knowledge from the instructor to the class and assessing how well students caught it. Of course, students were not catching as much as the university had hoped. The reason is that knowledge is not moved from the head of the instructor to the heads of the students like data between databases, it is rather built in the heads of the students as they compare information from external cues with what they already know. Bray infused this active knowledge development into the course by adding interactive quizzes before, during, and after the class. To do this, Bray choose Kahoot!, a free system that has rapidly become one of the most popular apps for in-class interactions. The instructor puts up questions in class which students answer on their cell phones, tablets, or laptops. Kahoot! is set up more as a gaming system than a quizzing system. The instructor creates “games” for students to play, which are basically banks of questions, and is given a dashboard of class-wide statistics on how students did on the quiz as a whole and individual questions. Here’s an example: https://tinyurl.com/ybsgan3g. Students can play these games individually or against one another in groups.  This makes the system ideal for non-graded in-class interactions for formative assessments. Students can also learn how they did in relation to the rest of the class, creating some friendly competition. The ability to set up competition between students heightens motivation and engagement, and it is one of the advantages Kahoot! offers against LMS-based systems. Another advantage is that students do not need to be preloaded into classes, as with an LMS.  The instructor can set up a game of questions and send students a link to get in without needing to sign up or sign in. Finally, the instructor can send students “challenges” that they complete out of the class, such as a list of questions to answer while they do the readings.  Moreover, Kahoot! has a bank of games created by other instructors that can be used for free, and so instructors might find that they can get a head start by surveying and reusing what has already been created.  See how to set up challenges in this tutorial from Richard Byrne: For her Intro to Kinesiology students, Bray used the ungraded games to allow students to focus on learning without having to worry about what they score. But although the games were ungraded, cumulative scores were kept on each student’s performance so they could receive a bonus point toward their grade for every 100,000 points earned. This created motivation to play without fear of failure, and student performance on the Kahoot! games helped inform what was covered in class.  If a number of students missed a particular question, Bray went over it in class, often asking students to help their peers with the answers. The questions in the Kahoot! bank were later used to create graded quizzes in the LMS. In this way, the Kahoot! games prepared the students to succeed in the course assessments. Results Remarkably, the failure rate for the class dropped from 43 percent to 0.  Moreover, the students expressed overwhelming support for the system in their post-class surveys.  As one put it: Traditional class lecturing tends to get boring and students will not be as engaged. Me personally, I try my best to pay attention to traditional class lecturing but it is hard sometimes. However, I was always engaged in class when I played Kahoot throughout this semester. Another student expressed the added engagement in terms of competition: I love kahoot. It motivates me to do well so I can potentially get 1st place. This makes me study harder and really want to learn the information. Also, it is very fun and I do not get bored of just a lecture class. Bray also found that student attendance improved, as did the notes they took out of class and in-class.  This is significant. One of the reasons students struggle to take good notes is because they have a hard time determining what information is most important.  By giving them questions, students can a clear picture of what they didn’t know and thus what they need to take notes on. Other systems As noted, Kahoot! is an ideal system for adding simple gamification to a course to improve interest and performance. As noted, the gaming format is good for ungraded work. Faculty often assume that everything students are expected to do needs to be graded as an incentive, but the grade can undermine the competitive play element of the exercise, making students focus more on their grade than learning. There are other systems that can also be used to add gaming elements to a course. Quizlet allows students or instructors to set up quiz/games using questions in a variety of formats, including audio. The system can be set ahead of time to send out assessments on particular dates, including reminders, and it has an adaptive learning setting that will modulate the difficulty of the questions based on student performance. EdPuzzle is another good option for adding interactivity to online course content. Instead of having students watch a video and answer questions on it later in discussion or a quiz, instructor can upload videos to EdPuzzle and embed the questions right into the videos. These questions play at preset locations in the video. The system can keep score of individual students’ results, as well as class averages. A gradebook feature can be used for graded work. Reference Bray, N. (2018). 43 to 0: How one university instructor eliminated failure using gamified learning [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.nikibray.com/blog/43-to-0-how-one-university-instructor-eliminated-failure-using-gamified-learning