Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Games and Incentives in Instructional Design

Now is a good time to reflect on my experience with the Goblin program.  I have come to the conclusion that the lessons of Goblin are most likely to influence my design of incentive and grading systems for my classes.  I am not as likely to try to teach large sections of my course through games (though I still hold out some hope for the design of simulations and roleplaying exercises).

The discussion of incentive systems has convinced me to try out some alternative grading systems in my classes.  I would like to emulate the game design principles of having multiple paths to success and immediate feedback.  Specifically, I would like to go with a menu approach to assessment design with the opportunity for relatively quick feedback on smaller (targeted) assignments.

In my grant writing class, I could allow students to turn in various parts of the grant proposal at any time.  Hopefully I could turn these around quickly for feedback.  Students would realize their agency in deciding which elements to focus on and how to schedule their assignments.

I am also intrigued by the quick mention in the introduction to this section of a "badge" or "achievement" system.  I could design socially-recognized achievements for the class that go beyond the grading system.  This could involve assignments turned in first, for example.

I do still have some reservations about this approach.  I have used similar systems in the past on a smaller scale.  I asked students in one class to turn in six reaction papers through the semester.  I only said that they could not turn more than one in a week.  More than half of the students turned in papers every week for the last four weeks because they had put the papers off until then.  I eventually went with a model where they had to turn some number in before the mid-term to force a little bit of rationing through the semester -- as well as saving my sanity at the end of the semester.

I am also somewhat concerned about the menu system allowing people to avoid developing skills that they are scared of.  Most notably, I worry about people avoiding the quantitative skills if they can.  I could make the core assignments required with a menu for some significant portion.  I will have to think about that more.

The most important part of my experience with the Goblin program is inspiring me to rethink these sorts of instructional design issues.

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