Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about using badging systems to support student learning. There is great potential for using badging systems to add a game layer to learning in the traditional classroom, thereby increasing student engagement and learning outcomes.
Last year at SxSWi, Seth Priebatsch from SCVNGR gave a keynote (video) about adding a game layer on top of the world. If you don’t have much time, I’d recommend skipping to the part about game mechanics and engagement in education which starts at 10:30. Seth’s talk sparked a number of ideas for me, one of which grew to be our proposal Game Dynamics in the Classroom: Badges to Improve Student Engagement and Learning in Large Lecture Courses for the Digital Media + Learning Research Competition.
The gist (straight from our proposal):
The goal of this project is to create and evaluate a badging system for learning in order to increase college student academic engagement and improve class attendance and academic performance. We hypothesize that we can improve college student academic outcomes by combining Location Based Services (LBS) with a badging system employing game dynamics and integrating it in an educationally-relevant way in a large-lecture course at The University of Florida.
I’m really excited that we were able to partner with SCVNGR to develop a badging system for this project. If the project gets funded, we’ll use an experimental design to evaluate the impact of integrating our badging system and related game dynamics into large lecture courses. As outcomes, we’ll measure differences in student engagement, attendance, and academic performance between the experimental group and the control group. Here are our methods:
Before the semester begins, university students registered for a large-lecture introductory course will be randomly assigned to either a control section or an experimental section. Both the control and experimental sections will be taught by the same instructor and will follow the same schedule in the presentation of course material. Each section will contain at least 200 students for a total of 400 participants. The Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects will approve research procedures
Students in the experimental section will use their Android or iOS devices to engage in academic challenges in order to earn badges. Students will check in to the classroom after indicated class sessions. Once they check in, they will be presented with a challenge that involves answering five questions about that day’s lecture, developed in consultation with the course instructor. Students will receive a point for each question they answer correctly. They will also receive points for checking in to the class location, posting pictures of their notes, and posting questions about the day’s lecture. Additionally, students will receive points towards badges by participating in relevant challenges outside of class, including “social check-ins” with a study group, visiting a professor/TA’s office or supplementary instruction session, or checking into the tutoring center.
When a student accumulates a pre-determined amount of points, she or he will receive a badge. Students may earn one badge for each week of the course. At the end of the semester, students will receive course extra credit based on the number of badges they have earned.
Students in the control section will have the opportunity to answer the same questions as the experimental group; however, these questions will be presented as quizzes using TurningTechnologies ResponseWare. ResponseWare allows students to submit answers by using either their mobile phones or their laptop computers. The quizzes will include the same content and be administered at the same time as the experimental group. Control group students will also be able to complete the other challenges, but they will be presented as extra credit opportunities accompanied by manual tracking methods and a traditional scoring rubric equivalent to the badge system.
You can read the entire proposal here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this project. Please feel free to leave a comment below or on the proposal page at the DML site.
[Update 2/13/12: Our proposal was not selected for funding by DML; however, we are still looking for funding. Please read this post and share it through your networks.]