Games Academics Play, Literally

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Those who thought academia couldn’t get more trivial might do a face palm over the trend toward gaming in higher education.

“Several courses in my department at the University of Michigan have been gamified,” Kentaro Toyama, an associate professor in the School of Information there, writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Assignments are called adventures, battles, and quests.”

“Each activity earns experience points — a hundred thousand at a time — and students’ grades depend on their final scores. The classes differ from traditional courses in that students have more choice in the assignments they complete; they can work at a flexible pace; and some assignments can be resubmitted until their maximum scores are reached.”

This is not a trend that Toyama is ready to cheerlead for. “The problem is gamification’s premise,” he avers. “It suggests that we should capitulate to a generation of students who supposedly can’t muster interest and curiosity on their own.”

“Though the rhetoric of gamification claims ties to intrinsic motivation, any attempt to cause one behavior (i.e., learning) through other means (i.e., game elements) is the very definition of extrinsic motivation.”

By the way, he notes that one charter school in New York—Quest to Learn—has a curriculuma that is entirely “gamified.”