Sunday, June 9, 2013

8 Weeks of Gamification

Coursera, the biggest MOOC provider on the internet, has a course on gamification.

You get this for completing the course.

The professor teaching the course is Kevin Werbach of Duke University  The course just completed its second run this May. This course is rather rigorous compared to some of the other courses on Coursera. It consisted of three written peer reviewed assignments, four quizzes and one exam. It had a lot of guest lectures from professionals in the field of gamification like Amy Jo Kim, Bing Gordon, Daniel Debow and Susan Hunt Stevens. Overall, it was an excellent course that made you think and work. The lectures by themselves are not too heavy or theoretical but are loaded with examples and analogies that make it easy to understand and apply the concepts.
Kevin Werbach. Rather excited.

I started the course in the beginning of April, same time as the official start. The first two units were pretty basic and provided an overview of the concepts. I started to complete the quizzes and assignments within the deadlines. The first quiz was an easy 5 mark affair which, as Professor Werbach later mentioned, was intended to be part of the onboarding process. This was in the first week itself. It was easy and I think most people would have gotten the full 5 marks. In the second week, things got a little harder as we dived into some specifics of gamification. Next, came the second quiz and the first written assignment, peer reviewed. This is where the fun began. The second quiz was slightly tougher and rather interesting. However, the written assignment, even though short, tripped up quite a few people. I am not sure whether it was because of the difficulty or misinterpretations of the question, but overall, a lot of people messed up.

In the third week, we delved into some basic psychology. This was very interesting as we explored the reasons why gamified systems work, and what the focus should be. Now, came the third quiz and the second written assignment. These both were significantly tougher and a sign of things to come. The quiz was rather conceptual and required a bit of analysis and application beyond simply what was discussed in the videos. The assignment was also significantly longer and tougher as it dealt with designing an entire gamified system and justifying the different elements by correlating them with motivational theory. Now, if you were attentively watching the videos, then this assignment could easily be aced. However, because of the peer assessment process, it was important to write a good assignment but not an exceptional or unconventional one. Many people who went with unconventional approaches to attempting the assignment ended up with really bad marks. It wasn't that their assignments were not good, but simply that, one, a large part of the students  had English as their second or third language, and two, nobody really has the time to sit and decipher your assignment. Hence, I would strongly advise to write a simple conventional assignment using bullets, headings and clear simple English.

Now, we came to the second part of the course. Week 4 dealt with the technical and design aspects. The primary focus was on the Gamification Design Framework based on the Gamification Design Document is made. This week, however, was somewhat light with just one quiz to submit. Again, moderately difficult but easy to score in with a bit of smartness. What came in the beginning of Week 5 was the real challenge. A mammoth 1500 word written assignment. I wont give the details to spoil it for you, but trust me, this was tough. This one was long, required a lot of work and research. The time given for this assignment was 2 weeks, and quite rightly so. I did it in over the last three days and got full marks, but I wouldn't advise you to do it like this. My assignment was not very good, irrespective of the marks I got. I would have done better had I started it on time. Hence, set out sufficient time for the assignment and work on it throughout the week. The Week 5 units dealt with specific application areas of gamification such as enterprises and designing for social impact. Week 6 had the last units which dealt with advanced topics. 

Finally, most of the coursework was done, with just the final exam left to conquer. This was in the seventh week of the course schedule. As per Professor Werbach, the final exam was not hard, but according to everybody else, it was. It focused more on the second half of the course, but had some questions from the first half as well. If you had concentrated in the first half, then those questions weren't a problem. The real tough ones were the ones' based on the last few units. Most of it was application based, and rather technical when it came to the different concepts of gamification. You needed to know exactly what was what, else you could mess up significantly. The marks on this varied over the entire spectrum from what I could gather in the discussion forums.

With this, the course came to an end and Professor Werbach signed off with a course stats video. This course performed similar to most MOOCs with a slightly higher retention rate. In this run of the course, a total 8000 people completed the course with marks greater than 70. I was one of them with 96.6%.

In summary, some of the things you should do throughout the course :
  • Watch the conceptual videos carefully. The ones discussing applications can be taken somewhat lightly as it is based on how much you understand the theory.
  • Either have a good memory, or watch the course videos multiple times. You could also just make notes along the way, and make tings simple, but whats life without procrastination-induced challenges? 
  • Make sure to get good marks in the quizzes as the assignments' scores are dependent on the set of peers assigned to review your paper.
  • Be sure to attempt the final exam. You cannot (practically) earn the certificate without giving the final exam.
So, if you have been reading till here, I am guessing you are signed up for the course. Best of Luck!
All resources for reference only. Violations of the Honor Code are taken very seriously.

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