I had previously heard about Lee Shelton‘s effort to turn a classroom into a video game-type experience from several sources, although I did not know that he had created a website for it until Professor Hacker pointed me there.
Before viewing his website, I was simultaneously intrigued and concerned about his approach. I was intrigued because games clearly have a quality that gets people to devote large quantities of time and effort to them for very little outside purpose. It would be great to create an educational situation which causes students to have sustained, near-obsessional interest.
I was concerned it seems like such a set-up could easily devolve into a series of external motivators that ultimately decrease the student’s intrinsic motivation for the academic subject. Since I believe that we should be fostering an interest in learning for its own sake—not just to earn points—I was concerned about how the class was set up.
I have now looked through the site. I have only skimmed it, and I am far from an expert on gaming. Considering this, please take this next sentence with a grain of salt: I now no longer feel intrigued nor concerned; I just feel a little disappointed.
Largely from looking at the syllabus, it seems to me that the main difference in this class is that everything has a cute, gaming-type name. There are no “quizzes,” but rather “monsters to fight.” There are no “points,” but rather “XP” (“eXperience Points,” for those non-gamers out there). “Groups” of students are “guilds,” and “doing well on a midterm” is “defeating the level Boss.”
One feature I like is that it appears to have some sort of 0-1 grading scheme (you either get the XPs or you don’t), although I cannot tell if there is a mechanism for re-doing work that students attempt but do not succeed on. My opinion is that this is an essential component of a 0-1 grading system.
Largely, I feel that I am missing something. In the words of a mathematician, this seems “isomorphic” to any other classroom. Please let me know why this class structure deserves all of the buzz it is receiving—I want to go back to being intrigued and/or concerned about it.