Saturday, 8 September 2012

Gamification - Book Clubs and MOOCs

Gamification is a relatively new term so I'll start with a definition - gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.  It is a way to bring the fun and motivating aspects of games to the real world.  As a librarian I'm interested in how gamification might work to motivate students to read more.

My first real introduction to gamification came via a blog I subscribe to called "The Adventures of Library Girl."  Jennifer LaGarde, the American librarian otherwise known as "Library Girl", joined up with fellow librarian Matthew Winner and launched a new blog called the "Level Up Book Club".  This book club now boasts a Twitter hashtag, Wiki, Tumblr, Live Binder and Diigo group.

Level up Book Club

The first book we read as part of the book club was "Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal.  What a fantastic book!  Easy to read and very inspiring.  Jane has also done a great TED talk about how gaming can make a better world.

We are about to read our fourth book on gamification and Jennifer and Matthew have applied their ideas about gamification to their book club to keep it fun and interesting.

So, on to the MOOC.  What is a MOOC you may ask (I certainly did!).  It is a Massive Open Online Course.  As a result of following some of the Level Up Book Club's more active members on Twitter I learnt about a MOOC that was starting on a website called Coursera.  Professor Kevin Werbach from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was running a six week course about gamification.  I am one of over 71,000 people enrolled from 147 countries.  How cool is that?!  The course itself is one of the first on gamification in any form so I'm not surprised interest is high.

I was really keen to see how the course would work.  It involves watching a series of video lectures, completing quizzes and writing assignments.  At the end of the course you receive a certificate if you have achieved a grade of 70% or over. 

The assignments are graded by your peers.  If you submit an assignment then you are expected to grade five other assignments using a fairly basic rubric.  Here is a link to an interesting article about the problems associated with this.  I actually should be working on my first assignment now (I'm great with avoidance tactics!).  Twelve hours after the deadline I should receive some assignments to mark and I think it will be interesting to read what others have done.  The first assignment is only worth 5 points and is a maximum of 300 words so shouldn't be too taxing.

So far I am really enjoying the course.  How can you not like a lecturer who asks you to go away and play the first level of Plants vs Zombies?! (OK, I played two levels, my willpower was weak!).  I did wonder if I would be more likely to abandon the course if it became too demanding because I had not paid money to do it.  However, the high interest I have in the content of the course has ensured I am motivated to finish it.

I like the concept of gamification and am keen to see how I can apply it to my professional life.  Next week I am attending a National Library seminar about the summer reading slide.  I am hoping that gamification might be useful in keeping children reading over the summer.  But first I have an assignment to write...