I’ve come to believe more strongly in the need for a storyline as our semester has developed. Originally, I only had an instant feedback system plus what amounted to ‘tack-on’ elements of games (score sheet with points instead of grades, revised names, etc). It looked at first glance like a course most games-based-learning advocates would shudder at and hold up as an example of the worst practices in “gamification.”
However, the feedback mechanism alone has been very motivating for my students. It allows them unlimited re-do until mastery, a key component, in my opinion. It also provides instant feedback, so they can work as long as they want, whenever they want, until they ‘get it.’ This one component has substantially changed the interaction in my classroom. Because they can get feedback independent of me, and because the feedback doesn’t reflect on them until mastery (ie: no consequence for failure other than needing to retry), they have no fear of trying repeatedly until they get it. My class has changed from a lecture and work drudgery to a highly engaging self-reinforcing…dare I say fun…activity. I get to coach, instead of having to lecture.
However, I’ve been working on a storyline, too. What I’ve found is that the more storyline I put into the work–no matter how corny or ridiculous it seems to me–the more the students are enjoying it. This week I added a video in which one of my co-workers posed as a ‘Loremaster’ in the storyline and delivered a message to the class. It was the highlight of the class and will definitely be repeated. Although it was unessential to the process or content of the course, it seemed to enhance the students’ ability to move into the game environment. I’ve also posted a big hand-drawn version of the electronic map on our classroom wall and am posting small pictures of each area from the map in the appropriate sections of the course materials on Moodle. Each bit I add seems to allow the students more room to imagine themselves in the world I’m creating.
My next big challenge is to figure out a way to allow them the opportunity to do some world-building along with me. I think creating a way for them to help make the world with me will be greatly engaging. I want it to fit the game-flow and enhance the content, though, so it is going to need careful thought. Anyone have any experience with this sort of addition? I’d love to compare notes.