UPenn: Gamification

UPenn: Gamification

Overall Course Rating:  7/10

Completion Date: May 28, 2013
Platform: Coursera

—— Lectures ——
Kevin Werbach really integrates his content into his lectures, which are interesting and full of real-world examples. He even “gamifies” his lectures a bit by telling students to look for a hidden code in the background of his lectures. Lectures are both easy AND fun to watch.

Like the other UPenn teachers on Coursera, he does a phenomenal job of making the subject matter interesting for students watching on the other end. I particularly enjoyed his lectures on Game Elements and Motivation and Psychology. Werbach does a good job of using examples to demonstrate both good and bad usage of game elements in systems. And of course, it’s always important to teach the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, and then, explore how we might intrinsically motivate people.

My first time through Webach’s course, I thought to myself, “this is how MOOC lectures should all be done”. Of course everyone has their own lecture style, and I understand that, but Werbach’s is one of the best out there.

—— Assignments and Exams ——
The automatically graded quizzes and assignments were great, but they implemented a 20% penalization for each resubmission. Therefore, unless you did very poorly the first time around, it usually wasn’t beneficial for your grade to redo an assignment/quiz (but you should prove to yourself that you’ve mastered the knowledge). I do prefer a penalty system, otherwise students don’t really even have to try.

I felt the peer-reviewed written assignments were NOT helpful. It was a good exercise in forcing the student to brainstorm about how they would go about gamifying an activity, but I have hesitations in general about peer assessed assignments. For me, if Werbach was actually grading my assignment, I would’ve put much more thought into the submissions (especially the last written assignment), and I would have been adamant about getting a lot of feedback. More constructive feedback from peers may have improved my impression of these assignments as I tried very hard to give detailed responses to the peers I reviewed.

—— Additional Intangibles ——
I took the Signature Track version of this course; I’m not really sure if it added any value. It was merely my first foray into Coursera’s “verified” service. I’ll eventually get around to edX and Udacity’s paid services as well for comparison.

The entire subject of Gamification is recognized as a key to improving many industries, particularly education and preventative healthcare (leading to apps such as Zombies, Run!). And, more and more marketing and business development professionals are realizing gamification can significantly increase customer engagement.

I also loved the video short, Sight, which Werbach showed during one of the lectures.

The entire subject matter reminds me greatly of Jane McGonigal’s work. She may not like the specific term “gamification”, but she is definitely a proponent of using games to make the world a better place too.

—— Conclusion ——
Overall, I would recommend this course to anyone, since gamification can be applied to almost any thing/field/area. This is a course where I feel that the lectures are MUCH MORE beneficial than the assignments. In fact, I probably would’ve rated the course higher if there were no written assignments.

I would actually highly recommend Werbach’s Gamification to students who don’t really want to devote themselves to a full MOOC; Just sign up and watch all of the lecture videos without dedicating yourself to the assignments. I think a student can learn just as much by watching the lectures and applying the knowledge to his own life/business.

The next round starts January 27th, 2014 on Coursera!

—— Take this course if… ——

  • You want a new perspective on how to achieve the old goals
  • Are looking for a great interdisciplinary course in psychology and motivation
  • Love games and wish you could make everything a game

The Coursera Signature Track Experience

April 2013: I decided to try out a Coursera Signature Track course. I (and others) question if a “verified certificate” is really worth it, but regardless I thought it would be interesting to examine just how Coursera “verifies” whether a student did indeed complete his or her own work.

Since UPenn’s Gamification course by Kevin Werbach was highly rated last Fall and available at a discounted price of $39, I decided to indulge.

Until I registered, I pondered how exactly Coursera would profile a student’s biometric signature for written assignments. My personal hypothesis was that they would track everything entered into text boxes for the written assignments, however this would make it impossible to write answers outside of the Coursera site, and impossible to grade the typical multiple choice quizzes. Apparently, that’s not the way Coursera’s system works at all.

Rather, you authenticate yourself via a text entry, a web photo of yourself, and a web photo of your photo ID (I used a driver’s license) when you first register. Then, a similar window will pop up after every quiz, assignment, or exam submission asking you to type the text and snap your own photo:

At the end of this Signature Track Gamification course, I’ll have definitely (maybe) mastered typing the sentence: I certify this submission as my own original work completed in accordance with the Coursera Honor Code.

Before the end, I’ll also have to try testing the system by asking others to type the sentence for me, or trying to use images of myself for the webcam photo. Hopefully my attempts to test the authentication system won’t disqualify me from ultimately receiving my verified certificate. If so, I hope I can at least capitalize on their lenient, but fair refund policy.

Regardless of how my own experiments turn out, this system is not without its flaws. It can easily be circumvented by merely giving your login credentials to another test-taker and having them “Save Answers”. Then the registered student can login again and just “Submit Answers” anytime before the deadline.

Despite my light bashing of the authentication system, I do believe this is a step in the right direction for Coursera and MOOCs in general. Verification of a student’s work is crucial, however, I hope a goal is to ultimately make “verification” universal and free of charge. At least Coursera is offering Financial Aid for those who need it for now. As for me, I’m more than willing to pay my small share to “play with the system” and fund Coursera’s biometric keystroke tracking R&D.