a gamified cultural inquiry course

There are a couple of projects I’m playing around with this semester, just for fun. For one of those I’m exploring how a university course I’ve been involved with over the past several years could be gamified.

Gamification has to do with incorporating game-like elements into the design everyday tasks and activities in order to make them more inherently engaging. You could, for example, create an application where you are awarded points and “level-up” for checking off items on your list of household chores, changing what had been a boring, mundane set of tasks into a high-energy competition with the people you live with (the web-based Chore Wars does exactly this). It is important to note that gamification does not necessarily mean “making a game” out of an activity or process that is not a game; instead, it should probably be seen as applying the principles of engagement observable in games within new contexts, making participation more satisfying or productive than it would otherwise be.

The course I am experimentally gamifying is a preparation class for undergraduate students designing study projects to be carried out while living for a semester within another cultural community. The curriculum of the preparation class is quite intense, ranging from cross-cultural skill development to basic principles of research design. Where all of this is related to the students’ authentic objective of creating a personally and academically rewarding cultural experience, the process can be very motivating in its own right. However, it can also present, at particular stages and sometimes for particular students, an overwhelming array of responsibilities and concerns to address and plan for, especially for undergraduates who may not have past experience with primary research or even international travel. My thought is that perhaps a gamified version of the course could relieve some of this stress without decreasing the students’ level of activity as they prepare for their experience abroad.

What is the point of this project? Really, I just hope to satisfy my own curiosity on whether gamification might be usefully applied in a traditional learning environment, specifically in an on-campus university course with a fairly rigid set of learning outcomes. The project is entirely theoretical and self-initiated, and is unrelated to my current employment and job responsibilities.

I’ll try to post fairly regularly about my ideas and progress over the next couple of months, and would love to get outside thoughts and feedback along the way, if anyone is interested.

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