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Jan 03, 2017 01:53 AM EST

How To Effectively Incorporate Games In The Higher Ed Classroom

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Gamification of the higher education classroom did not start with Pokemon GO although it brought attention to it. In fact, gamification in the classroom is common in pre-school, elementary, and high school but no in higher education.

One of the reasons why professors and students alike are wary of gamification in higher education is the idea that play is not really study. At a time where students are supposed to focus more on studying, games are not welcome because college students think that a few steps from there is a promising future.

Aside from that kind of thinking, many professors think that incorporating games in the classroom is ineffective. However, just like any teaching tools, games have a neutral characteristic which means they can be good or bad.

Gamification becomes ineffective if it does not meet its goals, which is to motivate the students to learn and study. As mentioned, one of the obstacles an educator might face if he decides to gamify his class is the preconceived ideas his students might have making them resist the method. With this attitude, motivation is killed even before it is given birth.

Another reason that will make gamification ineffective is making important issues unimportant or using it to discuss controversial issues. For example, the game Mission US: Flight to Freedom, was designed to take a deeper look at slavery. However, the fate of a student ending up as a slave depends on his or her decision sending a message that slavery is a choice, which will not sit well with other students.

So how do educators design a strategy that would make the use of games effective?

The classic example would be Dr. Lee Sheldon, who incorporated the principles of role-playing games in his classroom. Dr. Sheldon allowed his students to create avatars, set up guilds, go on quests, and gain experience points when they were able to complete them. He wrote about his work and experience in a book called "The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework As A Game."

Dr. Sheldon wrote that during that time, students performance and grades improved significantly. Even their motivation and passion to study were dramatic. Many educators have adapted Sheldon's strategy and they are reaping the fruits of those innovations and risks. However, there is still the challenge how educators can continue to keep student engagement alive and burning; thus, they need to find and innovate more ways to do that.

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