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More than just a game: Improving students' experience of learning programming through gamification Paul NeveDavid Livingstone Gordon HunterNalini Edwards.

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Presentation on theme: "More than just a game: Improving students' experience of learning programming through gamification Paul NeveDavid Livingstone Gordon HunterNalini Edwards."— Presentation transcript:

1 More than just a game: Improving students' experience of learning programming through gamification Paul NeveDavid Livingstone Gordon HunterNalini Edwards Graham Alsop Learning Technology Research Group

2 "Computer science is more than programming, but programming is an absolutely central process for Computer Science" The Computing At Schools Group, 2012

3 21% the amount of students able to program at the end of the first year of their degree course in computing -McCracken et al, % the failure rate in computing subjects at one American university where computing was "the second-largest major" -Bennesden and Caspersen, 2007 boring, difficult and irrelevant terms used by students to describe programming -Jenkins, Anderson et al, 2008

4 Technology Enhanced Learning is not a magic bullet

5 Gamification  "the use of (computer) game elements in non-game contexts" -Deterding et al, 2011  "Finish a level" rather than "complete a workshop"  "Win a medal" or "Unlock an achievement" rather than "get a mark"  "Level up" rather than "move onto the next workshop activity"

6 CodeAcademy Well known, very trendy current and gamification is inherent… but it’s the M’est and O’est MOOC possible! Gamification in programming pedagogy and TEL - examples RoboProf Java activities divided into “levels” – inspired by classic text-based adventures -Daly and Horgan 2004 Microworlds e.g. Scratch - these share conceptual aspects with certain genres of games in that one must navigate an in-game avatar around a virtual world “Manual” gamification Thamvichai and Supnakorn- Davila (2012) designed their course and activities to include concepts such as “losing a life” and “leveling up”

7 NoobLab – the story so far This is NoobLab (think CodeAcademy on steroids!)

8 NoobLab – the story so far Intelligent feedback: feedback in English like a human tutor, contextually aware, and doesn't take the form of an inscrutable error message

9 NoobLab – the story so far Monitoring student progress and informing pedagogy Students' routes through learning material can be correlated with other metrics Common patterns can inform pedagogy, provide advanced warning of at-risk students, and be used as feedback triggers

10 Gamifiying NoobLab  A Microworld for Thinking Like a Programmer  Make concepts such as repetition and conditional processing visual  Conceptual similarities with games where one must navigate an in-game avatar around a virtual world Carol the Robot Inspired by Stanford's "Karel" Teaches "thinking like a programmer" through engaging visual problems Also teaches C-like syntax and grammar through stealth

11 Gamifiying NoobLab  A game-style award system based around “medals”  Bronze, Silver and Gold medals for each practical activity  Medals used summatively  "Ribbons" were awarded for formative work

12 Gamifiying NoobLab  Cohort wide high score table increases engagement through competition

13 The results: interesting numbers  28 respondents to an end of module questionnaire  Every one of them agreed that the changes to NoobLab had a positive or highly positive effect  25 out of 28 agreed with the statement "I felt I had to get a gold for every medal in NoobLab"

14 The results: student feedback On the medal system and high score table system: "(it) was a big plus point… there is an engagement factor in earning the medals… I've also noticed students who maybe aren't so adept in other modules really focusing on earning medals" "I play a lot of sport… as a highly competitive person it was the incentive I needed to sit down and actually complete the work"

15 The results: tutor observations  It brought out the best from proficient students  some carried on winning medals well after clocking up enough points to get a 100% mark!  …but  some burnt through all available material in one sitting then twiddled their thumbs until new stuff was available

16 The results: tutor observations  Students obsessed over getting gold and also over formative "ribbons" when they were available

17 The results: tutor observations  Some weaker students became dependent on the medal system to test code  "what's a main method?"  Some were engaging in the "trial and error" approach  going for a medal despite never having run the code!  "I didn't get the medal – it must be broken"

18 The results: tutor observations  Some gaming concepts created misconceptions  On many games, if you put in enough time you will eventually "level up"  Some weaker students felt they "deserved" medals based on the same criteria  "I've been working on this one for hours now, I should get the medal for all that work…?"

19 Conclusions  Gamification in TEL offers great potential for increasing engagement  It is really cool when you see a student fling both arms aloft and shout "YES" when they get a medal  BUT… a TEL platform is not a computer game

20 Conclusions  Game concepts can map onto educational activities…  …but… ...such concepts can alter students' perceptions of the activities  Gamification does seem to increase motivation and engagement, and students enjoy it – but there can be downsides to it


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