Apr 28 2014

Lambton College: All-In on Mobile Gamification

Rick Overeem explains how and why Lambton College invested in an emerging mobile-learning trend.

Lambton College is all-in on mobile gamification. The Ontario, Canada, college recently launched a new mobile-gamification initiative that caught the attention of universities, instructional designers and professors across the Canada and the United States. We caught up with associate dean Rick Overeem to learn more about the impetus for the project and the technology the college will be using to implement it.

EDTECH: What trends on campus led to this initiative?

Overeem: This initiative was born out of our mobile-learning initiative, whereby all faculty and students would have mobile devices — iPad preferred — to learn and teach with. The idea began when we wanted to make our campus a virtual campus.

Lambton College has implemented a mobile-learning initiative to engage the learner and enhance student success. Lambton College surveyed our students, and we found that students today come to college with two or three mobile devices and use them constantly, so we decided to tap into that.

Because most of our students have mobile devices and are familiar with an array of diverse apps, we decided to create our own course apps, with the assistance of external developers; this ultimately led to gamification and gamifying content in six of our courses as a pilot.

We plan to expand game-based learning on campus in the future, in addition to collecting data and conducting research as we move through our gamification pilot project.

EDTECH: How will this program leverage BYOD?

Overeem: We purposely built the content so the solutions would work well with any device, whether Android or iOS. This will enable our students to bring any device to class and play the games.

We also wanted the gamified content to work well with Explorer, as it would with Google Chrome, essentially leveraging any sort of device, laptop, or desktop.

EDTECH: Can you tell us more about the technology?

Overeem: We are working closely with an external vendor, Desire2Learn, to develop the gamification tools. Lambton College already has a relationship with Desire2Learn as our Learning Management System provider, so we partnered with them to assist us in building gamified content into the six pilot courses.

The mobile solutions were provided by the vendor, and one of our instructional designers worked alongside Desire2Learn to assure the product functioned well. The gamified content was designed to be agnostic, and, as such, this would work on any student device, whether iOS or android.

There is no doubt in my mind that gamification is a crucial and powerful tool in the arena for learning. We plan to sustain gamification and develop further courses in the future and enhance our offerings of gamified curriculum in addition to microassessments.

EDTECH: Some detractors consider gamification a gimmick. How do you respond to stakeholders, faculty members and students who aren't believers?

Overeem: Games give experiences meaning and can enhance student learning remarkably through motivation, reinforcement, immediate feedback, and recognition, and ultimately through active learning. Gamification is able to provide a sense of accomplishment for the student — to enable the student to attempt a question or scenario several times, until they feel satisfied with the learning or outcome of the game.

Through the use of gamified curriculum, students are motivated to read, succeed and attempt a problem or case until they grasp the concept. What's great about the concept of gamification is the idea of competitiveness.

A student can choose to make it as competitive as they want by competing with self or peers. There is also an inherent "permission to fail" incorporated into gaming, without penalty. Gaming allows the student to work at getting it "right" not with external pressures, but rather with intrinsic motivation, along with an external motivation that comes in the form of points, badges or recognition. It allows them to become engaged in a fun, interactive and meaningful manner that otherwise, in a traditional setting, may be more difficult to accomplish.

Gamification allows the student to combat a challenge and strive to overcome it and become successful. Students are bringing devices to the classroom; let's engage them with the device by gamifying content to have them acquire new skills, knowledge and the ability to be imaginative.

Gaming can accelerate the learning experience if incorporated into their educational experience effectively. In the traditional course, engaging a student to actively participate and effectively learn may be more difficult than through the use of good quality game-based learning.

My remarks for detractors would be that we, as educators, use games all the time and probably are unaware of our intent, but it's the concept of gamification that we are adopting when we engage learners through active learning activities in the classroom or when we challenge our students to think critically and use their imagination in classroom discussion. Essentially, this, to a lesser degree, is gamification. We are simply adding technology as a medium here, a technology that today's student is comfortable with and has grown up with.

Also to note, gamification should be used in conjunction with various pedagogical approaches to maximize the learning. We are not advocating that gaming should be used in isolation; it should be carefully thought through regarding the best approach to obtain the learning outcomes in a meaningful and interactive manner. It makes education fun and engaging without undermining its credibility.


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