Factors at Play in Tertiary Curriculum Gamification

Factors at Play in Tertiary Curriculum Gamification

Penny de Byl (Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Bond University, Robina, QLD, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2013040101


The compulsion to include games and game related mechanism in education is great among educators who want to engage and motivate today’s students and the latest buzzword in this domain is gamification. However, without a thorough understanding of what a gamified curriculum looks like, how it can best be applied and why it might engross students, it cannot be effectively applied. This research examined a gamified course curriculum structure and evaluated its use in two university level subjects. The objective was to gage student enjoyment and engagement with a heavily gamified curriculum and to understand the aspects that make the practice useful in education. Factor analysis of the dataset revealed the possibility of a six dimensional model of curriculum gamification worthy of future study.
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Since the term, gamification entered popular culture at the beginning of 2010, as shown in Figure 1, it has penetrated into a plethora of domains from business and marketing to education. It has been used to define activities such as the making of menial every tasks into game-like activities to better engage participation, encouraging customer loyalty and the use of computer games in domains other than entertainment.

Figure 1.

The term, gamification shown in Google Trends

With respect to customer loyalty in the business world, gamification provides a means to keep patrons coming back by offering them free merchandise and services. For example, Starbuck’s coffee chain provides a loyalty card on which customers received a star for each coffee purchased. When the customer accumulates 15 stars they received a free coffee. In addition, Starbuck’s has a level system that entitles customers to move up into through loyalty ranks. At entry level, customers receive a free birthday beverage and two hours of free Wi-Fi. After purchasing five coffees, they move up to Green Level where they benefit from free brewed coffee refills, free coffee customization and a free tall beverage with each whole bean purchase. After 30 coffee purchases customers level-up to Gold Level where they receive a personalized Starbuck’s gold reward card and other benefits.

Gamification should be distinguished from serious games. Gamification relates to the use of game mechanics or elements, such as points and levels, in non-entertainment domains, that do not give rise to complete gaming experiences (Deterding, 2011). According to Ben Sawyer, founder of the Serious Games Initiative (http://www.seriousgames.org): “Serious games are solutions to problems. Any meaningful use of computerized games or game industry resources whose chief function is not entertainment are serious games” (Sawyer, 2007, p. 12). In fact, these games-based experiences span a wide variety of domains including government, defence, healthcare, marketing, education, corporate and industry including applications for health, advertising, training, education, research, production and occupation (Sawyer & Smith, 2008). For example, Simport is a serious game developed by TU Delft and the Port of Rotterdam (Bekebrede & Meijer, 2009). It engages port employees in a simulated scenario of engineering and problem solving in land reclamation from the North Sea over a 30-year period. SPOEL (Nagel & Vermeulen, 2010) is another serious game that prepares players for the management of a mass evacuation in the event of a catastrophic flooding event. In the healthcare field, serious games are used in areas such as rehabilitation and pain management. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have developed games that assist stroke patients to regain lost motor skills. Through the use of motion sensing devices, patients interact with the games through repetitive movement typical of traditional rehabilitation therapy (Burton et al., 2011). At the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (Adelaide, Australia), serious games have been successfully used as an alternative to analgesics to alleviate the pain of burn victims (Das et al., 2005). In the field of agriculture, Pfizer Animal Health partnered with Carthage Veterinary Services and game developers ForgeFX to develop the Pfizer Virtual Pork Production Simulator, named Virtual Walking the Pens. The training and education delivered by this interactive 3D simulation allows pork producers to help pigs stay healthy, resulting in a more productive, and profitable operation (ForgeFX, 2011).

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