Gameful learning: providing students control of their learning experience

This semester we had the opportunity to work with five new instructors at the University of Michigan to make their courses gameful. We asked each to share a bit about how they got started with gameful learning, and what they hope to see over the course of the semester. We’ll be featuring their responses here on our blog over the next several weeks.

 

Jay CrisostomoJay Crisostomo, Department of Near Eastern Studies

NEAREAST337 | Ancient Mesopotamia: History and Culture

What got you interested in gameful learning?

My introduction to gameful learning resulted from my approach to teaching. One of the most fundamental tenets of many of my classes is allowing students options. I have found that when students choose their own adventure, so to speak, they feel more in control of their education. I want my students to feel free to explore their questions and to express their ingenuity and creativity in doing so. Traditional evaluations cater to particular types of students; gameful learning provides alternatives that allow other types of students to succeed or gives students the courage to try something different. When I as the instructor dictate the method of evaluation, I always feel as though it is a missed opportunity for a student to express themselves. Gameful learning offers a natural way of achieving these goals. Since I give my students options, it makes sense to allow them to build up towards the grades that they desire. Allowing students to set their own pace and determine their own outcomes is, in my view, part of giving them control of their learning experience.

Traditional learning evaluations certainly have their place, and I always allow my students the option of pursuing a more comfortable method of demonstrating what they learned such as writing an exam or producing a research paper. My students tell me that they appreciate having a break from doing the things they do in all their other classes. Some students appreciate having the ability to set their due dates so that all their work from all their classes is not due at the same time or setting a schedule of assignments for themselves that removes stress at the end of term and allows them to concentrate on absorbing whatever methods or narratives I want them to understand. Other students have felt emboldened to be honest about themselves and what they want to accomplish in my courses.

 

Was there something about teaching that you were dissatisfied with that you thought gameful would address? What has implementing gameful learning caused you to do differently in your class?

I still teach some courses more traditionally, so it is easy to contrast how I approach my gameful courses compared to the others. My gameful courses require more work on my part, more preparation. If I give students options from multiple reading assignments, I have to read all the options. If students want to hand in major projects at points in the term that interrupt the natural flow of my work and preparation, I have to accommodate them. But at the same time, I feel more engaged with my gameful courses because I’m more invested. And I think my gameful students are similarly more engaged.

 

What are you excited to see this semester?

One of the things I’ve experienced with gameful courses is that by giving students freedom to explore their creativity and innovation, I learn just as much from them as they do from me. I have had students hand in projects that blow me away in terms of creativity and production—I brag about them to my colleagues. Other students take the opportunity to utilize talents or skills that they don’t get to use often in a university classroom setting and, as a result, we instructors rarely get to see. So that’s what I’m excited to see—I’m excited to see what my students come up with as a result of a gameful course.

 

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