The value of games in college classrooms

On May 11, Dr. Dan Childers, who currently teaches at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi, gave a fascinating talk to WKU students, sharing the benefits of gamification in class. WKU professor Dr. Jennifer Marquardt hosted the talk.

Dr. Childers and Dr. Marquardt from WKU English Department went to the same graduate school. Through social media, Dr. Marquardt learned about Dr. Childers’ recent practice of gamification in his courses. She was interested in the idea and later invited Dr. Childers to introduce this unusual model of courses to the students and faculty at WKU.

For Dr. Childers, the idea of gamification in class originated from a common classroom dynamic that he humorously calls the “Cold War”: both teacher and student lacking enthusiasm. However, a class does not always have to be a “Cold War.” Dr. Childers suggested that, in fact, gamification is ubiquitous in life. For example, the “likes” feature on social media is similar to gaming. Even in the traditional classroom, there are all sorts of gamified rules already, such as bonus points, curves, final exams, etc. “Anything can be gamified.” Dr. Childers summed it up by quoting Dr. Ian Bogost, an American academic and game designer.

Therefore, in Dr. Childers’ classroom, points are called “gold coins” instead, comments become “receipts,” and students can spend “gold coins” on items such as “resurrection potions” (to retake exams) and “party poppers” (to add ten points to a quiz). Dr. Childers admits that in addition to the purpose of fun, this model also takes into account a variety of situations in students’ lives. Giving students the freedom to adjust their schoolwork makes the grading fairer and more transparent. It also reverses the traditional structure of the classroom, shining the spotlight on the students and making the classroom more student-focused rather than instructor-focused.

Dr. Childers’ gamified classes were proven to be highly motivating and popular among students. In a survey of nearly two hundred students, 96% of students said they preferred the gamified classes with Dr. Childers. Faculty and students at WKU who listened to the talk were also inspired and were reminded of similar gamification elements in WKU’S classrooms. They look forward to borrowing these ideas to their future classes.

Author | Tang Feng

Proofreader | Xiang Bingling (Evangeline)