Pop-Up Quests

Recently, one of my students told me that she was enjoying the pop-up quests I had incorporated into our class. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but she was right. I was using pop-up quests.

Pop-up quests are exactly what they sound like – quests that pop-up in response to a given moment. Pop-up quests are different than known quests. Known quests are those quests you already have in place.  Known quests were all the quests I had designed prior to the first day of class. Pop-up quests may or may not be planned in advance. Ok, what? Let me explain.

pop upMy first example of a pop-up quest was the Dear Abby quest. That quest was pretty much planned on the spot in response to what was happening in class. However, I have found myself incorporating quests into F2F class sessions. For example, in an upcoming session students are being asked to engage in writing a non-fiction narrative that connects to the overall theme of the course. They will have 45-60 minutes of class time to work on this. They have also been provided with the directions a week in advance in order to come to class prepared.

I consider this non-fiction narrative task to be a form of a pop-up quest. I did not plan it until the moment arose when it made sense to do so. However, for us to get the most out of class time students need some advance notification so they can plan and make good use of the time. I do give students XP. For this quest, I think I am giving 1000 XP just for showing up and participating. There is additional XP given if the narrative is completed by a certain date and more if the narrative is published in a public space.

So, for me, this means that pop-up quests are and are not planned in advance to varying extents. However, the key is that they are always quests that pop-up after the semester has started.

Now, here are some interesting points:

  • pop-up quests are not extra credit. i don’t give extra credit. pop-up quests provide another route to earning XP
  • depending on how you use them, pop-up quests require you to give up control and drive a bit blind. dear abby didn’t require me to give up much control. if students didn’t do it there would be no impact on me. however, if i ask students to bring some thing to class for a pop-up quest, and few people do, then what? well, this has yet to happen. people tend to show up prepared and ready to to the task. i am guessing it is because: (a) they find the quest interesting/worthwhile and (b) if you’re coming to class you might as well get the XP.
  • pop-up quests are an amazing use of class time. i structure them in terms of challenges. sometimes, the challenges are timed and sometimes not. for example, i once had a pop-up quest where the XP that you got was based on where you were when time was up. students seem to enjoy sharing what they have done when time is up. they want to see what others have done, and there is a buzz around looking at the work that was created.

Pop-up quests have changed how I think about approaching class. Truthfully, I’m now on the look-out for how I can work them in to most F2F sessions. Engagement around pop-up quests varies. In class quests tend to have more engagement (probably because people are already there). Out of class pop-ups vary and are probably based on a number of factors including interest and time. Personally, they are helping me rethink how I use F2F class time to create challenges around the work we are doing. That’s worth it.


One Year Ago Today









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