At the beginning of the fall semester, I presented both my classes with a syllabus (the wiki version of it). The syllabus had quests students could take up, and many of the quests had ways for students to dive deeply into them if they wanted to. As we started making our way through the semester, I began to introduce additional quests. One of my students termed them pop-up quests. I loved the name so it stuck. These were quests that students could choose to engage in if they wanted that responded to a need or request within that moment in time.
I also introduced live tweeting into my classes. Students could tweet as the class was happening and earn experience points for doing so.
What this meant, in terms of grading, was that there were many, many routes to earning XP and obtaining a final score (grade) in the course. When I explain this concept to people, one thing I like to stress is that all these extra opportunities to earn XP – be it through pop-up quests, tweeting, or whatever – are not extra credit. You could, I suppose, think of it as extra credit, but I don’t, and I don’t present it that way to the students.
How do I present all this then?
I present everything as an opportunity that one can choose to engage in – or not. Do you want to sign up to live tweet during a section of class? Great. You can get XP for doing so. Want to sign up again next week? Fine. Get more XP.
Do you know what it means if you live tweet each week during the semester? It means that you have the opportunity to not do other things. For example, tweeting each week earns you XP that technically allows you to opt out of doing other quests. Or not. You can still do anything you wish. You could just rack up XP and not really think about the fact that you have gone above and beyond you need to do.
I understand that this might seem like extra credit, but the reality of it is that students get to carve their own path to get their final score. Now, this is not a perfect system. I have some ideas for how to construct future classes in ways that take advantage of pop-up quests, XP outside of “official” quests, and so on. I’ll be putting that in a future post.
What I want to stress here is that if you have issues with grading, and if you have students that tend to want extra credit, you might want to consider how the ideas I have been writing about in the last few months could be useful. I don’t normally have students asking for extra credit (and I don’t think I have ever offered it). However, structuring a course based on principles of gamification has the potential, I think, to alleviate issues that some people might experience around grades. It puts the entire thing in the hands of the students. Yes, I know that technically that was pretty much always the case, but when you are on a path and have to make decisions about how to pursue your objective (grade), then I think you take more ownership of it.
That’s purely speculation on my part though.