WHO WANTS TO BE A PYTHONISTA? USING GAMIFICATION TO TEACH COMPUTER PROGRAMMING
As video games are continuously growing in popularity and number of users, the academic community has shown an increasing interest in their potential as innovative teaching tools. Typical games contain tasks that players must complete repetitively in order to advance to later levels, yet somehow they manage to keep them constantly motivated. Enjoyable engagement is achieved by using a number of interlocking techniques; these effectively hide repetitive or complex tasks by presenting them as a series of smaller challenges embedded in a reward system. Learning occurs through the use of a seamless combination of motor and high level problem solving skills with rapid feedback. Individual problem resolution cycles range from split second decisions to hours, if not days. Matching reward systems are used to maintain player interest throughout these cycles by ensuring that there is always a new reward just out of reach, yet still obtainable with relatively minor additional effort. As a result, players are propelled through the entire experience at a pace matched to their abilities. Based on these well-tested methods from the gaming industry, educators are trying to instill the motivational power of video games to the learning process by following a practice known as “gamification”. When used in education, gamification incorporates gaming elements to non-game processes in order to aid learning and information retention. However, its application in the classroom has been challenging, since most attempts have generally been limited to implementing points, achievement badges and leader boards to existing course material. These rewards can potentially undermine the intrinsic sense of satisfaction that engaging in creative and productive work can generate. However, when used well, game elements can reinforce intrinsic satisfaction and rewards instead of replacing them. This quasi-experimental study employed a classroom version of the TV game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” to improve the delivery of an undergraduate programming course. To assess how gamification impacted the learning experience, empirical data on student satisfaction and performance from the gamified group were compared with a control group that followed traditional didactic methods. Despite the fact that the sample size was relatively small, the results were promising, showing significant increases in class attendance and final grades. Moreover, students participating in the gamified cohort considered their learning experience very engaging and motivating, thus encouraging the adoption of this technique in other courses.