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6/27/2013
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Kaplan Expands Gamification Of Online Courses

In pilot, online university used challenges and badges to spur students to work harder and improved grades by more than 9%.

Inside Eight Game-changing MOOCs
Inside Eight Game-changing MOOCs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Finding that adding game elements to online education makes students work harder and achieve more, Kaplan University is making gamification a standard part of its information technology degree program, while also beginning to introduce it to the business school.

David DeHaven, dean of Kaplan's School of Information of Technology, said it will take time to integrate gamification into all 120 courses, but the initial pilot group of 30 students has now been expanded to cover 700. "At the end of the day, we're looking to offer this to all 4,000 students in the School of Information Technology and to School of Business students as well," he said.

The decision to move forward was based on an early test employing gamification software and services from Badgeville. Badgeville offers a cloud service that can be plugged into other Web applications that exploit social and behavioral dynamics for commercial goals or enterprise digital transformation.

[ Should enterprise applications be as addictive as Angry Birds? Read Gamification: 75% Psychology, 25% Technology.]

When Kaplan offered its fundamentals of programming course in a gamified format, grades were more than 9% higher, probably because all students got reinforcement for doing the things that the most successful students do right, such as participating more actively in online seminars and forums. Whenever students were given a programming assignment -- from "hello world" onward -- they were also provided with a challenge assignment that required them to work a little harder, and 85% of the students at some point tested themselves with an additional challenge.

Most significantly, the "unsuccessful rate" -- the number of students who failed the course or did not complete it -- decreased by 15.76%, DeHaven said. The fundamentals of programming course was picked for the pilot because it is "one of our hardest courses, in terms of passing" and also a core requirement, he said. That is one course where instructors have seen sub-par student engagement. Some students might have enrolled in search of a job in IT disciplines outside of programming, so they don't see the point. Others might be returning adult students who are intimidated by the material.

Kaplan Badges

Together with his faculty, DeHaven looked at the data gathered by the online courses to determine what distinguished the most successful students from the rest. "Then we asked, If you could change the behavior to promote a behavior of engagement, what would it be? My instructors came back with an incredible amount of suggestions," he said.

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