Continuing from the previous article, Techninques of Online Teaching(10)Final Boss Level-Gamification in Online Teaching (1/2)(link: www.GamifyTeach.com: Techniques of Online Teaching(10)Final Boss Level-Gmaification in Online Teaching (1/2)) I mentioned that replicating gamification in the context of online teaching is crucial for focusing and increasing engagement in online learning (refer to the article: "How to Foster Motivation to Participate"). However, figuring out how to integrate the three key elements of gamification - PBL, which are "points,""rewards," and "leaderboards" - into online teaching had me stumped for a while...
Until one day, while walking, it suddenly hit me! "Wait?! Why am I fixated on the scoring functionality of software? Why not let everyone keep score themselves?" (Facepalm!)
In the early days of my teaching, I would ask the group leaders to help keep score. So when I said, "Group X gets +1000 points," the group leader would write down the score... and in the end, we would tally up the total score. Later on, when I had teaching assistants in class, they would help with keeping score. As time went on, we made improvements and started using tokens for scoring (it felt more interactive). However, in large-scale presentations (e.g., with 700 people!), each group still kept score on their own. Of course, at the beginning, we had the group leaders take an oath to keep score honestly, or else they would have a stomachache! (XD)
So why was I fixated on integrating online tools or software? If the software didn't provide scoring functionality, why not go back to basics and have everyone keep score by hand?
During the first online teaching experiment, I simply asked everyone to use paper they had on hand to keep track of scores. I noticed that some people wrote their scores large, while others wrote them small, and there was a mix of vertical and horizontal layouts... it was a bit messy. Later on, I continued to improve the process and asked everyone to use half a sheet of A4 paper with eight scoring slots drawn on it, leaving space at the top to fill in their group name. Each time points were awarded, they would record them in order. If the scores were totaled for the group, they would cross out the individual scores. This blank scoring sheet was prepared in advance and distributed to participants before the class... After a few iterations, everyone found it quite convenient to use. Finally, one of the crucial elements of gamification, Points, could start to operate smoothly.
Google Forms Leaderboard
Now we’ve Done with P. and B. in the P.B.L. Now we have to deal with the L.-Leaderboard. The initial idea was to have everyone use Google Forms for scoring. The plan was for participants to enter their scores for each round in a Google Form. However, as I realized that the number of rounds could become too many, it would be time-consuming to fill in the scores for each round. Therefore, I condensed the number of rounds from 8 (in the initial design) to 5 (in the second iteration), and finally settled on 3 rounds for the actual teaching experiment.
Although everyone found the process of filling out the Google Form to be smooth, I made sure to familiarize participants with using Google Forms in advance and created instructional slides. Additionally, Google Forms automatically calculated the scores (I had prepared the formulas and protected them), and participants could view the scores of each group through the form. However, another concern arose in my mind:
"What if someone intentionally or accidentally changes the scores of another group?"
When the number of participants was small (in my first gamified online teaching experiment, there were only 12 people), it was easy to keep track of each group's progress. However, as the number of participants increased and the number of groups grew, it became more challenging to control such issues. For example, if the number of participants reached 200 (we had a maximum of 353 at one point) and the total number of groups expanded to 50 (the maximum group limit in Webex and Zoom, but restricted to fewer than 200 participants), problems would inevitably arise during the use of Google Forms. Moreover, in a school setting, mischievous students might intentionally tamper with the data, rendering the Leaderboard ineffective.
So, what was the solution? How could we make the Leaderboard simpler and more reliable?
Group Scoring and Simple Leaderboard
Sometimes, things may seem simple when looking back at the results, but during the process, they can be quite puzzling. Scoring was a challenge for me for several days, but one day, it suddenly dawned on me: "Minimize information requirements, maximize teaching effectiveness," the core strategy. And then it hit me: "Why am I being so dumb? Just have everyone calculate the scores together during the group time!"
The method is simple: I only need to allocate a dedicated group discussion time in the middle of the session for scoring. During that time, I ask the group leaders to tally the scores for the whole team and write them on a piece of paper. When they return, everyone can display their group's total score together! Problem solved!
I put this into practice, and it indeed worked! In a small classroom, one screen was enough to accommodate everyone. As each group displayed their scores during the intermediate rounds, I simply opened a grid view and announced the scores in order (the true purpose of the leaderboard is to let everyone know their relative position compared to others, serving as ongoing motivation).
Then, as the number of participants increased, I only needed to enable the chat room feature and let everyone enter their team and scores after calculating the total. Although it added some information handling, it was still straightforward and didn't take up too much time. It also ran smoothly without any issues!
Preparation, Guidance, and Hands-on Practice
Whether it's individual or group scoring, or asking everyone to tally their scores on the comment board, these actions can be unfamiliar and unfamiliar to participants who are new to the process. If the course begins and gets stuck on "how to do it," it can affect the smoothness and effectiveness of implementing gamification in teaching.
Therefore, in the pre-course notification, I demonstrated with photos, asking everyone to prepare 4 sheets of A4 paper, cut them in half, so that everyone would have 8 sheets of A5 size paper at hand. One of the sheets was then turned into a personal scoring sheet, and I also took photos of the format to provide everyone with a visual reference. With multiple reminders before the course, everyone was well-prepared according to the instructions.
During the course, I followed the three principles of demonstration: "I tell you, I show you, and let you do it yourself" (thanks to my good friend 憲哥for sharing this method early on ^^). I first explained the scoring method to everyone, and then I demonstrated the process of scoring using the photos. Once everyone confirmed their understanding, they were asked to start practicing. The same process was applied to group scoring, including how to fill in the large scoring sheet and how to record the group scores on the comment board. I provided photos as demonstrations for these steps as well, and everyone followed along accordingly. The entire hands-on practice process went smoothly without anyone experiencing confusion or getting stuck.
Practice and Theory, Experience and Implementation
On the surface, the three core elements of gamification, PBL: points, benefits, and leaderboards, may seem simple. However, these so-called "key" elements are distilled from over a decade of applying gamification in corporate training settings. They are further enriched by my years of writing blog articles and journal papers, accumulating a substantial number of papers. Additionally, I have written two gamification journal papers in consecutive years and conducted interviews and exchanges with nearly 40 teachers. This has allowed me to understand the true "key" and identify the priority issues that need to be addressed, as well as those that can be temporarily set aside. It accelerates the research and development of the "online teaching techniques."
However, regardless of how much experience or how rich the theory may be, it ultimately needs to be implemented and validated in practice. Thus, I started with small-scale pilot tests (12 participants), moved on to medium-scale (25 participants), and then ventured into cross-platform experiments (15 participants). Eventually, I conducted large-scale tests (70 participants, 200 participants, 353 participants), where I also discovered the limitations of certain software (e.g., Zoom restricts grouping to 30 teams for over 200 participants). Gradually, I found the suitable scale for large-scale online lectures (below 200 participants).
However, these tests were only conducted to stress-test the "online teaching techniques." In reality, when everyone is back in their own classrooms, the operations and applications are relatively straightforward. For example, in fixed classes, there is no need to form new groups each time. In small class sizes, group discussions, scoring, and leaderboards are relatively simple. It is even possible for the teacher to score and tally the points instead of relying on students. These aspects can be adapted according to individual needs.
To be honest, I didn't want to dive into testing "online teaching techniques" since the start of the 2020 pandemic. The biggest challenge was figuring out "gamification" in online teaching, and even when Push worked on his online video courses last year, I noticed the importance of "gamification" and "team dynamics," including team grouping, scoring methods, leaderboards, and so on. I believed these were crucial hurdles to overcome in synchronous online teaching. However, this year's resurgence of the pandemic forced me to think seriously and find relatively simple solutions to the gamification problem in online teaching. Through the actual participation and experiences of everyone involved, I know that these methods are effective.
In the end, it all comes back to the core principle I have emphasized all along: "minimize information requirements and maximize teaching effectiveness." Everything boils down to "how to teach effectively," including the methods of gamification.
Of course, if you are dealing with a group
of highly motivated, self-disciplined students who can fully focus on the
course without getting distracted during online teaching, such paradigmatic
students wouldn't need gamification at all. You could simply present the materials
to them, and they would learn, understand, and even engage in advanced
discussions with the teacher about learning strategies. By the way, if you know
where to find such exemplary students, please do share it with me!
You are also welcome to explore the following research papers to discover additional insights that can help you improve your teaching techniques:
- Research Abstract on Gamification in