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Gamifying Courses: Notes from Session 4 of #PaintCanvasOU

Today, we are kicking off a new mini-conference called Paint Canvas. Prepare All Instruction, Now Teach (PAINT) is a half-day Canvas training that showcases the best of Canvas in the classroom to inform and inspire educators. PAINT is organized into 45 minute rotating stations that focus on various Canvas features including pedagogical approaches and technical examples. In this series of blog posts, I’ll share my notes on the talks I attend in each session.

In the fourth session, we had five presenters:

1:00PM – 1:45PM – Purple Track: Gamification

Topic Presenter Room
Gamified Courses Heather Ketchum, Grant Loney LL 118
3D Game Lab John Stewart LL 118
Peer Review In Canvas Megan Elwood MaddenJennifer Shaiman LL 123
Canvas Badges Jennifer MayesJohn Boekenoogen LL 123
Collaborative Mind Maps Andy Vaughn LL 123

I was supposed to present on 3D Game Lab, but I subverted the plan by joining up with Dr. Heather Ketchum and Grant Loney into a mega-presentation. Immediately, I knew that I’d made the right decision in that I was being thanked on the opening slide of Dr. Ketchum’s deck.

IMG_1781

Dr. Ketchum started off by talking about the principles of gamification that we had discussed in GOBLIN. She then transitioned into how she applied these principles into her own course on parasitology.

One of the most exciting elements for me is that in gamifying her course, it encouraged her to move away from a lecture format and into an active learning class format. Noting the problems of the “Tyranny of Content,” Dr. Ketchum advocated for refocusing on the process of learning. There are still structured course objectives, but they include things like “Accept failure and learn from your failures” and conducting experiments to learn experientially. This has vaulted the course up Bloom’s taxonomy into more analysis and creative activity. The feedback has been so positive, that she’s moving from lecturing towards ALC in other courses as well.

To make this shift, gamification elements were introduced around the idea of team work. Students role play as parasitological researchers, starting off as low level grad students and moving up to the director of the CDC. Students level up by earning experience points through their course work. As the reach different levels in their career, they gain benefits. These benefits include expert help in explaining or simplifying difficult concepts and a budget to buy resources and diagnostic tests for their “lab.” Students then use this lab work as the basis for reflective and analytical writing.

This design is so brilliant in that it professionalizes the students into this field of study. It clarifies the grading system making it easier for students to understand and at the same time pulls that grading system out of the normal, painful school paradigm. It integrates the course content, assignments, growth model for learning, and assessment into a well thought out system that is both educational and fun. It makes the teamwork for the course an important, authentic part of the course and necessitates teamwork without the common extrinsic motivators imposed arbitrarily by an instructor frustrated that students are doing what they’re supposed to.

Ketchum and Grant’s presentation was so much fun for me in that it demonstrated how the concepts Keegan and I developed for GOBLIN were translated into a real course. Even better, the course looks so great that I wish I could take it. Building a course so good, that it makes a squeamish person like me want to study parasitic worms and epidemiology, is a huge testament to the power of fun and gamification.

I talked about 3D Game Lab and Canvas. While 3D Game Lab is great, and I’ll write more about it in the coming weeks, the LTI for Canvas integration is currently completely broken. I was very happy to not have to talk for more than 5 minutes.

Student Choice in Canvas Modules: Notes from #PaintCanvasOU

Today, we are kicking off a new mini-conference called Paint Canvas. Prepare All Instruction, Now Teach (PAINT) is a half-day Canvas training that showcases the best of Canvas in the classroom to inform and inspire educators. PAINT is organized into 45 minute rotating stations that focus on various Canvas features including pedagogical approaches and technical examples. In this series of blog posts, I’ll share my notes on the talks I attend in each session.

In the third session, we had six presenters:

Topic Presenter Room
Student Choice Modules Jennifer Shaiman LL 118
Hypothes.is Collaborative Web Annotation Nick LoLordo LL 118
Student Engagement Math Assignments Jonathan Epstein LL 123
Life Design Small Groups Clay Wesley LL 123
Collaborative Mind Maps Andy Vaughn LL 123
Piazza Amy McGovern LL 123

I attended Dr. Jennifer Shaiman‘s talk on Student Choice Modules. Dr. Shaiman teaches in Expository Writing and has integrated games and gamification into her courses. In this course, she used Canvas modules to create student choice in a course.

By creating a large number of modules presenting students with different types of content and assignments, Dr. Shaiman allowed student to choose those topic sets that most interested them.

This is a really similar approach to what I’ve tried before in my history of science courses. I think that many humanities courses are trying to get students to grapple with themes, but without needing to dictate specific content. For my history of science courses, I want students to think about the relationship of science and religion, but it doesn’t matter to me whether they want to use examples from the history of biology, physics, astronomy, or the social sciences. If I can allow students to pick the particular historical episode that most fits with their own majors or their own interests, hopefully they will engage more with that theme that I care about.

In Dr. Shaiman’s case with expository writing, she wants students to understand the structure and rhetoric behind various kinds of arguments. The particular subjects that they are arguing don’t matter, creating room for student choice of topics. Even the question of what medium the student is writing in (old fashioned paper, blogs, tweets, etc.) can be flexible when the medium is not part of the message.

Canvas LMS tools for tracking student engagement

A couple of days ago I read a study by Civitas of more than 600,000 students, which found that low student engagement with the LMS was significantly correlated with dropping out. Having just returned from #InstCon, I immediately started thinking about how we at OU could use some of the reports and API tools from Canvas to identify students with low LMS engagement levels.

On the scale of an individual course, instructors at OU can access student activity reports through the people menu item.

Screenshot of the Canvas LMS people menu

You can then click on the ‘Access Report’ for that student which will bring up the number of times the student has viewed each item in the Canvas course, their participation with the Canvas assignments and the Last Viewed time for those items:

Canvas LMS student access report

As an instructor, you could use the student access data to identify those students who have not viewed or interacted with your course for a few days or a week and send a message to those students reminding them of the importance of consistent engagement and timely interactions.

Another strategy for using Canvas engagement data is simply emailing students who haven’t turned in an assignment. On every assignment in the Canvas gradebook, there’s a little arrow to indicate a dropdown menu. From that menu, you can select “Email students who….” This will bring up a menu to allow you to email all students who have yet to turn in an assignment or those students who scored below a certain threshold, or those students who did a great job that you want to praise.

At the university level, we could use the Canvas API to collect data on the activity of all of our students. We could then develop a report to identify those students with lower LMS usage and possibly refer them to student retention counselors. However, this report would likely be a better indicator of those departments and colleges that don’t use the LMS extensively. If for example a student was a junior taking and taking all of her classes in her major, but that particular department wasn’t using Canvas for anything other than syllabus and gradebook hosting, the student would likely have extremely low LMS usage statistics. Therefore any reporting done above the level of an individual course would need to think about normalization of the data and identify reasons that a student might not be using Canvas.

*the screenshots above were pulled from the Canvas Guides

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