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Education Games Idle

Professor Ditches Grades For XP System 311

Posted by samzenpus
from the exam-quest dept.
schliz writes "Like in World of Warcraft, students of Indiana University's game design classes start as Level 1 avatars with 0 XP, and progress by completing quests solo, as guilds, or in 'pick up groups.' Course coordinator Lee Sheldon says students are responding with 'far greater enthusiasm,' and many specifics of game design could also be directly applied to the workforce. These included: clearly defining goals for workers; providing incremental rewards; and balancing effort and reward."

*

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Professor Ditches Grades For XP System

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:59AM (#31520982)

    If only I could create some sort of bot to do the work for me so I could then sell those rewards for money...

  • While there are definite benefits to the XP system, it's a very large departure from the stable and useful 2000 system.

    I predict the next step will be a major overhaul of the evaluation system which will be widely hailed as a vast improvement on paper but turn out to be a huge mess and pleasing to no one.

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      >>>While there are definite benefits to the XP system, it's a very large departure from the stable and useful 2000 system.

      Time to upgrade. While the new "7" system will not run on 128K RAM like XP could, it should fit comfortably inside a 256K computer and still let you run Internet Explorer or Firefox or Opera. Even my ancient AMD Athlon (P3-equivalent) laptop can run it.

    • I predict the next step will be a major overhaul of the evaluation system which will be widely hailed as a vast improvement on paper but turn out to be a huge mess and pleasing to no one.

      Well that and plenty of people complaining it is the same old shit, due the lack of quests. Unless the dungeon masters, uh managers, recognise this will simply cause the people to move on to the next environment where quests are implemented.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      2000 system? No... Give me the EVE skilling system!
  • by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:02AM (#31521012) Homepage Journal

    ...against boredom of grinding.

  • by ipquickly (1562169) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:03AM (#31521014) Homepage

    This approach would be great in other courses.

    Anatomy class, for example.
    Play doctor and get credit.

  • by danaris (525051) <danaris AT mac DOT com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:08AM (#31521054) Homepage

    Balancing effort and reward doesn't interest most employers. They're interested in getting the most effort out of their employees for the least possible reward.

    If they were to balance effort and reward, they might actually have to (for instance) pay overtime to the programmers who put in 80-hour weeks to meet the deadline...

    (Score: -1, Overly Cynical) ;-)

    Dan Aris

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      When the reward is a piece of paper saying "lvl 4857 Comp. Wizard" I am not sure it costs much to the employer...
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Anyway, everybody knows that in the workforce, roleplaying is much more important than heavy stats.
    • They're interested in getting the most effort out of their employees for the least possible reward.

      I would say they're interested in getting as much output as possible, for as little expenditure as possible.

      They don't mind how rewarding you find whatever they give you---in fact, they want you to be happy (because hiring a replacement if you're unhappy enough to leave is expensive).

      And they also don't mind how much effort it requires on your part to make the output, they just want the 500 new widgets every day.

      • by rhsanborn (773855) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:43AM (#31521372)
        On paper, what you just said is true. Unfortunately, that's, generally, not how it works. They may understand that replacing employees is expensive and reduces the overall quality of the product. But, generally, they don't actually follow through with steps to avoid burning people out or compensate them appropriately. They see all employees as little cost centers and look to whittle down expenses without considering the implications of lower staff morale. So yes, it is beneficial to businesses in the long term to keep employees happy. Unfortunately, long-term goals don't come over as well as saying you cut costs by X dollars on the next quarterly report or board meeting.
      • by Abcd1234 (188840)

        They don't mind how rewarding you find whatever they give you---in fact, they want you to be happy

        No, what they want is for you to get your tasks finished and to not quit.

        Fortunately, particularly in the US, job mobility is drastically limited by a number of factors: the current poor job market, high levels of household debt and low levels of savings (making long periods without steady income untenable), fear of losing healthcare coverage, etc. As such, employees don't want to quit in the face of mistreat

    • It's hardly cynical - it's plain truth. Unless an organization is actively seeking exceptional candidates they need to min/max reward vs. productivity to ensure profitability.

      A company with a mature, stable product that doesn't innovate much - say, manufacturing boxes - has absolutely no need to attract anyone exceptional in any way, and thus is pulling from the largest labor pool possible.

      A company with new, innovative products that wants to completely redefine (or, even better, create) a market space - sa

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      "If they were to balance effort and reward, they might actually have to (for instance) pay overtime to the programmers who put in 80-hour weeks to meet the deadline..."

      supply and demand sucks, huh?

    • Asshole employers don’t interest most employees. The’re interested in getting the most reward out of their employers with the least possible reward.

      You act as if “employers” were some dominant class, ruling over who gets thee “right” to become their slaves.

      They need us. But we don’t need them. We can always start our own business. But they can’t become their own employees.
      And if they don’t get us, all they get is incompetent interns or temporaries who do

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:08AM (#31521056)

    Kid: "Well, I'm a level 8 Human designer. I'm mostly int and charisma."

    Interviewer: "Err, okay... here, roll this 20 sided die. 10 or higher gets you a second interview"

    *rolls*

    "Sorry, I hope you are able to find better opportunities elsewhere."

    *long pause*

    "Fireball! Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!"

    "Please leave my office."

  • ...in people causing them to be positive about the build-up; the hoarding of score (read: resources). No, really, it is so.
  • by cerberusss (660701) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:09AM (#31521066) Homepage Journal

    Course coordinator Lee Sheldon says students are responding with 'far greater enthusiasm,'

    It's a documented fact that any change brings about a temporary boost in motivation. One should be careful with making generic assumptions based on this change.

    Let me make an analogy we all understand. When you meet a girl and she wears these big unsexy undies, you don't really care because she'll look great to you anyway. When she becomes your wife, you'll suggest sexy, minimalistic underwear. And sooner or later, even that won't help.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When she becomes your wife, you'll suggest sexy, minimalistic underwear. And sooner or later, even that won't help.

      Maybe you should be spending more time with your wife, and less time posting on Slashdot...

    • by Ozan (176854) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:34AM (#31521268) Homepage

      I think the more important aspect of this is the quick gratification this system provides. With todays attention span you need to reward people quicker and more often, but smaller.

      Anyway I can't wait for the first guy who goes "LEEROY JENKINS!" on his group assignment.

    • by Karellen (104380) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:46AM (#31521404) Homepage

      change brings about a temporary boost in motivation.

      That's the Hawthorne effect [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bkr1_2k (237627)

      Let me make an analogy we all understand. When you meet a girl and she wears these big unsexy undies, you don't really care because she'll look great to you anyway. When she becomes your wife, you'll suggest sexy, minimalistic underwear. And sooner or later, even that won't help.

      Most women wear the sexy panties when they are starting to date and switch to the "unsexy" panties after they've already bagged the person they were trying to win over. If you wait until you're already married to suggest the "sexy

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by johnlcallaway (165670)
      If someone doesn't think their wife looks great, whether dressed in business attire, sexy nightware, or granny panties, then they should get a new wife. Or fall in love with the one they have.

      My wife is ALWAYS the most beautiful woman in the world, and I never tire of looking at her. No matter what she is wearing. And she is almost 50.

      Of course, she is also the only woman I'm allowed to have sex with. So I guess as long as my wife is having sex with me on a regular basis, she will continue to be the m
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Internalist (928097)

      Let me make an analogy we all understand. When you meet a girl [...]

      YMBNH.

    • Let me make an analogy we all understand. When you meet a girl and she wears these big unsexy undies, you don't really care because she'll look great to you anyway. When she becomes your wife, you'll suggest sexy, minimalistic underwear. And sooner or later, even that won't help.

      I still don't understand. =(

  • Sorry I didn't come to class today, I imbibed some sort of malware last night at the tavern searching for "quests" and it slowed down my body and took over root processes and I was unable to login.
  • by Pojut (1027544)

    When my (then future) fiancee and I were about 6 months into our relationship, I would give or take away XP points to her based on things she said, and she did the same for me. XP could be awarded based on comedy (adding to CH), how thought provoking it was (adding to INT), or how much of a "OH DAMN" reaction you got (adding to ST). It was an arbitrary system not really based on anything, but XP could be turned in for "favors" of different varieties depending on the XP used, if you know what I mean.

    Nothin

  • by pz (113803)

    Experience is not what you take college classes to obtain. Experience happens after graduation, or outside of the classroom. The intellectual frameworks of subjects and mechanisms for reasoning within those frameworks are what tertiary education provides.

    In college, it does not matter so much that you have or have not done something, but how well you did that thing. Grades are a vital, and important part of that evaluation. Just saying that something was achieved or some act performed does not indicate

  • Better than the current system of pushing people up the ranks regardless of their ability and then being shocked when grade 9 students can't tell you what 4 * 9 is.

  • Obligatory XKCD (Score:2, Informative)

    by SpinningCone (1278698)

    http://www.xkcd.com/189// [xkcd.com]

    cuz we're all just sims in some grander game.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:36AM (#31521282) Homepage
    A 50 year grind to max out, random nerfs and level wipes, and the end game reward is a 2-person Winnebago instance in the Florida server.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by chrysrobyn (106763)

      A 50 year grind to max out, random nerfs and level wipes, and the end game reward is a 2-person Winnebago instance in the Florida server.

      If I had a guarantee of a 2 person Winnebago instance on the Florida server, life would be a lot easier to bear, even if I'd prefer 48 other states and a condo. Instead, I worry about actually making it to level 80 and suffering so many wipes and ganks that I'm stuck in the 70s before my subscription runs out.

  • It worked great until they brought in the George Clooney avatar to fire us.

  • Student: "Stand down black knight, for I am Monty, a paladin of great power, pure of spirit, righteous to my core and I will strike you from your stead this day. What say you?"

    Teacher: For God's sake student, sit down, I told you there is no XP for roleplaying in this class.

  • by vrmlguy (120854) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <esywmas>> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:43AM (#31521368) Homepage Journal

    This is almost identical to management by objective, where every quarter you're given some tasks to complete, and your quarterly bonus depends upon how many you get done. Where I work, the tasks include getting certified in something new, writing white papers, or performing "health checks" for our customers' data centers.

  • Achievement Unlocked: Class passed.

  • many specifics of game design could also be directly applied to the workforce

    Achievement unlocked! Slept with intern.

  • There is an excellent, IMO, book called MetaGame, by Sam Landstrom which (as part of its plot) deals with a future society where economic rewards in work and play are based on a system of points based on a sophisticated economic game design.

    Its an interesting read, and very entertaining. There's a thesis presented in there that is very similar to this -- that a game-based reward system drives both workers and society to higher levels of productivity *and* happiness.

    I have no idea if its available in print,

  • Economist Article (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I remember reading an article in the Economist about how young people coming through the education system (in the UK) are becoming increasingly difficult to integrate into the workforce.

    That article pointed out that the problems with such integration are precisely the "benefits" espoused by the summary above. Namely that new graduates expect ridiculously elaborate and well-defined goals, don't work very hard without specific incentives, have poor social skills and in general lack initiative.

    The article (wh

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's a two way street, though. A lot of managers are promoted up or hired in and have no idea how to effectively lead. As a manager, I found Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to be more effective and productive than other incentives. By working with your employee to define clear goals other than "Show up, work 8 hours, be better than the worst person on your team and then go home" you may find they aren't all just cogs with no ambition.

      Some of them actually want to work toward something better and by help

  • Games are nature’s way of learning. Like dogs play, to train for the real world, so do we.
    And their greatest aspect, is that they are fun. Because success and learning is supposed to be fun. After all it’s the basis of survival and winning the game of natural selection.

    Only schools fucked that one up. Because as they are today, they were originally invented by Bismarck, because he wanted something like military drill, but for kids. (Yeah, how fucked up is that?)

    So getting back to games, to a sol

  • Wouldn't game design students be kind of self-selecting to be open to such an idea?

    Not saying it's bad, but it's not exactly a surprise, either.

  • www.worldofchorecraft.com

  • Is that so bad? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:23AM (#31521782)
    If I've got a fourth grader, I give him a math test on memorization of the multiplication tables. He turns it in with a quarter of the problems wrong, he gets a D. Then a month later, I give him a test on multiplying double-digit numbers. He gets a quarter of the problems wrong, he gets a D. Then I give him a test on division, three-digit numbers divided by one digit. He gets a D.

    This kid leaves the fourth grade, and he pretty much forgets the little that he did learn in my class. He spends most of the next year playing catch-up.

    Let me suggest the curriculum for a fourth grader's math assignments. I'm going to give this kid a test on the multiplication tables, but I'm going to give it a week earlier than the other teacher did. If this kid gets a quarter of the problems wrong, then he has to respawn and go fight the boss aga-- er, he has to take another multiplication tables test a week later. He keeps taking one of those tests once a week until he gets at least a 90% on it, even if the other kids have moved on to start taking other tests.

    If this kid can't get ever get a 90% on these tables, he gets an F in math for the semester. If he passes the tables test, his grade levels up to a D.

    Then I give this kid a test on double-digit multiplication. He has to take it again and again until he gets a 90% on the test. When he does, he levels up to a C in math for the semester. This might take him so long that he doesn't ever really get to the long division test, although I'll still give him some assignments to pick up on the basics of it.

    The kid in the first example never really got a strong handle on any of the subjects I taught. The second kid knows his expletive'ing multiplication tables and has a good handle on multiplying numbers, even if he never got a good shot at the later stuff. The first kid got a D in math, the second kid got a C. Which kid do you think knows more about math?

    Alternatively, I give one student that tables test, and he gets an A on the first try, a week earlier than the others. I tell this kid, okay, you can beta test the new dungeon that the devs are working on-- er, you can start looking ahead at some of the new material. Or maybe you can actually only get to a B in this class by doing the three main quests, so if you want to get to an A, you'll have to do at least a few side quests. Here, why don't you solve the puzzles in this beginner's programming book, since it's tangentially related to math? Or you could grind the goblins in this basic accounting sheet, teaching you to balance a checkbook?

    I'm sure the actual logistics of this method would require a bit of work, but I'd like to see it tried out in practice once.
    • Re:Is that so bad? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @10:11AM (#31523148)

      I did this, kind of, as a TA for a remedial (er, the PC term was "developmental") math pre-college summer program. The kids were older (17-18) than elementary school but here's how it worked in a nutshell.

      Math is divided into topic categories or "units." There are about 20 of them from intermediate arithmetic (fractions, negative numbers, that sort of thing) through algebra up to integral calculus. Everyone takes a placement test right off the bat. Student's curriculum starts on the first unit he/she flunked on the placement test. You have to pass each unit with 90%.

      The term was six weeks. If you pass six units you get an A. Five units gets a B, four gets a C, and if I remember right a D only required two. The point is that students got graded on how far they came, not where they started. Oh, and if you managed to pass the calculus unit then we (the instructors) had to make up new units for you to try next.

      This worked great. The students who came in struggling with arithmetic and made it up to basic algebra walked out with A's and B's in math -- for the first time in their lives, in many cases. The students who came in knowing trigonometry walked out with a working knowledge of calculus. That was the goal: get everyone as far ahead as possible in six weeks.

      For the instructors, it was hard work. Every student needed lots of help to get through a unit every week. What I found in fact was that the best students started teaching their classmates just to help their friends get an A. Grading took forever because practically every student was working on something different. And, of course, the instructors had to be ready to teach anything from adding and subtracting negative integers, through multivariable calculus, off the top of their heads. But man, was it worth the effort. :)

  • In general, worthwhile work is difficult and rewards don't come easily. Part of what is called "experience" is having the concentration span and application to have a long term goal and follow through with it. Do we really want to encourage our youth away from this? It seems to me it will deprive them of an important part of their education.
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @10:49AM (#31523592)

    What a conincidence. I just heard a talk with him today. He's visiting our company to help with the development of a star trek game and he also introduced the very same concept. Neat idea and - as he says - it works with those who play games and then is a better alternative to grades. His explainations seemed plausible to me.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @12:03PM (#31524554)

    I think the problem with universities is that education has already become a grind, and this takes the mind-numbing up a notch. The reason why our students are demanding "clear, well-defined goals" in courses is exactly because they want everything in college to have handrails, explicit structure and a transparent input-output conditionals. And it's true that it's easier to get good grades in such a system. But I think it's completely irresponsible to take someone who has made it through such a system as "college-educated". An educated person has learned to operate flexibly in a system where the input-output structures are opaque, and the quality of their product is what matters. (The real world doesn't care if you took "all the right steps" in the process of making something shoddy, so I don't see why college courses should reward it either.)

    While my background is in physics, I now teach courses in philosophy. Now try to imagine applying this XP system to my field! It's not useless; I mean, I do stuff like this already (though I feel dirty about it). I occasionally give quick multiple-choice reading quizzes which make up a tiny portion of the course grade. Students can see "collecting" reading quiz points as XP's. But what really matters to me is that my students reveal an understanding of the issues and are able to have coherent and insightful reactions to these. Maybe a more straightforward way of looking it is this: My students need to be able to horribly embarrass anyone who defends certain dumb ideas, in a wide range of contexts. For example, if my ethics students aren't able to embarrass a smart moral relativist in a conversation, they don't deserve a passing grade for that (small) unit of the course. This objective cannot be divided up into sub-objectives to which you could assign XP's, because there are incredibly many paths for getting to that goal, and for the purpose of grading, I don't care which path they take. It depends on their temperament and talent. I'm not about to impose a structure on how to achieve this goal, and anyone who does is being a terrible educator. Their students will learn to grind out good grades, but... what else? Is it hoped that "incidentally" they will also acquire an understanding of the subject along the way? It seems to me much better to just test their understanding directly, and let them learn how to best match their skills to the available resources so that they achieve that understanding. That's exactly what students should learn in college, and it's also exactly what this XP system circumvents.

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