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I've been thinking about how to improve attendance in my classes as well as how to get my students do the expected work outside of class. I've tried a lot of sticks but the weak students care very little and I end up failing what seems like too many of them.

Lately, my mind has turned to gamification (that is, using elements of the gaming world such as badges, points, and similar things used even here on SE sites) to encourage student engagement.

While reading in English, a lot of what I found is about students in western countries. There has been plenty of research showing that there are significant differences introduced by culture, and to paraphrase Blaise Pascal, what is true in one country is false in another.

Since I teach in Asia, I'm wondering if anyone knows of any studies (or has any experience) using gamification in Asia to improve students' performance.

  • Many of your questions here are similar to the problems undergrad professors in Taiwan are facing. There have been some discussions and reports about undergrad education in Taiwan recently. Unfortunately, those reports are in Chinese. After I use Google translation tool, they become very much unreadable. I don't want to use the reports without proper citation. I am hoping they will have English version in a while.(They usually do). – scaaahu May 1 '13 at 4:03
  • @scaaahu There's nothing wrong with list a few key points from the report(s). Indeed, I have my students write in English using source material from their native language all the time. While I would never ask you to translate a paper, a few points could help (me) a lot. – earthling May 1 '13 at 4:06
  • I'll see what I can do. I need time to organize them and find proper English translations. – scaaahu May 1 '13 at 4:27
  • Which country are you talking about? Even in Asia, situation might be different in different countries.. – user13107 May 6 '13 at 7:09
  • @user13107 I'm interested in any Asian country. Do you have any work referencing any Asian country? – earthling May 6 '13 at 9:54
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+50

I am not aware of any study on using gamification in Asia to improve student performance. The following is based on my observation of college education in Taiwan in Asia.

Gamification can certainly be used as a tool to assist you with encouraging the student engagements. I don't know how effective it will be and how long its effects can last.

Everyone knows that students' motivation is the key reason for students to learn. Gamification will make the game awards to be one of the motivations. You make them learn for the game points they earn. I am not too sure this is a good thing in your environment. There is one difference between Western world and Oriental culture. Gaming is generally considered a not serious good thing. Some students/parents/school officials would resist it. You could get back fire when you use it. You need to be careful. I would use it as the last resort when everything else fails if I were you.

Many Taiwan students attend college because their parents want them to. They are in your classroom not by their own will. They lack motivation to participate in your class. All they want is to graduate to make their parents happy. And then they can do the things they truly want to do.

For those students, I seriously doubt gamification would do any good. I don't believe their parents will be much happier when they see that their kids earn some game points in the classroom. What they truly want to see are degree diploma and good transcripts.

Now, my suggestion as how to encourage the students to learn.

Talk to them to find out what they truly want to do after graduation. Convince them what they learn in your class will be helpful to their future.

For example, many college students in Taiwan want to run coffee shops after they graduate. (Please don’t laugh, this is for real. I don’t understand why either.) As a business professor, you can tell them they need to learn business management so they can run coffee shops successfully.

I have reasons to believe whatever happen in Taiwan may have happened in other places in Asia because the cultures are similar. The problem you are seeing in your area may be different. I believe my suggestion would still be helpful, that is, talk to them to find out what’s the best interest for them. Once you find the root cause, the solution will be right there.

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    "Gamification will make the game awards to be one of the motivations" No!! Gamification is about going way beyond "points". – StrongBad May 1 '13 at 8:50
  • Your answer is very helpful but I find talking to them doesn't actually help that much. That is, the strong students know what they want but I don't need to motivate them (they are self-motivated). The weak ones have no idea what they want (out of life, out of school, etc.). These are the ones I need to motivate but I'm not sure I can do this without becoming their best friend and helping them do some soul-searching (and I do not think it appropriate for teachers to be friends with students). – earthling May 5 '13 at 5:07
  • @earthling In the culture I was raised from, teachers are the most respectable people. You don't need to be their best friends for them to listen to you. However, you need to show them you care about them. They would be afraid you'll tell their parents/school about what they tell you, etc. You need to let them trust you first. It's hard to do. Some of them will never tell anything. Some will do. Gamification can be a tool for you to get acquainted with them so that they would recognize you as one of them. You could get back fire from other people, though. – scaaahu May 5 '13 at 5:45
  • @earthling I searched the literature in Chinese about your question. Gamification is a relatively new idea in my environment. There are some articles about using games to teach English in college. I could not find anything directly applicable to your question. I will keep an eye on it. Will update the answer as soon as I have more info. – scaaahu May 12 '13 at 5:04
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While not exactly an answer to your question ...

I should start by saying I am not an expert in the field of education or learning sciences, but it appears your gamificiation strategy is based upon extrinsic motivators. In my opinion, Malone and Lepper (1987) make a pretty clear case that intrinsic motivators are the way to go. Therefore, asking a question about how to optimize extrinsic motivators seems like a premature optimization problem. The framework that Malone and Lepper (1987) set out with individual motivators (challenge, curiosity, control and fantasy) and interpersonal motivators (competition, cooperation, and recognition) seems like it should be universal, although how to achieve those motivators, and the relative strengths of them, will likely vary with culture.

  • Thank you for this pointer. I've not read it before but I just read it after your recommendation. Very helpful. – earthling May 5 '13 at 5:05
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I don't have any citations or literature for you and I can only base this off personal experience. So, consider this answer as a single data point and completely anecdotal. I went to one of the top Indian schools for statistics as a masters student. Usually, it was all about doing math in each one of our courses.

However, in one of courses, we had a really cool professor who had just returned after spending about 10 years teaching in various other universities internationally. He didn't use any techniques like badges etc. However, we had a online running tally of points based on certain things in class - homework, data analysis, coding etc. - based on the understanding that he would take the top students out for lunch as a reward for doing well all semester.

Anecdotally, it was a lot of fun. :)

  • I should point out the possibility that other students in your class may not have liked this idea of points tally. Usually students who are most competitive like such schemes. – user13107 May 6 '13 at 7:16
  • I qualified my answer with "anecdotally." Meanwhile, the very idea of gamification is that it hits the crowd unequally. For instance: maritzmotivation.com/~/media/Files/MaritzDotCom/White%20Papers/… – Shion May 6 '13 at 13:41

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