Looking at the goals it seemed pretty obvious that there were some game mechanics that could be brought into use here. I realize that that can be read as a “gamification” of the class, but in actuality it is much more about providing an open organization. I haven’t really gotten to the game aspect yet. Now I seriously mean YET, Fall 2012 will take another step towards making this more gamelike, I do expect the number of design students to drop off as the class is no longer required for their major but that will help to let me focus on art more.
In terms of available technology I had Desire2Learn (our LMS), gForms, and email. D2L proved to be both a blessing and a curse. It was useful because it permitted me to create content that had to be “clicked thru” to open other content, this worked more or less. I think I can sell this to students as part of the puzzle. The difficulty was all the trouble shooting with this, it seemed to work at times but seemed to break as often and using a quiz as a mechanism for opening up new content became problematic. So much so that I ended up abandoning D2L quizzes to focus more on gForm check-ins.
I also used QR codes and bit.ly links and recommended smart phones and reporting in. I was not overly surprised by the fact that less than half of my students had smart phones, so I ended up creating easily recognized bit.ly links ie http://bit.ly/art1-quiz that students could either enter into a web enabled phone, laptop or go home and fill out the survey. The goal was to report in within an hour of an event to get credit for it, and to report in on community visits after they occurred. Even this became a technical hurdle, and I see that I need to do a robust initial exercise that students can work in groups to solve and connect to the systems.
I need to refine this system somewhat to help with automation. I do not anticipate it being entirely automated, as you can see I ask for three English sentences that describe the event, but I may start to ask for student id so that I can more easily sort larger spreadsheets of these check-ins.
The System (How to get credit for Art 1)
I created five mission areas that students could get points for: events, major, class-rank, community and facilities/admin. The goal was to create 20 points in each area that are pretty easy to acquire, and 40 or more total available in each space. Students needed 100 points to finish and get credit for the class. There was also a limit of no more than 40 points in a single area (which I ended up dropping for the sake of simplicity).
events: these are things that happen at a certain time, surveys need to be filled in right after the end of the event, missed events cannot be made up (a difficult concept for some), Tuesday night 5 pm lectures fall into this category. My one failing in this is that I learn about events often quite late, I had a student criticize me for sending out notice on Tuesday morning. That is certainly a fair criticism, but if you have a class on Tuesday evening, you should check your email during the day beforehand. Not a best practice for sure, but having human teachers means notices come out on a human scale. Additionally I found that I had a LOT of points available in Events, so much so that I became concerned that the Tuesday Lecture was critical to passing the class. What I found after the fact is that these events helped people finish EARLY, but there were a good group of students who were unable to attend due to other classes, that passed the class just fine.
major: these are things that encompass undeclared as well as someone who is clear on their direction. This is about sussing out what you need to do to complete your degree at SJSU, understanding what the expectations are, and creating a network. I had a few people in the ID major comment that otherwise they would not have met their peers, or other advanced students.
class-rank: there are common experiences where both community and advising are valuable, class-rank is one of those spaces. This area attempts to connect the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors so that they at least know there are others in the department with exactly the same challenges, but also attempts to guide them to finding the right resources and prepare for upcoming challenges.
community: this is about connecting to the arts institutions in San José in preparation for actual life.
In the end I had 95 students and 44 possible graded items. This became an accounting nightmare which I only survived by having a very competent TA. It didn’t help that I had a technology failure in the first half of the semester, but the second half ran quite smoothly.
I don’t know if I can recommend doing this sort of thing in a LMS like D2L, it was in the way as often as it facilitated interaction. My processes need more automation or possible automation to make this possible. I was also too slow on turnaround for grading (people understandably wanted credit immediately for what they had done).
In the final part I shall talk more about lessons learned, and potential solutions.