Introduction

Engaging learners in the learning process is critical for high quality teaching and learning as well as lifelong, transformative learning. Yet, engaging learners is not an easy task. Often, students tend to be merely motivated by external factors such as grades or the pressure to acquire a recognized educational certificate. To promote intrinsic motivation and engage learners, educators recommend several strategies such as using authentic contexts, authentic tasks, collaborative learning and reflective learning to name a few. This project attempts to combine several of these features and present these in a gamified application called “GameLead”.

GameLead was designed designed by Dr. Rani Tan, Senior Lecturer in the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University (SMU), together with her Teaching Assistants of Academic Years 2013/2014 (Term 2). This application was designed to be used in the Leadership and Team building (LTB) course, and hence the name GameLead. It has since been used over three terms in her four classes of approximately 170 students each term. The objective of the application was to engage students in learning beyond the classroom in an easy, intuitive and seamless manner.

To understand how this application could be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning, a systematic study is undertaken by educational researcher Dr. Nachamma Sockalingam from the Centre for Teaching Excellence, SMU.

This submission gives a brief outline of the GameLead application, its objectives, explains how it was used/implemented in teaching and learning, analyses student sentiments on the use of GameLead on Teaching and Learning and suggests the potential use of such applications in teaching and learning in general.

Synopsis

Objective

Rani was introduced to the concept of gamification and gamifying the Leadership and Team building module by her (former) Teaching Assistant, Keith Ng, during his days at SMU. After a discussion on the benefits and potential of introducing a digital experience with smart game mechanics for students, a concept soon became a working reality for the module.

The overall objective of Leadership and Team building (LTB) course in Singapore Management University (SMU) is to build students’ competency to help them develop their own leadership awareness and values, motivating them to be effective leaders. In particular, the course aims to help students understand the factors of effective leadership so that they can accurately assess their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and develop a personal plan for leadership development. It is therefore critical that students are reflective, self-directed as well as collaborative learners.

Undoubtedly, leadership and team building as a topic bears profound implications in the everyday lives of students, beyond the boundaries of the classroom. To truly learn and embody the knowledge and skills required, there was a need for greater application of these concepts outside the boundaries of class-based activities. There was also a need to engage the students more actively in the classroom discussions and make the learning more meaningful to them so that it leads to transformative learning.

The objective, therefore, was to gamify the course to improve student engagement of learning material beyond the classroom in an easy, interactive and seamless manner using a mobile and web application that complemented learning materials taught in a way that students had the freedom to access and play at their convenience.

Approach

The GameLead application consists of a series of nine quests for the students to complete over a period of nine weeks. The content of the activities were generally related to leadership and teambuilding.

To help students familiarize with the GameLead application, students were given a set of tour screenshots and explanation to orientate them in the beginning of the course. Thereafter, the quests were made available at the start of each week for students to play with, with preceding quests left unlocked for the students to review.

Each quest contained a series of challenges that prompted students to reflect, apply and act upon ideas that were brought up during class for that week. Examples of challenges included watching of videos on exemplary leaders, snapping photos of team activities, answering simple quiz questions, and reflecting and sharing of thoughts and insights.

Upon completing a challenge, students received points within GameLead. With the points earned, students had the option of redeeming attractive rewards such as choosing presentation slots, that is, the week they wish to do their group presentation assignments in class.

The application interface included social features such as a newsfeed section, where students could view, vote, and comment on the past submissions of their classmates. To introduce a degree of competition within the application, students were ranked accordingly on a live leader board based on the number of points they had received by completing the given challenges.

In practice, GameLead was used by the students outside of class and their online reflections and discussions (using the application) are integrated into the in-class sessions through weekly discussions.

It should be noted that the use of GameLead application as part of the course is voluntary and not included for grade computation and yet all students participated actively.

Engagament

The LTB course is interactive and experiential in nature. Students are required to engage in small group discussions and work in teams, both in and outside of class. They also participate in leadership and teambuilding exercises; individually and collectively, they reflect on their experiences through class discussion, and written assessment and develop their plan for improving leadership skills. Finally, students present their projects and project experiences to classmates, teaching assistants, and the professor.

The GameLead application augments this learning process by connecting the students, to the content, team members, other teams and instructors/teaching assistants in a virtual community space that is accessible asynchronously anytime, anywhere, throughout the entire duration of the module.

Through GameLead, students get to understand themselves and team members better through several reflective and teambuilding activities. For instance, students were asked to take a creative selfie with their team members, reflect on their leadership skills and identify ways in which their teams worked well. The application included independent as well as collaborative activities. On top of that they view, vote, and comment on the submissions of their classmates. Such activities helped students to be socially and cognitively engaged.

The application also makes use of gaming elements such as points, achievements, rewards and leader board to motivate students extrinsically. The choice of activities (such as videos on exemplary leadership) is designed to motivate students intrinsically. In this way, the GameLead application and the design of activities engaged the students.


Impact

Students’ perception on the use of GameLead has been collected each term and this particular submission reports on part of the data collated during the most recent run in April 2015.

A total of 173 responded on an online survey on the use of GameLead in LTB course in Term 2 of Academic Year 2014/2015 ( On average, each class is about 50 students). The online survey included 17 quantitative questions and 5 qualitative questions.

Of the 173 respondents, 24% responded that they had not used mobile applications such as Gamelead in their formal learning before. Despite that, 96% indicated that the application was easy to use.

90% indicated that GameLead activities challenged them to relate LTB content to real-life situations and that they helped them to learn from peers. 87% felt that the activities made them think deeper about what they are learning in the course. 76% reported that they spent longer than 30 min each week on GameLead activities. 76% of the respondents indicated that they would recommend the use of GameLead applications in other SMU courses. Overall, the quantitative data suggested that the use of the GameLead application and the activities led to engaged and deeper learning as desired.

Students’ feedback included comments such as
“It was a good way to reflect after each lesson on the content taught, as well as to bring together the topics we have learnt across the weeks”
“It allows learning beyond classroom”
“Everyone in class was given same questions and by looking at many different responses, it helped me to ponder more”
“Reflective questions on our own leadership qualities and abilities allowed us a chance to actively think about how we can improve as a leader instead of making too many mistakes when we are a leader.

Next Steps

Our experience with GameLead indicates that its application has great value in teaching and learning. We hope to not only develop and use the application in teaching and learning for the fun and novelty of it, but also take a scholarly approach in designing the activities based on pedagogical frameworks and theories, and share it with the wider community for the benefit all. Our future plans include these:
1) The Leadership and Team building course is one of the core university courses in SMU and it is undertaken by all first-year students. This accounts for approximately 1046 students (From Academic Year 2015, Term 2). GameLead has been tested in Rani’s four classes (170 students each term), over three terms and it is now being used by the other instructors teaching the same module. The future plan is to try this for the entire LTB courses and encourage instructors in other modules to use too.

2) It should be noted that the “shell” of the mobile application can be adapted and used in any course (at any level). The activities can be modified to need the objectives of the course and teaching. Hence the project has the potential for direct and immediate application in many fields/courses. This means that other instructors need not need create the mobile application once again. All they need to do is to change the questions and challenges. However, they also have the flexibility to modify the application. Hence, there is a wider scope of application.

3) The feedback on the application suggests that the use of GameLead is very easy to use and that it is valuable in teaching and learning, both from the perspectives of the students and instructors/teaching assistants. Students’ feedback on other aspects of engaging with the application has provided very meaningful insights. For instance, their feedback suggests that the design and choice of activities as well as the rewarding strategy is crucial for the success of GameLead application. Thus, one of the next steps would be to take a more scholarly approach into investigating the role of independent elements such as instructors, activities, rewards on students’ experience with the application and its impact on their learning. We will be sharing our research findings in time to come with the wider community to benefit more.

Other Information

PowerPoint Presentation - Click to download
Other - Sample Course Outline of LTB
Other - GameLead Application Download
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