Gaming: The best thing for writing since computers

I’m sitting in Writing 220, and it’s the first day. I’m hearing Shelley Mantis layout the course, and I’m liking everything that I’ve heard. She (and the writing minor department) understand that we want to be in the class, so we’re respected. We’re treated with a more laid-back, informal respect as the instructors know that we actually want to do the work.

And then I hear a phrase that immediately relieves any and all pressure.

“This course is gamified. Do any of you know what that means?”

My mind immediately #TBTs (It actually was Thursday) to fall semester of freshman year. I took Polsci 101 with Mike Lavaque-Manty (We actually read an article by his wife the other day in class.) That class was also gamefied, and it really made the material more interesting.

The specifics of each course’s gamefied system are a little different, but they all serve the same purpose: giving students more variety and control in a classroom. Instead of being confined to a specific set of assignments, students  have the option of choosing what they find more useful. Now, of course, many classes do this to an extent. Sometimes you can choose between a presentation or a paper. However, gamified classes extend past very minimal options and provide a wide variety of choices. In our class, for instance, we can get a lot of points if we choose to blog more than the required amount. We can get a lot of points for commenting past the requirements. If we find precis relevant, we can write those for points. If we enjoy asking our professors questions, we can go to office hours.

More than just giving us options, the gamified system also gives us the option of choosing our grade. At any time, we can calculate our potential grade by going through possible point options. Being Michigan students, I can almost gurantee that all of us stress about our grades. Since, unless we fail an assignment (which you could still get points for through revising), we’re guaranteed full points, there’s minimal to no stress about grades. We know what we have to do to succeed, and that’s all we have to do to get points.

In many classrooms, this system could prove inhibiting. Students could get by with doing just the bare minimum to get the grade that they wanted. In this class, however, a gamified system makes total sense.

First, our professors know that we want to be here. We had to apply to get into this minor, so this isn’t just a class that we’re taking to fulfill a requirement. Our goal in this class isn’t just to get the highest grade while doing the minimal amount of work. We actually want to improve our writing, so we’re going to take the class seriously. In fact, knowing the we can already have the grade that we want helps to push us further. Instead of fulfilling an assignment to get a good grade, we’ll want to actually do the assignment to the best of our abilities, reaching further than we otherwise would.

Second, since writing can fall under so many categories, giving us options allows us as students to get what we want out of the course. We’re all in this class to improve as writers, but we come from such different academic concentrations that providing each of us what we specifically needed would prove very difficult. However, we’re more able to do what we want in this course. For instance, I’m really interested in being a columnist. Therefore, I can tailor the course to fit my needs by doing more blogging assignments. In the same sense, someone looking for a more technical experience with writing could focus on writing precis.

I’m really excited to use the gameified system again. Not only do I think that it fits the needs of a writing class, it fits the needs of students. Instead of stressing out about grades, we’re given a system and a direct route to the grade that we want. Plus, we’re forced to go above and beyond the class’s requirements to do well. And if we’re doing more than the basic requirements, aren’t we achieving more than we would in a regular classroom?

One thought to “Gaming: The best thing for writing since computers”

  1. When I first heard that this class was going to be gamified, I had a different reaction than you: I wasn’t sure what to expect and was a little shocked. I expected to be graded on the “quality” of our writing like a typical English class.

    I’ve had a gamified class before too! But the layout was definitely different: we received points on assignments, but it was based on how “well” we did, so there was still the grading aspect of it. I’ve never had a class where points are given more or less on completion of tasks. I agree with you that this system allows us to explore different areas of what we want to do and takes away the fear of failing. I think the fear of failing leads us to do things that are familiar to us and with this gamification system it allows us to really try new things. The points that you present make me excited about the grading scheme and take a way some of the uncertainty I had!

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