Colleges and universities across the United States are in the midst of expanding to meet the needs of increased student enrollment. Unfortunately, many institutions are faced with having to increase the number of students within a class to accommodate for higher enrollment. Within large class sections, it is not usually possible to tailor instruction to all the students present, and typically, instruction will appeal to the “average” student. This leaves procrastinators and struggling students falling behind quickly in their classwork while exceptional students can be bored and not challenged to their full potential.
Personalized learning is greatly hindered in classes with copious amounts of students where student-teacher relationships are not optimal. Many students attending large institutions consider themselves as “just a number” because of the overwhelming class size and the inability to connect with the information being presented in class. 3D GameLab is a virtual gaming platform created by Chris Haskell and Lisa Dawley from Boise State University, which combats these types of issues by providing the opportunity for personalized learning in large classes. 3D GameLab is a platform that can be employed for homework which allows students to choose their own pathway through the game portal while moving at their own pace. This gaming application awards experience points (XP) to students once assignments (quests) are completed and approved by the professor and further rewards students with badges, achievements, and awards. Unlike traditional homework, 3D GameLab does not have hard deadlines but allows students to complete quests at their own pace as long as they reach a certain XP by the end of the semester; quests can also be completed in many different ways according to the students’ preferences, giving them the ability to personalize their education. Another valuable feature of this platform is direct feedback from the instructor on all quests completed.
To determine the effectiveness of this game portal for teaching engineering, it was employed in two sophomore level Introduction to Chemical Product Design classes (enrollments of 80 and 86 students respectively). As part of the assessment of this platform, we were interested in determining the different factors that influenced how and why students selected to complete particular assignments. When examining why students chose quests to complete, we looked into student ratings of the quests, completion times as dictated by student responses, level of XP associated with the quests, quests that would reward badges, and a combination of the above techniques as potential motivating factors. We also conducted a focus group with students from the two classes to capture their thoughts and opinions on the game based portal system and its impact on their educational experience within the class.
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