I can haz badge now?

Ready for the big news…? I’m officially qualified in Gamification, I’ve done the course! But wait I don’t have a badge…. does that still count? Do my achievements in life mean anything without a collection of pixels displayed in a visually appealing way?

OK, on a serious note, yes I did the recent Gamification course on Coursera with about a million billion other people from across our tiny planet, but now it’s over I wanted to take some time to reflect on the experience.

Overall I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge, the mysterious background puzzle, but most of all the forums. The most valuable part of the course for me was the people who were kind enough to share their thoughts and ideas around Gamification. However I found quite a few of them falling into the traditional ‘crap trap’ of Gamification; PBLs – points, badges and leader boards to those who didn’t attend the course. Unfortunately those who moved beyond this interpretation seemed few and far between. Some of the myths of Gamification were debunked through the lectures but not enough for my liking.

My biggest problem with the course was the need to fake my opinion of Gamification in order to complete the assignments. Each of the written assignments forced me to design a Gamification system. As a designer my first question upon reading each case was…’do they need Gamification?’ That was one of the lessons from the course, but it was never even considered when it came to the assignments. In most cases the answer was no, in most cases the information provided was high level and meaningless. If anyone thinks they can implement meaningful Gamification solutions based on that level of understanding I wish them well and send them on their merry way to live out their lives in the delusional world in which they live. But at the same time it was free, so there has to be a balance, but I personally would like to have seen more detail.

So I struggled with supporting Gamification for the examples provided; it felt wrong, but I had to…hey, I wanted to win 😉

Anyway I powered through and despite my personal views on the subject my heart was warmed and my mind encouraged by the interest, that was shown in the course. There were about 80,000 initial students! Now that’s incredible! I sincerely hope people don’t stop now the course has stopped. I really hope they keep learning.

Some specific issues I had on the course where that the examples of Gamification were pretty poor. I guess this comes back to how I see Gamification but I thought they were poor in that they seemed to piggy back on other successful mechanics. And this is a doosey for me right now…just because its engaging and good user interface design, doesn’t mean it’s a game. Some of the examples were just plain wrong in my point of view and perhaps this is because there is a blurring between the lines of games and interfaces but to me Zombies Run is not Gamification, it is a game. The input mechanic isn’t a joypad, it’s your body, but it’s still a game, not game mechanics applied to a non game system. Most of the examples referred to the PBL syndrome and didn’t really go beyond that.

As I said previously the majority of students were new to the topic and this had its pros and cons, you had those with motivation to learn something new and be part of this creative community but on the flip side if you tried to speak up against the professor or what the course was teaching, you would be slated there were even accusations of bullying. There was a significant level of hostility in the forums which I just didn’t get. Surely courses such as this thrive on debate and especially as the topic of Gamification is in its infancy it needs further definition if it stands any chance of survival. Or perhaps people were hypnotised by the professors crazy non blinking eyes… I’m not sure.

For the written assignments, the assessment rubrics were vague and the examples somewhat culturally specific. I found I often had to be creative in how I graded peoples work, but it was excellent that I could write a few comments, without that personal approach the scores would be pretty useless.

One of the  amusing yet frustrating element of the lectures was that the Professor liked to draw on the screen – kinda like American football commentators – I found this pretty infuriating to begin with as he would highlight EVERYTHING on screen rather than critical components. But in the end I just had to laugh and go with it.

There were guest lecturers to each of the segments which I found interesting. It was incredibly useful to hear a wider opinion base as the professor is obviously a fan of Gamification and gave it an overwhelming positive spin. However it would have been nice to have more debate and have critics interviewed for example. So overall I felt it a little one sided, and biased.

However upon ending the course I was left with a bad taste in my mouth as it turned out it was all a big promotion for his book, I guess you have to make your money where you can nowadays but I just felt this was a little distasteful and made me feel like the whole course was  tainted a little.

Coursera as a platform was pretty good in the main, there were quite a few technical bugs but they were all overcome in good time, and for a free service we can’t really ask for more.

All in all, the course was enjoyable and I would definitely sign up to do another one.


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