OLC Innovate Reflection

by Jacob Guerra-Martinez

During the week of April 4th through April 8th, I was able to attend the OLC Innovate Conference, which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was there to present alongside Dr. David Noffs for our presentation “Game On: The Practical Application of Game Elements in Online Graduate Courses.” Not only did we present our ideas on gamification, I also attended sessions that expanded my view of how gamification can be applied to different courses. Both focused on the narrative aspect of gamification, showing ways that story elements assist in course design.

The first, “What’s Your Story? Creating Narrative in Your Gamified Course” by Cheryl Borsage from Southern Illinois University mentioned an important aspect of gamification that really stuck with me, which was the framing of course objectives as challenges. The reason why this is important in gamification is because when gamifying a course, students need to have challenges that need to be measured and built upon, with each level increasing in challenge. That is where the objectives come in, because they represent the areas that students need to master in order to succeed in the course. Once those are set, you can then think about the activities that accomplish those challenges.

The second by Cathy Russell from the University of Arizona and Lone Star College, called “Leveraging Narrative in Online Course Design,” applied the concept of the hero’s journey when designing your gamified course. I found this to be particularly interesting because it made complete sense; your students are characters that are trying to accomplish a mission, so what what kind of roadmap would they need to make it to the “elixir”? Star Wars is one of the best examples of the hero’s journey, with Luke Skywalker as the lonely farm boy who suddenly finds himself thrust into this grand mission to destroy the Death Star. While your students are not required to do something as daring, they still set out to accomplish a goal that enriches their lives.

In any good gamified course, it all starts with a story. However, what I learned is that the story does not necessarily need to be a complex narrative. In fact, it can simply be the outline of what your students will do in your course. So what will your story be?

If you would like to know more about gamification or want to brainstorm some ideas, contact Learning Designer Jacob Guerra-Martinez.

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