top of page

Gameful Learning Webinar Transcript

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 0:00

Hi, everyone, we're gonna get started in just a couple of minutes here want to make sure we give everybody time to get in. Who really is having a great day so far as I understand a lot of people are getting snowed on as people are trickling in here, too. I'd like to invite everyone to, you know, introduce themselves in the chat, have discussion there. And also take advantage of our q&a section as well. Breanna and I will be managing that throughout the webinar and raising any questions you might have. So feel free to take advantage of that and ask your questions in the little q&a section there.

Thank you.

All right, well, I think we'll get started. And by the time we get through introductions and everything like that, hopefully, anybody else that's trickling in will have an opportunity to come in as well. Want to make sure that we leave plenty of time for some conversation afterwards. So we'll get started and make sure that we're we're allowing that to introduce myself. I'm Yellowdig's, head of client success, Brian Verdine.

My role at Yellowdig, given my psychology and education background has primarily been to understand how people get the most out of the platform, understand really what makes it tick, and make really good recommendations to instructors based on various conversations that I have with instructors and students about the platform. I also help run the support side of things. So I hear, you know, what things are coming up in support. So without further ado, I want to introduce Dr. Ben Plummer and Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty. From the University of Michigan, I want to thank them for coming for sure. Give them a chance to more completely introduce themselves in a second. I just want to say I'm super excited about this given my background in psychology and a lot of my interest in sort of using informal learning spaces to try for learning which I think is how a lot of people tend to use yellowdig inside of the classroom. So I'm very excited and want to give you It's your chance to introduce yourself. And Ben, if you want to take it away.

Dr. Ben Plummer 5:07

Sure. Thanks, Brian. My name is Ben Plummer. My background is in psychology and education. I did my PhD at the University of Michigan focusing on motivation and gainful learning. And now I work as a learning experience designer for the Ross School of Business, designing courses for their online MBA program. I'm really excited to present this webinar. So thanks for having me, Brian.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 5:28

Thanks for thanks for joining me, Mika you want to introduce yourself?

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 5:34

Yeah, I'm Mika LaVaque-Manty. I'm the director of the honors program in the College of LSA at the University of Michigan, and also a professor of political science. I'm actually trained as a philosopher. But I've been working a lot on questions of autonomy and agency over the last 15 years. So this has been very interesting for me to think about this questions in practice.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 5:58

Great, thank you. Um, so I just want to give a quick rundown of how we see this going. So that, you know, anybody that wants to participate, can, can get their questions in and so you have some idea of what's coming. So this session is really intended not to be so much an introduction to Yellowdig, or a walkthrough of the platform, if you're interested in that, I highly suggest you reach out to Kailie or Brianna in the chat, and they'll gladly connect with you or get you some more information. Later, here, today, we're hoping to really talk about, um, you know, some of the principles that, that are behind some of the design and to allow people to ask questions and invite a real conversation around specifically student motivation, gainful learning, and how self determination plays a role in a thriving, motivated course, and students. So, my role here is basically to turn it over to Ben and, and Mika. And let them give a rundown of how they think about these areas and aspects of yellowdig, that, you know, they've initiated that that are related to those topics. And then quickly, at the end, I might throw in a little bit of data, depending on that we see from our platform, depending on how the conversation unfolds. And I want to make sure that we leave plenty of time at the end for any kind of questions and a sort of panel panel discussion. So if you have questions, please feel free to throw them in the chat. We might not stop for the very beginning part. But we will definitely try to address them as we're going. And please keep me in mind for that. So all right, I'm gonna turn it over to you, Ben. All right.

Dr. Ben Plummer 8:02

Cool. So before I get into talking about theories of motivation and gainful courses, I want to start with a bit of a metaphor. So I want you to imagine that you're a soccer player, and you're practicing and preparing for a big tournament. So you stepped up to take a practice shot during your practice, but you missed the goal. So you step over to the sidelines, and you're awaiting your feedback from your coach. After a few hours, your coach comes over and explains why you missed the shot and what you could have done differently. And then your coach says, I'm sorry, but you failed practice, you'll have another opportunity to take that shot in about six weeks. And if you make that goal, then you're still on the team. However, if you miss that, you're off the team and you will failed this season. Which that sounds kind of crazy, in that you'll never be at a soccer practice that works that way. At a typical athletic practice, you know, you're going to get countless opportunities to take those shots. And after each attempt, you're going to get feedback from your coach on how you can improve. And, you know, furthermore, your coach is probably not even expecting you to make all the goals that you take it practice but your coach is expecting you to iterate and improve with each failed attempt. However, that scenario I just described might seem a bit familiar, because it resembles the way that a typical college course may be structured. And that students grades are based around just a few extremely high stakes assessments where they get only a single attempt at them, and they can't be retaken. So you can imagine that if you only have three exams in a course, for instance, and you do poorly on that first one. It can be very hard to recover and get a good grade in that class. So even if you're willing to put in the work to work your butt off, study and improve and do well on those last two assessments. And you still might not even reach that, that target grade, which is incredibly demotivating for students. So The question becomes Well, how do we design environments that are more motivating? How can we leverage theories of motivation to make college courses more engaging and more motivating for students. And so with this, we turn to self determination theory, which is a meta theory of motivation that's been used and applied to a whole variety of situations from understanding motivation, or in our daily life, the workplace, competitive sports, video games, which I'll come back to a little later, and education. So According to this theory, we have three basic psychological needs as human beings, we have the need for autonomy or the need to make choices that matter and to feel as if we're the internal driver of those choices, we have the need for competence, so they need to feel a sense of mastery for completing challenges, well matched to our ability level. And lastly, the need for relatedness. So they need to have positive connections interactions with other people. Now, when an activity satisfies, or an environment satisfies these three basic psychological needs were said to be more intrinsically motivated, or more motivated to engage in that activity out of sheer interest and enjoyment for the activity. On the other hand, when these needs are not satisfied, or when they're undermined by an activity, we feel more extrinsically motivated, or we feel motivated to engage in that activity for some sort of separate reward or incentive or constraint. These are things like grades, thinking in the educational context, something that's really separate from actually the act of learning. Money is another example doing a job for money, or even something like fear of doing something because you fear getting negative feedback. Now, the problem with extrinsic motivation is that when you're motivated by these external constraints, if those constraints or incentives are ever removed, your motivation to do that activity also leaves with the incentive. So it's in our best interest to promote intrinsic motivation, or more internal motivation in students. And what we find actually is, countless studies in self determination theory have shown that when students feel as if these three basic psychological needs are satisfied, that it promotes a whole host of positive academic outcomes, things like increased classroom engagement, greater persistence of difficult tasks, and even better academic performance. And so it is in our best interest as instructors to promote needs satisfaction in students. And then, so the natural sort of question is, well, what can we do as instructors? How can we create an environment that supports student needs satisfaction? And there's a whole number of things you can do? There's really no set, correct answer for this question.

Instructor needs support, which is the construct that self integration theory sort of designated as actions instructors can do to support needs satisfaction can range from things like providing emotional support to students, giving students timely and constructive feedback, allowing students his own sort of internal background interests, experiences to guide the way they interact with the learning materials, within sort of a strong structure with transparent expectations. Those are all ways that instructors can promote the satisfaction. One additional way is through different ways of designing the course and gameful course design is what I like to think of as one way that instructors can sort of make a choice or providing an intervention to promote need satisfaction in students. So gameful course design is defined by Caitlin Hayward, who's one of the pioneers of this approach at the University of Michigan, as you know, a design philosophy that takes inspiration from well designed games, trait learning environments that support student motivation. And so you may think, Well, Why are we looking to to video games, for inspiration on how to create more motivating learning environments? And the answer lies actually back in self determination theory. As I said before, on self determination theory, researchers have looked at what drives players to come back to play video games for hours and hours and hours over long periods of time. And the answer is that it's real. It's not things like fancy graphics or gratuitous violence that keep players returning for more. These studies show that it's actually the underlying ways that video games promote player agency and provide mastery opportunities and promote positive interactions between players. It's the way that games are designed to do those things. The way they're designed to satisfy basic psychological needs, that actually drives player engagement. And so the question that we're trying to answer with gainful course design is how can we distill down those needs satisfying elements of video games and infuse those in an educational environment. And Caitlin's Haywards approach sort of has these three main tenants or principles, the first being holistic backwards design, which may be familiar to some the the notion that You know, everything in the course sort of builds towards a coherent whole. it all stems from course learning objectives and everything students do sort of fits in with the structure, nothing feels out of place. The other two key pieces of gameful courses on our learner agency are giving students choice in what sort of assignments they can play, or even how to complete assignments. And then lastly, making failure a key part of learning or allowing students to recover from setbacks. So if they do get a low grade on an assignment, they can put in additional effort and improve and reach that target grade that they'd like. So, you may have heard the term gamification and might be wondering why I'm saying gainful course design instead. And that's actually a deliberate choice. So what we found is, unfortunately, the term gamification has sort of become an umbrella term to refer to any environment that's been redesigned to look or feel like a video game, independent of what the underlying goal might be. So we want to distinguish between things like simply calling assignments quests, or giving students an achievement badge for just completing required assignments, things that don't really change the actual learning environment, stuff that's more surface level, so to speak, we want to distinguish between that and gameful course design or the more fundamental transformation of courses around these three pillars. So that's why we try it, we use the term gameful at university Michigan. So with that background, I'd like to hand it over to Mika who's going to be talking more specifically about gainful courses and in practice and some of his experiences using the approach.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 16:39

Thank you, Ben. And Thanks, Brian. And thanks, everybody, for coming. I wish I actually were in the Northern Marianas right now, because it's pretty cold in Michigan. So as I mentioned, my own research in political theory has been on the questions of agency and autonomy. So thinking about these issues. In practice, it's surprising that it took me 20 years of teaching to realize that these questions arise in classroom in interesting ways. One of the things I want to emphasize as I talk about some of the ways in which I've put in practice, some of the principles of gameful pedagogy is that there is what philosophers called multiple realizability of gameful pedagogy, so there's not one way of doing it. And one thing we've learned at the University of Michigan, where many of us have started using gameful pedagogy is that students are sometimes a little puzzled because gainful pedagogy can mean lots of different things. So what I'll talk about is just my way of doing it, it's just one of the many. And there are lots of different other possible approaches. So for me, almost regardless of what classes I teach, gameful means first multiple paths to achievement. So when you talk to video gamers, and they say, if they complain about a game, they say that game sucked, because it was totally linear. And if you think of a conventional course, those are very linear. I teach material where there are I have the luxury of having lots of different ways of getting to my learning goals, which are never exactly specific kind of competence or information mastery, but ways of thinking, so it's easy for me to develop multiple paths to achievement. I also have what I call an additive motivational structure. So students begin with zero as in a video game or a sporting contest, they begin with zero points and they accumulate. So that my new slogan is that anything you do you learn and earn something and it is moving away from the sort of 100% deficit model. Whatever you do, it might not go as well as you want it but you still learn something. And and so it's adds to the student motivation, they are more willing to take risks. And connected to that is the final aspect of gameful for me, which is safe failure. So the ability to repeat, iterate, as Ben said, and then one element which I use in some of my courses, which is allowing students to decide how they want to wait some set of assignments. So point multipliers, that students can decide how to allocate them for themselves after they've had some chances to try different different kinds of assignment types. And that has worked pretty well for me. There are lots of different other possibilities, but that's more or less what I do in almost all of my courses. I want to say something about how yellowdig has fit it into that I started using yellowdig. really intensely last fall, I used it in a fully asynchronous course to try to bring about some of the community and interactivity that you have in synchronous courses when you are either in a room or in person. So I used it as, as a discussion board for a an honors sophomore level course on social scientific study of wellness. And I had 95 students. throughout the semester, they wrote more than 7000 posts and I checked this morning that's amounted to 513,160 7000 words. So that's about almost two War and Peaces. And I'll return to that volume in a moment. And right now, I'm teaching political science 101 introduction to political theory, I have 235 students were on week two, and I checked this morning, they have already written at 4533 words, in a week, we began last Tuesday. And in this class, because we're partly synchronous, the discussion board is one of the optional paths that students can choose, they can eventually there are three optional paths, on top of this sort of common assignments, like doing the readings and attending class and participating in discussion with the Graduate Student instructors, and then they can choose papers, or a big project or just continuing to participate. So out of these three, they have to focus on two towards the end of the semester. And so they are now just trying it out. And as I said, 84,000 words. Now one of the things I care a lot about as a humanist, even though I'm in a social science is writing. And we know that A for effort is kind of meaningless. But there are some practices where practice is important. I care a lot about writing. And so if we say that students produce a lot of words, it's not always good words. It's what writing pedagogical calls, low stakes assignments, but it's really great to see them do that. So what I've learned using yellowdig, and thinking about it in the context of gameful, making it clear that students have a lot of autonomy makes it work better. So instead of seeding posts, or telling the students like, here's my, my seed post, you know, comment on this, just telling them that right about anything that is relevant for this course that you think is relevant for this course, it actually works much better. It's particularly important during this pandemic, and remote learning where students feel like they like structure. And I think it's really helpful for them to see and experience me as a kind of an interlocutor. Of course, there's a classroom hierarchy that exists and continue to exist, because I will grade or I might graduate students will grade them. But when I comment with other students on a student's post, as opposed to telling students comment on my awesome authoritative post, there's a kind of a genuine conversation that happens. And then the other thing that ties that I'll end with the ties to what Ben was talking about, about extrinsic motivation. So we know that our students are motivated by extrinsic motivators, we can get rid of that, because that's just the way the system works. But the yellowdig, so far has been one of the best ways for us to take that extrinsic motivation, the desire to get good grades, and to do things for grades, and then essentially incentivize them to engage in practices that will be meaningful for them. And they're the conversations, the organic conversations I've seen on Yellowdig have been a great example of that. So that's partly why I'm being very excited to see this particular aspect as as helping my broader gameful pedagogy. And I'll end there and look forward to lots of questions. I guess one question I, I do want to mention is that early on, there was a question about, what about students gaming the system, and we've started saying is that if you game your course, you should be prepared and accept the fact that students will game the system. So sometimes, game, they will game it in ways that doesn't achieve your learning goals. But if you encourage them to think creatively, and strategically, then as long as you spend some time thinking carefully about your design, when they game the system, they get what you want to get them to get out of the class. So it can end up working pretty well. And I'll end there.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 24:28

Thanks, Mika. Yeah, I mean, I was definitely going to address the question of gaming the system a little bit. And I'm glad that you did. Partially, I think one of the other things that, that I would point out, sort of, and I think both of you hit on it a little bit, is, you know, one of the defining characteristics of most games is that, you know, they're kind of fun and people like to play them because there is some, you know, some motivation. That's that is driving them to do that. And I think in the case of what we're trying to create at Yellowdig, the hope is that students are seeing the value in participating. And they don't have that much motivation to actually try to game the system. If, if participating in these conversations is, is rewarding in and of itself, and the things that are there interesting, and students feel like they're learning, they don't have nearly the motivation to try to cheat that system. And I think that's largely what we see in practice. And I don't know if either of you have any reactions to that, but that's what we've largely seen. Okay, so if anybody has any questions for Mika or Ben, please feel free to jump in and we'll try to surface those. If there aren't any, I might just flip to a couple of slides of data that I have, and then open it back up for the floor. And Ben, if there's anything that you wanted to jump in and, and follow up on what Mika said, feel free.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 26:15

Can I just quickly follow up on that there was a question about replying to the posts of peers. So one thing that's been really cool for me to see, and this is again, more if this is more about the conditions of the pandemic, then specifically about gameful pedagogy. But, but the student conversations that began happening a lot, particularly last semester, when we went remote, where we had students in sometimes 12 time zones away, participating with one another, our first year students in particular, were desperate for just, you know, getting to know other people. And some students explicitly said to me, that I know this is BS, because we get points for saying things. And then at the end of the semester, they said, I can't believe that I actually ended up liking those people and getting to know them pretty well. So they began cynically, and, and they, the conversations among their peers ended up being the thing that, you know, gave them the motivation. So that sort of ties to the issue of trying to game the system and getting to enjoy it as they went. Yeah, and

Dr. Ben Plummer 27:23

I'll follow up on that, too. We've used Yellowdig and a number of our online MBA classes, and these are fully online students who have always been online, and they sort of crave that sort of incidental interaction, you know, you pass your classmates in the hallway, and you you chat about something, or talk about how your field intersect. And so leveraging Yellowdig, as a way for students to do that, in the context of different classes has been a really powerful tool for us. And, you know, when you think about it, um, you know, you set a point threshold in Yellowdig, like you can earn, say, you know, 10,000 points during the semester, and, you know, going above those 10,000 points isn't really going to help you at all, because you can only earn a max of 10,000. When I look at the data from the online MBA classes who have used this, I still I see a sizable percentage of students, you know, upwards of 50, or 60%, going well above that required point threshold, indicating that, you know, they've earned all the required points. And so their continued engagement in the community is really just motivated by that interactive component. And so, yeah, I find that I find that Yeah, maybe students start thinking about just the points, but but through the way that they interact with their peers, it looks to me like they're kind of internalizing the value of that, and that are sort of self motivated going forward.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 28:35

Yeah, that would be a good segue for me to just show some of the data that kind of supports that kind of outcome. Um, so you know, I'm just gonna skip right through it. But globally, our point system is, is definitely having an impact on how much students are participating. And when we put in place, a weekly Max, that kind of gets students to come back on a regular basis, one of the reasons that we do that as it gets more back and forth conversation, and help students see more of the intrinsic value in participating in those. Um, but our point system definitely is impacting student behavior. And, you know, to kind of build on top of that, we have initial individual examples of instructors, this one from the University of Florida, who used Yellowdig data across a whole bunch of semesters, same instructor used it without prompts and really sort of open ended way on which is a lot of what we recommend doing. Um, but he tried different point systems all throughout, and there's a few things that I like to point out. First of all, the social point categories are something that was sort of added to Yellowdig. So specifically getting points when when other students Comment on your posts is something that didn't exist previously, something we added in this instructor started using those social points, we find that those help encourage students to focus on the other students as audience get good conversations going. But one of the other things about how do you encourage students to reply to post is honestly just reward them in the point system appropriately so that they focus on making replies to other students as one of the pathways to achieving their point goal. And what we see time and again, in our data, is that as students start talking back and forth more, they start participating above the point goal, more. So the discussion that is happening around a few posts is really what ends up driving student engagement, more student reading, and, and, in fact, those communities end up having more posts, because they also have a lot more conversation going on. But one more slide I just wanted to show to Ben's point is that we do see in a lot of our communities, that a very significant number of students are, you know, achieving the goal and going far beyond it. And those communities or communities that are really allowing students to have, you know, some agency and you know, are getting good conversations going. And it uses the point system to set up that environment. And then once you have an interesting environment for people to be participating in, they do it pretty thoughtfully and willingly. And I think maybe that flies in the face of it, what a lot of people think of when they think of a discussion board for a course. But those are the kinds of things we do see in our data. So

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 32:00

following up on that point, I think it ties to one question about just strategies. There's a question about strategies, what strategies we've used, and specifically speaking about instructor interaction. So if we think of normal classroom pedagogy, even on something like highly interactive class where you have group work, I learned a long time ago that you almost always need to debrief or students just think that it's busy work. And so I think it's important for instructor presence to be there on something like a yellowdig discussion board or anything equivalent. But at the same time, it's, it's interesting for me to see that it's, it doesn't have to be constant. And it doesn't have to be sort of overwhelmingly comprehensive with even with 95 students, I could not keep up with everything the students were posting. And I found that they actually didn't care. Sometimes I felt like, you're supposed to think I'm cool. And they were like, who cares about Mika, you know, it's like, let's talk amongst ourselves. And and that was really helpful. And that speaks to what you were just saying, Brian, about the way that once you have a community going, they are really talking among themselves. And the learning is happening there. But I do think that it's helpful, it's helpful for me to engage partly to again, vindicate that, that they are talking about the kinds of things that we want them to talk about, and then see where learning is happening in words not happening. So it's also helpful for the sort of what we might call just in time pedagogy. When I'm thinking by next lectures, are they getting last week's issues? Do I need to return to these issues? Or are there some ways in which I can tie things together? So so I think that that's, you know, this doesn't speak exactly to instructor interaction, but I do think that yellowdig both freeze the instructor a little bit. So I didn't read all of those half a million words, half. Yeah, half a million words. I didn't read all of them. And it was fine. I don't I don't feel like I neglected my duties when I didn't do that.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 34:20

Um, there's one question in the chat. That seems like maybe a good segue, because you mentioned it, Mika about sort of the size of your class. And so I guess the question for both of you would be, how do you see class size playing into the use of yellowdig? Maybe you kind of already answered it's maybe a little bit for you, but specifically for your students? Possibly. And do you think they're overwhelmed by the volume? Is there anything that you would recommend in terms of smaller number of posts or class sizes, you know, Yeah, like a burden.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 35:05

I think I think you need scale. So I haven't tried it in a very small class, I had some colleagues at Michigan, wondering whether they should try it in a grad seminar, obviously, grad seminar that has to be remote because of the pandemic. And I don't know, it might work. But as we know, from any sort of social media tool, whether use pedagogical or not, there has to be some economies of scale for it to get any kind of traction. And, and if I don't know, with my 300 students, almost 300 students, there's going to be posts that or themes that get repeated several times because the things just get buried in the volume. And if it were a conventional blog, which I used to use, when blogs were cool, that would be a problem. But but with yellowdig, it doesn't really matter. And then the fact that when when you get engagement, it sort of gets to the top. So there's a little bit of this sort of accumulation of advantage, you get a provocative or popular post, and then that gets more traction. But, you know, maybe that's in a macro sense, a problem. But but that ends up still generating a lot of discussion. And I haven't heard from students that somebody who doesn't generate discussion, feeling marginalized feel left out.

Dr. Ben Plummer 36:24

Yeah, I'll echo that sentiment on the courses in our program, we've been around maybe, between 80 and 120 students, and so on the kind of medium size scale. And, yeah, I think that you can think of it like a traditional kind of social media platform, and in some ways where, you know, you can put a post out there, and it's gonna get varying amounts of traction, and the posts that get more, you know, votes or likes or something are going to rise to the top. And so it's a similar thing here. And because students aren't graded on the quality of their posts, you know, if I make a post that completely falls flat, and no one really likes it, I'm still gonna get the points for that post. You don't get that kind of pressure, as you would if you were grading the content of discussions on, say, a traditional discussion board. So yeah, I find that like, like, Mika was saying that it sort of naturally scales to the larger side. And maybe you see sort of sub communities forming on the yellowdig board, I would say that making use of the topic tags in yellowdig, which allows students to sort of categorize and organize their posts becomes more essential, the larger the community gets, and just help students organize different things

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 37:30

are academically Bob will love you for saying about using the topics. That's one of his favorite suggestions. But for courses, we would typically suggest just making them required. Because it does help with some of that. You know, what our data shows as far as scale? It's been a question I've been asked a lot, we don't see students behaving very differently at all, in courses that range from about 10 to 1000s. And I think at least part of it is because when they come into the community, there's one post at the top, you know, and you just scroll through a few you take part in the conversation. And maybe there's some stuff that you missed in those really large courses. But as you guys said, it's it's not the same kind of modality of like, I have to consume absolutely everything. And we've actually recently studied that also with getting students like recommender scores from different science courses. And we don't see the correlation between core size and recommender score was point 008, which is effectively zero for for any kind of sample. That would be a real world sample. So I really been looking for reasons to actually recommend different sizes, and I can't find it. Um, so there was a question in the q&a that I guess I wanted to surface now. To you, Ben, and Mika. How would you suggest best introducing your students to came for learning maybe in general, and what issues do you find? You need to dress to get them to buy into that? Are there any kinds of adjustments that you've really noticed that you'd have to make during courses?

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 39:23

that's a that's a great question. And having dealt with, I won't say struggled with it. But having encountered with that challenge now going on 12 years. I think there are a couple of things that I've learned. One is that I think the most important thing is you need to open the hood, you need to explain what you're doing. We know from again, certainly from writing pedagogy in other contexts, that it's always good pedagogical practice to explain why you're doing something. Also acknowledging that it's going to be different And I used to use the metaphor when we had the Bowl Championship Series that this is way easier to understand than how the Bowl Championship Series works. And if you can figure it out, you can figure out this class. But it is true that it's going to be very different from what they're used to. So So one thing is that talking about it, and not just talking about it once, not just putting it in the syllabus, but talking about it a little bit. So that's one important thing. And then, especially with the with the additive grading scheme, which isn't a requirement for gainful, but happens to be, as I said, part of mine. The cost is that we might, you know, if it's a fall semester, we might find ourselves around Thanksgiving, and students see, see they are at a C. And they are freaking out, if there are high achieving students who are expecting, hoping to get an A. So one thing is to do is to just use ways of allowing them to sort of project and think about and plan to know that if they do these things, at x y&z levels, because they've done them so far, they're going to be fine. Then the other thing is that as I have created different kinds of points schemes, I tried to do a pretty early sense of reward. And this ties to the social self determination theory that had been talked about some some sense of competence. And so using some of those extrinsic rewards relatively early on to reward the students for sense, giving them a sense that they they're doing something, right. So it's pretty quickly for in my classes, it's pretty quick for students to recognize that they are passing the course, at the University of Michigan monitors, you know, grades, pretty high, for better for worse. So maybe a third of the way through the semester, if you've done everything, you are already at a C range, you're safely passing the course. And then I actually have a highly non monotonic grading. So they get to sort of their regular course averages pretty quickly. And then it's really hard to get to the A. So that's one way of dealing with the, with a Thanksgiving freak out, allowing students to recognize that they are going to be fine. So those, I guess those are the two things I talked about, basically, open the hood, explain everything you're doing several times, recognizing that it's a different scheme, and then creating a reward scheme that alleviates or swages their worries a little bit.

Part 2:

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 0:00

that's a that's a great question. And having dealt with, I won't say struggled with it. But having encountered with that challenge now going on 12 years, I think there are a couple of things that I've learned. One is that I think the most important thing is, you need to open the hood, you need to explain what you're doing. We know from again, certainly from writing pedagogy in other contexts, that it's always good pedagogical practice to explain why you're doing something. Also acknowledging that it's going to be different. And I used to use the metaphor when we had the chat Bowl Championship serious that this is way easier to understand than how the Bowl Championship Series works. And if you can figure it out, you can figure out this class, but it is true that it's going to be very different from what they're used to. So So one thing is that talking about it, and not just talking about it once, not just putting it on the syllabus, but talking about it a little bit. So that's one important thing. And then, especially with it with the additive grading scheme, which isn't a requirement for gainful, but happens to be, as I said, part of mine. The cost is that we might, you know, if it's a fall semester, we might find ourselves around Thanksgiving, and students see, see they are at a C, and they are freaking out, if they're a high achieving students who are expecting, hoping to get an A. So one thing is to do is to just use ways of allowing them to sort of project and think about and plan to know that if they do these things at x y&z levels, because they've done them so far, they're going to be fine. Then the other thing is that as I have created different kinds of points schemes, I tried to do a pretty early sense of reward. And this ties to the self determination theory that had been talked about some some sense of competence. And so using some of those extrinsic rewards relatively early on to reward students for sense, giving them a sense that they they're doing something, right. So it's pretty quickly for in my classes, it's pretty quick for students to recognize that they are passing the course, at the University of Michigan, you know, grades, pretty high, for better or for worse. So maybe a third of the way through the semester, if you've done everything, you are already at a C range, you're safely passing the course. And then I actually have a highly non monotonic grading. So they get just sort of the regular course averages pretty quickly. And then it's really hard to get to the A. So that's one way of dealing with the with a Thanksgiving freakout. allowing students to recognize that they are going to be fine. So those, I guess those are the two things I talk about, basically, open the hood, explain everything you're doing several times, recognizing that it's a different scheme, and then creating a reward scheme that alleviates sort of swages. There worries a little bit.

Dr. Ben Plummer 3:23

I'll add something too and something that I talked about with instructors, when adopting any sort of new educational technique is that, you know, you don't have to dive in 110% on your very first go around. And this is especially true with gameful learning, you know, it can be detrimental, if you know you're new to this approach, and you try to do a million different things, Okay, I'm gonna, students can choose to do any assignment or none of them. And I'm going to give them badges. And I'm going to have some, some assignments, unlock others, and try to develop this hugely complex structure on your first attempt. And then students are frustrated because things don't work, right, or the structure isn't transparent. And so, you know, I would think about just maybe sort of a gradual transition. If it's something that's completely new to you. And thinking about different sort of elements you can sort of incrementally add to your course, you're not trying to change too much all at once. Because what we find is that when the rules of a course, or the game full system, so to speak, are confusing, or they're not consistent across the semester, that that is not students don't really feel that great about that. And so by starting with a less complex structure, might be more manageable for first time instructors. So that's a one thing I would keep in mind as well.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 4:39

Yeah, one thing that I can guarantee you generates a lot of student support tickets is if the goalposts get moved on them in the middle of in the middle of a semester and they don't understand sort of how or why the you know, the point requirements have changed. So that's that that would be my bit of feedback. Um, I see a question here from Josh. And maybe this fits a little bit into the question you just answered, too. But um, what are the strategies you've used as an instructor in terms of the amount of interaction or within a course designed to engage students who are specifically very task oriented? So I think one thing about gameful design in general, is, is because there are multiple pathways. I mean, that's one of the sort of hallmarks of a game is that there's multiple pathways to success? Um, how do you kind of deal with students that want to just kind of check off boxes and consider their job done?

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 5:48

That it Yeah, that's a great challenge. Because I direct the honors program, where 40% of our incoming students identify as pre med, which are not the only group of students who are hyper check boxy, to use a new adjective, but are pretty good example. It's, it's a constant challenge. And, and I guess, in some ways, an easy answer is to return to some of the things that both Ben and I already talked about, which is said, make the checkbox the one that forces them to be autonomous. So when they say what should I do now, I tell them that, you know, you have these choices. And I'm not going to tell you like if you have ideas, I'm happy to have a conversation about what you're interested in, if you come to office hours or whatever, but but it is up to you. So part of the frustration that students have is that they want to be told what to do exactly. And and so there gameful design, in some ways, forces, makes the checkboxes There are basically three equivalent checkboxes, and the students need to check one of them. But it's up to them to decide. And that's where that's one site where the conversation about what are you interested in, can come into play. And And again, if we think of something like that pre med, so so my class that I talked about is called wellness. And it's a social scientific study of wellness. So we knew that we were going to get a bunch of pre meds because you put health or wellness anywhere, and the pre meds flocked to it. And then that class was, in fact, kind of an intervention, to their educational practices for thinking about what's good for them, and trying to get them away from the checkbox mentality. So So part of the challenge, explicit challenge for me, and then explicit challenge for the students was, how do you develop your intrinsic interest? When you say that you want to have a profession in health careers? You want to be a doctor? What does it mean for you? How do you think about compassion or empathy during a pandemic? Or how do you think about solving the collective action problem of mask wearing and things like that, and allowing them to think about those intellectual questions that they claim to be interested in as part of the some of the checkboxes, so the paths that they had to choose? I don't know if this addresses it, but it's trying to take the extrinsic motivation, so their strategic instrumentalities as a given and then forcing them to think about more carefully about what why they want to do that.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 8:38

Great. Um, and I don't know, if you have anything to add, I can definitely jump to another question.

Dr. Ben Plummer 8:47

I don't have anything particular add to this one, right.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 8:50

Um, we have somebody that asked, Has anyone used this for an ungraded? Course? What methods of course design help support this type of environment? I don't know if either of you have used it in that modality, we have seen some people use it without a grade. And just based on the one graph that I showed, points can be kind of motivating and encouraging a little behavior change without having a specific grade tied to it. So I usually recommend people still use the point system, even if they're not tying it directly through it, right. But I don't know if either of you have any other experiences with that or suggestion.

Dr. Ben Plummer 9:37

I worked with an instructor who used it as essentially, like an optional assignment. So students would still like earn points, but it actually didn't factor into their final grades for the course. Unfortunately, that course was also relatively small. It was around 20 students, and so it was tough to look at kind of differences and posting activity, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't use Yellowdig in an ungraded context, as Brian was saying, points are a great motivator. So you may see a lower volume of posts, but I would still expect students to interact, especially if that's sort of a behavior that's kind of promoted through the course designer. Something that the instructor prioritizes.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 10:17

Yeah, I, I've tried to use it, I'm actually trying to use it right now, as part of the community we have. So the Honors Program has 1800 students, and we had an unusually long winter break. So we've tried to think of digital affordances to try to maintain community. And we created a Yellowdig community for that purpose, specifically on on issues of wellness and basically, particularly workouts and things like that. And it's not getting a whole lot of traction. But But I don't think that it's just that it's partly because students first have to express interest. And then we add them to a Canvas site, and we're feeding them to yellowdig through the canvas LTI, which is, it's not clunky, but it's, it is always a couple of clicks away. And then yellowdig, it's a, I think it's a feature, but it can be a bug that in this sort of constant information overflow, it does not ping you when somebody posts unless they just comment on you. So then people might have joined that particular yellowdig community, but unless they go to it, they don't see activities there. So, so I don't, I don't blame yellowdig, I blame the current conditions, we're all drowning in information. On the one hand, we want to know more. And on the other hand, we're trying to curtail it. So I don't I won't call it a failure yet. But certainly, it's not getting the kind of traction that it would if it were in my class and said this affects your grade.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 11:55

Yeah, we've definitely seen overall with with communities. I think at the end of the day, what is important is that the community feels like it's satisfying a need that students have, and that they're, they're being kind of pulled back in through that. And one way to kind of set up that condition is obviously with the grade and with using that system to do that, um, you know, I think different communities have different sizes, the size of the community might matter more, when you're trying to do things that aren't related to grade. And I think that's probably, you know, there's there's sort of a standard social media or online community concept. But in, in, in a standard community, only 10% of the people ever generate content. And maybe if you're, you know, mom or something is on Facebook, you know that she sort of looks around at the posts or whatever, but might not actually produce that many. That's the way a lot of people interact with, with standard social media. Um, so one, one important aspect of the point system and yellowdig, especially in classes, is frankly, just getting students there to get them to start participating, and get that ball rolling. And that's one reason that we, you know, think that the point system really helps get these communities really go. I'm not seeing any new questions come up here. I hope I didn't miss any Kailie or Brianna, if you if you noticed any of that, that we've missed, please let us know. If not, anybody wants to ask additional ones, please feel free.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 13:47

There's one question I want to flag so that the person doesn't think we're ignoring her, but it's about video game apps? And I can answer that. So. So in a way, what Ben said earlier is that we want to move away from gamification in part, because we don't want people to think that this is just about video games. Now I happen to like video games, I think studying them is interesting, I play some, but I've moved away in in my course design, from the language of games. Partly because there are some people who get very excited about it. And there are some people who don't get very excited about it. And then there is, as been pointed out the kind of critical discourse, you know, the game theory game scholar in Bo ghost when he wrote that famous piece, gamification is bullshit several years ago, that gets a lot of traction. And I think there are some really good points that he makes about the way in which what often what goes under gamification is manipulative, which is the very opposite of what we're trying to do. So so this is a long winded way of saying that I haven't been able to take advantage nature of the video game tools, many of our colleagues who do gameful pedagogy started doing it because they were teaching on video games. But but so I can answer that question, basically.

Dr. Ben Plummer 15:16

Yeah, if you're interested in that, that sort of work. The you could look for terms like serious games or games for learning, is generally the the terms that that section of the field uses to do their game development in their research.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 15:31

One interesting thing that we've seen just in some of the gamification things that we've tested out, where we're sort of put into the platform and gotten responses from from, from students and instructors, is, you know, if we get a little bit too playful, or a little bit too gamey, with some of the things that we put out, you know, people sort of a certain subset of the user base response that sort of makes it feel to kid like, we're not not, you know, serious for a college environment. So I think you're always sort of towing the line on some of that kind of overly playful stuff, maybe when it comes to, you know, if there's not kind of a thoughtful reason behind doing it. And, and, and sort of meeting a variety of students that are going to react to things in different ways.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 16:33

Yeah, we've seen that and especially partly during the pandemic, given that so many of our students across the world are having various kinds of hardships. And then on top of that, top of the pandemic related political issues, protests and political stress, a lot of people were feeling it's not that they didn't want relief. But when thinking and talking about very serious stuff, education, you know, if if you're in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and have a hard time getting a Wi Fi signal, and then you go to your hard to achieve class and it's all cutesy, you can resent it a little bit. So right now, in particular, sort of kid kid, like, cute, things aren't really going over too well. So I kind of like the, for example, the interface of yellowdig. that achieves a kind of playfulness. But at the same time, it's not cutesy, of course, people have lots of different perspectives. So somebody might think that it's not cool enough. And somebody might think that it's, you know, all too cutesy. So it's not that there's a one answer. But these are really interesting questions to think about. And again, zooming out a little bit thinking about course design, like what is it that you're trying to do with your course, it doesn't matter what you call it, but if you call your, if you call your midterm exam, and a quest, you're not achieving anything. So I think that it's better to start thinking about, like, what is it that you're trying to do and why?

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 18:10

Well, I want to just share a couple of events and maybe feeling I don't know, if you want to jump in to talk about these, not to put you on the spot, but um, and then if there are any last minute questions, please throw them in there. And we'll try to get to them. before we sign off.

Kailie Starr (Yellowdig) 18:33

Sure thing. Thanks, everyone. This was a great conversation. I'm happy to be a part of it. So we do have a couple events coming up with yellowdig. So we actually will be attending the UPCEA solar conference. So that's the first week of February we'll be exhibiting and you'll see us and in various sessions attending. We also have some other webinars coming up as well. So we have a student panel coming up, February 17. So that's very exciting. You'll hear from a couple yellowdig users get kind of the student perspective and just kind of more of a casual conversation about their experience with yellowdig. And then on February 18, we have our office hours. So this is for, you know our clients or if you're kind of a new user, kind of our office hours just to get your questions answered and to help you kind of set up your courses. So that's what's coming up for us.

Brian Verdine, Ph.D. (Yellowdig's Head of Client Success) 19:31

I'll try to throw those links in the in the chat here for anybody that wants knowing if there are any other questions. before we say goodbye, please feel free to drop them in Same time and I guess I want to just make sure I thank you, Ben and Mika, for for a great conversation for for having us with us. We really appreciate it. And hope to continue to talk to you as part of the user panel that we're, we're all part of. Thank you. Hey, Brian. Thanks, everybody.

Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty 20:27

Thanks for participating.

Transcribed by

bottom of page