I’ve been participating in a Games-based Learning MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for the last 3 weeks and thought that it was time to take a moment to reflect on how it is going.
This is actually the third MOOC that I’ve signed up for but only the first one that I’ve actively engaged with – and I have to say that in the last week or so, I’ve felt myself drifting away as other “life” and work stuff has cropped up. (More on this drift soon)
If you don’t already know, MOOCs are a relatively recent phenomenon based around Connectivist principles of education espoused by the likes of George Siemens and other prominent modern educators. Structures vary but they appear to be based around creating a (short) course structure and then providing themed resources and opportunities for participants to engage at whatever level they find most comfortable.
The GameMOOC takes this and includes synchronous get-togethers (in this case working with central U.S time – not so great for us Aussies but if you put in the work, it only seems fair that you get to do the things at times that best suit you) including tweetchat sessions, Google+ hangouts (I didn’t know people were still using that but it’s interesting to see how effectively it can be used) and excursions (field trips) to online game worlds (World of Warcraft, Second Life and Massively Minecraft) to demonstrate and discuss some of the ideas covered in the resources for the weeks.
It also makes use of forums, a Flickr account, an ARG and a few other bibs and bobs, all hosted on Shivtr.com – a site generally used to support WoW guilds. This includes a basic badge system as well as ranking, which seem consistent with the theme of the material being covered. (I just wish I was more fond of WoW and that whole fantasy aesthetic). In fact, one of the things that I’ve noted regularly over the years is the large presence of WoW players in the edugames community. I don’t mind an RPG in the least but I’ve never really connected with fantasy themes and I can’t help wondering if this is a factor in the slight distance that I’ve felt from this experience so far.
As an educational experience, I’ve found much of the provided content interesting and tried to reach out and connect on the forums but it seems that much of the action is occurring in the synchronous sessions. Few discussion threads have more than a reply or two to any post and there’s something rather disheartening about making a string of posts or replies and then seeing nothing further. With such a broad scope of interests in the “community”, I can appreciate that some people simply don’t find the things that everyone says to be of interest to them but on the other hand, good eModeration principles in more conventional forms of eLearning suggest that organisers take an active role in encouraging participation by following up on discussions from time to time. As this is my first MOOC, I’m happy to admit that I might be missing the point.
Week 1 centred around Serious Games and James Gee’s notion of Big G Games. It offered a sound introduction to some of the ideas around what makes a game a game (I’m not going to go into depth about the material in any of the weeks as there was a lot of really interesting stuff covered and it is well worth signing up and checking it all out)
Week 2 moved on to Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) games and ideas of Flow (immersion) and Fiero (moments of triumph) in games as well as looking beyond the game itself to the metagame, the community of practice and interest that arises around games in the form of fan-fiction, machinima, walkthroughs and other content.
Week 3 was all about the idea of Gamification – bringing game elements to the classroom (and real life, if there is a difference) to enhance motivation and engagement. The idea of the Playdeck, specific gameplay elements that can be used to create gaming experiences was something of a revelation.
As I said earlier, I sort of drifted away a little last week – busy times at work and a sense of not quite connecting at times with the MOOC experience – but I’m still plugging away. In the positive column, it has inspired me to reactivate this blog and to try to find some opportunities here at work to make use of GBL principles. I’m in a slightly different position to many of the GameMOOC participants it seems, in that I’m not teaching any students but working with teachers on their own use of technology in education. I don’t actually have a subject that I can just drop these ideas into, I need to find a teacher as excited about this as I am and convince them that this is worth a try. And of course, everyone is busy.
I do also wonder whether I might be extroverted enough to really garner the full benefits of the MOOC experience – or perhaps just whether the prospect of getting up at 2am for a field trip into a WoW environment seems much more appealing in theory than practice. (Though I did manage to drag myself out of bed at 5.30 to watch the opening ceremony of those other games)
Anyway, there’s still time. The nice thing about this MOOC is that it’s never too late to join – just pop along to http://gamesmooc.shivtr.com/