Coursera Gamification course – designing a gamified system for health

So I finally got the results back for the second written assignment in the Coursera Gamification course. (10 out of 10, hooray).

I thought I might just share it up here as it gives a decent indication of the kinds of things that we’ve been covering in this MOOC. It must be set up in a way that appeals to me because I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the last week on the final 1500 word assignment and have actually been quite enjoying it. (Grading for these assignments is crowd sourced, so when you submit your assignment, a few hours later you have to grade five other people’s using a fairly simple rubric)

You are approached by Ryan Morrison, the mayor of a medium-sized city in the Midwest of the United States.  He has heard that you know a lot about gamification and believes that gamification techniques can transform city government.

He would like to start with the health of city employees.  The city has 50,000 employees and they happen to have exactly the same rates of obesity as the U.S. average: 34.4% overweight (but not obese) and 33.9% of them are obese.  53.1% of the city’s employees do not meet the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity and 76% of them fail to meet the Guidelines for muscle-strengthening activity.  The city pays for health benefits for its employees and this cost is a huge part of the city budget.  Economists in Mayor Morrison’s office have estimated that a 3% improvement in the average physical fitness of city employees would amount to a US$94 million reduction in annual city health costs; a 5% improvement would save US$188 million. 

Describe in general terms a gamified system that could effectively motivate behavior change to address the challenge presented above. Specifically, explain how the system would effectively incorporate intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, or both. Your answer should address the fact that this is an internal gamification project, targeted at the institutional goals of the city government.  The system can use any technology (or no technology!), so long as the resources required seem justified by the scope of the opportunity.

The gamified system that I propose will be based around tracking healthy activities carried out by workers both individually and in work-teams. There will be some tangible rewards (prizes) related to achieving particular goals however the majority of the motivation should be intrinsic, as the healthy behaviours need to carry on after the game has finished and when the prizes are no longer available.

It will be tiered so that people and teams can participate and compete/collaborate at a level that best suits them however the minimum base level will include an across-the-board challenge using the 10,000 Steps program, where all participants are issued with a pedometer and log how many steps they take each day.

In addition, individuals and teams will be able to select from a range of health challenges that are suited to different abilities. Achieving these challenges will be recognised on a number of different leaderboards as well as in a progress bar on participants individual pages.

Small spot prizes will also be awarded at random intervals to people seen engaging in healthy activities around the office. Use of forums and blogs will also be encouraged to get participants reflecting on how they are benefitting from the healthy activities.

Intrinsic motivators:

  • Tracking personal progress (competence)
  • Collaborating in activities with workmates (relatedness)
  • Being able to choose challenges and goals to work on (autonomy)
  • Increased healthiness
  • Benefits to the workplace (altruistic)

Extrinsic motivators:

  • Competition through the leaderboards (status)
  • Physical prizes (stuff)
  • Points (recognition of effort)
  • Unexpected rewards (spot prizes)
  • Performance contingent rewards (for completing challenges)
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