Three Tiers of Gamification in a College Course on Problem Solving for Global Challenges

Steven L. Tanimoto 

pp. 101 - 127, download






Three different forms of gamification in learning are described in the context of an intensive four-week course for incoming freshmen at the University of Washington.  The course covers topics from several disciplines including computer science, game theory, and the learning sciences. The three tiers of gamification are (A) students learn while playing games, (B) students learn when they formulate complex global problems as games, and (C) students learn as they take on agile software-development team roles as they create digital games.  Each of these tiers has motivational justifications, and in addition, these tiers offer complementary benefits.  For example, the gamification of “wicked” problems in tier B requires and stimulates meta-cognitive thinking.  When the students themselves are charged with formulating the problems as games, they end up better understanding the factors that go into successful problem solving, including “thinking outside of the box” and reformulating problems to make them more tractable to solution. Presented here are the design rationale for the course, observations about student learning and challenges, and how the course’s pedagogy compares with methods described in the literature.


Keywords: gamification, learning, game design, wicked problem, global challenge, computer programming, Python, problem formulation, classical theory of problem solving, agile programming, scrum, collaborative design, tier, serious games, student designs.




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