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Students Learn by Gaming the System

Games have been an underused tool in the classroom. . / Credit: Screen shot of chapter completion courtesy of Course Hero

Learning can be fun when you make a game out of it. That premise underlies the decision of an online learning platform to use game mechanics to engage college students. It works by motivating students to join, participate, contribute and share their successes.

Founded in 2007, Course Hero is an online learning tools resource designed to help college students discover a more efficient and productive learning experience. Gamification technology that uses badges, leaderboards that display rankings, social sharing and rewards is integrated throughout the site's four core offerings: Courses, an extensive series of custom-designed lessons organized into three learning paths, entrepreneurship, business, and Web programming; Flashcards, interactive learning tools on a wide array of topics; Tutors, which connects students with experts on hundreds of subjects; and Study Documents, a library of study guides, lecture notes and practice problems. 

"Gamified courses are the fastest growing part of our business," Andrew Grauer, CEO of Course Hero, told BusinessNewsDaily. "There are thousands of people who are taking these courses because they're fun. Games have been an underused tool in the classroom."

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Students earn progressively advanced badges and points as they complete chapters and courses in each of the learning paths.  The site's game mechanics rely on the Nitro gamification engine from Bunchball, a company that has been building cloud-based gamification solutions for five years.

"Gamification provides real-time feedback, positive reinforcement and transparency," said Rajat Paharia, Bunchball's founder and CPO. "You can track and see your progress every step of the way."

Courses were designed as a gamified experience from the ground up and encourage user engagement, Grauer said.

"We chunked content to manageable size and added game dynamics," he said.

Since the implementation of gamification, time users spend on site overall has increased by about 5 percent and social sharing of achievements — an indicator of the value users place on their progress —has  increased 400 percent in the past three months.

"Our online gamified courses focus on maximizing the opportunity for learning versus solely emphasizing grading," Grauer said. "After every concept, chapter and course, we present learners with a quiz.  In these quizzes, the learner must complete a learning spree to pass the quiz and earn an achievement. A learning spree is defined as answering either five or seven questions correct in a row, depending on whether it's a chapter quiz or course exam.  This proves to the learner that he or she understands the material completely.  You can always keep trying until you really understand the material.  You never lose.  You always have the opportunity to achieve concept mastery."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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