Ten years ago, Beni Balak, associate professor of economics at Rollins College, began using computer games in his classes. As a long-time computer gamer turned professor, he had observed that many of the best practices in pedagogical research were adopted by the electronic game industry. Today, the electronic game industry leads the entertainment sector economy with $70+ billion in annual sales, influencing the economy, culture, and learning. While some teachers remain skeptical about the value of video and computer games in education, over the past decade, a body of theoretical and applied pedagogical work on the use of games as teaching tools has emerged. Gamification in higher education generally refers to video and computer games and involves two related, but distinct approaches: using games as teaching tools and structuring entire courses as games.
In this seminar, Balak identified the principles he employed and the specific structures of the courses he has gamified both using games (i.e., Civilization and World of Warcraft) as well as, more recently, gamifying the curriculum. Beyond the fundamental changes he made to the syllabi and the grading structure, he is beta-testing a learning management system (LMS) specifically designed for this purpose. In this seminar, he shared his progress developing a gamified course structure, how it engages students and accelerates learning, as well as the difficulties he has encountered as he continues to explore the potential of games in the liberal arts.