Daily Archives: September 15, 2011

Badges for Retention: Why not?

Let’s face it.  This is the generation that grew up on world of Warcraft and Simcity.  We gave them the pokemons, the Nintendo DSs, the Halos and the laptops. So no big surprise that our digital millenials have short attention spans and hyperactive fingers.

Nowhere is the problem more acute than in online courses.  While bricks and mortar ivies can boast of near perfect 4 year retention (>90%), consider by stark contrast retention in online programs and courses.  In a recent study, it appears that retention of 30-40% across the board would be considered good(Cite).  And this is when students have paid for the courses.  It is hardly surprising that retention in free and open courseware, where learners are accessing the content, without having paid anything, with no fear of exams or grades or other pressures to keep them motivated and in the course, retention is more like 1-2%.


There are many reason we would want to increase the retention numbers for free and open courseware: it is easy to access, completely affordable, and offers a dazzling range of extremely high quality content.  Open courses can compensate for example for  weak school systems, ill trained teachers, limited course offerings, and rural schools. Can offering badges then provide a solution to the retention problem?

Kids like badges. The concept of badges is intricately woven into the philosophy of gamefication: levels, medals, achievements, finding and hoarding “stuff” as a reward when you attain a level and more.  In a learning game framework, a badge that stands for an accomplishment, one that is not easy to attain till a certain level of competency is demonstrated could be very desireable.  If the badge can be displayed on the owner’s social networking sites to their friends, it will have even greater value.

Would badges then be the key to keeping our young learners working through MIT OCW 6.00 Intro to Python programming?  After all we trained them on World of Warcraft and Pokemon, why not take the next logical step and let them collect badges in their quest for knowledge?  Want to hear more about OpenStudy’s take on badges, I’ll be talking with P2Pu and OER U on a panel moderated by Alastair Creelman(@alacre)at the EFQUEL conference tonight.  There is a webinar at an unearthly hour for me, but it promises to be very interesting. Check it out.

GT opens the classroom doors to the world

Under the leadership of  C21U Director Rich DeMillo, current Distinguished Professor and former dean of the Georgia Tech College of Computing, GT is offering its first MOOC class.  In addition to the GT students taking it for credit, DeMillo has invited everyone and anyone to join in this learning journey with the GT students.  The GT course follows the Change MOOC being offered by George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier.  What this means is that students of this course will read, discuss, collaborate and otherwise study the content being curated by the trio.  They will encounter not only thought leaders from around the world, but classmates from around the world.  How will they do all this?  Blogs, twitter, posts, emails, and all that and their very own truly global study group on OpenStudy to groupthink and share.

But what a amazingly good idea!  Take a few minutes to appreciate the magnitude of this step.  Allowing GT students, the traditional registered kind to mingle, partake of, study with, and otherwise co-learn with nonGT and folks from wherever.  Has this been done before?  Are we not knocking at the traditionally walled gardens of colleges and universities?  This folks is a true leadership moment, and both GT and DeMillo are to be commended.  It is dangerous territory for a traditional educational institution, untested waters for sure, and like with any disruption, could lead anywhere.  Where do you think it will lead?

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