The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is reaching out to our global community of thought leaders, faculty, innovators and practitioners to bring you insights from the field of online, blended and digital learning. This week, Dr. Kevin Bell, OLC Institute faculty for the workshop Designing Gamified Learning Environments, joins us to discuss his perspective on gamification in higher education as well as a variety of other topics.
OLC: Where do you see gamified learning/gamification heading in the next 5 years?
While I think there will be increasing efforts at gamification and gameful design, my perspective is that it is useful to unpack what is meant by the term by digging into the intrinsic motivators that underlie great games, great sports and great education. There is clearly a nexus of aspects that engage; Angry Birds was the thing for a while because it melded appropriate challenge with a sense of narrative, with engaging graphics and a simple interface (pick up and play). Pokémon nailed competition and collaboration with cute graphics and good feedback mechanisms. To fully gamify is a large undertaking and I am nervous that Educational Games may be poor in both realms, educationally and as a game. Efforts at ramping up intrinsic motivators, perhaps under a “GAME” banner, perhaps not, may only have incremental effects, but if we track and monitor the results, we can continue to amplify the successes and mitigate the ineffective.
OLC: Tell us more about your most current professional projects and research?
I have a book pending with Johns Hopkins Press, entitled, “Online 3.0: The Rise of the Gamer Educator” (the opportunity to pay homage to the Terminator title was too strong). This work expands on my doctoral work looking at four, and I added a fifth case study looking at practitioners who have gamified / gamely designed or otherwise just ramped up their student experience with creative, low cost, fun versions of their courses.
Having relocated to Western Sydney, I would say I am pausing to assimilate local cultural norms and to learn precisely which snakes and spiders can actually kill you as opposed to those that merely cause you to lose digits. Once that’s nailed, I am interested to keep exploring the motivators that engage, particularly non-traditional, first in family and (here in Oz) Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island students. One of my practitioners spoke of how making a game out of some elements of his class took his unconscious bias(es) out of the equation and really democratized his classes. That could be another, initially unforeseen, benefit of this work. On this year’s agenda are College Readiness programs that are gameful, adaptive, intrinsically compulsive and FUN. I also hope to maintain my US/ UK / now Oz networks so hopefully I can guest / keynote / speak at a few events. Feel free to reach out if you have a need !!
OLC: What are the 3 most important things prospective participants should know about the course you teach?
Participants who take this workshop should know that:
- It will be a fun.
- We will collaborate.
- The workshop really digs into intrinsic motivators and how to engage students (rather than coding simulations).
OLC: How do you define innovation?
To me, innovation means just allowing yourself to think beyond current restrictions. Ask “What if?” and “So what’s the big deal if we do that / don’t do that?”
OLC: OLC’s Institute offerings help professionals stay current in their prospective fields, and often times assist in the advancement of their profession. What do you believe are the top 3 ways in which professionals in our field can stay current and move ahead?
I suggest the following ways to stay ahead of the curve in our field:
- Get out and meet people and learn of their projects. We are so silo-ed and yet so many people are doing great work.
- Develop your loose social network – your best friends and close colleagues can’t give you true perspective. Twitter is great for that.
- Every six months buy a book on Amazon, see where their recommendation engine takes you and then buy three more books that you didn’t want (but that are connected to your initial purchase).
OLC: What was the last book, journal or article you read that relates to the field?
The last book I read was, “The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications” – Deterding et al.
OLC: How can people connect with you?
About Dr. Kevin Bell
Kevin Bell now serves Western Sydney University as their Pro Vice Chancellor for Digital Futures. Prior to his July 2016 move, he served Northeastern University as Executive Director for Curriculum Development and Deployment within the College of Professional Studies. At Northeastern he also served as the P.I. and Senior Fellow on the Lowell Institute Innovation Incubator (Li3) developing courseware based on extreme intrinsic motivators and gameful design; a federally supported “First in the World” project. Prior to these appointments, Kevin served as Chief Academic Officer for the College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University and led the academic development of their College for America (CfA) Competency Based Education project.
Bell holds a BSc in Analysis of Science and Technology from Manchester University in the UK, an M.A.T. from Marlboro College, and an Ed.D in Higher Education Management program at the University of Pennsylvania. His doctoral research centred on elements of course design that affect persistence and retention of under-represented minorities in online classes, with a focus on cognitive science, adaptive learning and gamification.
His most recent book project is an anthology for Common Ground Publishing entitled, “The Online University: Building Viable Asynchronous Learning Experiences for Higher Education,” published in early 2014.
His book “Online 3.0: The Rise of the Gamer Educator” is now in the publishers’ hands with the hope of a late 2017 launch.
Bell holds a BS in Analysis of Science and Technology from Manchester University in the UK, an M.A.T. from Marlboro College, and an Ed.D in Higher Education Management program at the University of Pennsylvania. His doctoral research centered on elements of course design that affect persistence and retention of under-represented minorities in online classes, with a focus on cognitive science, adaptive learning and gamification.