Long discussed, it appears that gamification is about to make its appearance in higher education. The idea is to leverage the addictive, engaging quality of games for educational purposes. Or for social issues. Aqua Republica (right), is one of the new “serious games” focused on raising awareness of our limited natural resources.
Many questions remain about how games will fit into higher ed, but it’s an exciting development. Just wish there was a better word than “gamification” to describe it.
Learning analytics is another much-discussed innovation. The New Media Consortium’s 2014 Horizon Report on Higher Education reports that “students are beginning to experience the benefits of learning analytics as they engage with mobile and online platforms that track data to create responsive, personalized learning experiences.”
Analytics is less an innovation than a stimulus for innovation. Compare games to analytics. Games typically offer a relatively prescribed set of uses. Each game allows individuals to learn certain things in certain ways. The prescribed quality of games is part of its value; features and resources are organized toward a particular end. This makes it more likely that the intended learning objective is met.
Analytics is different. Its use is less prescribed. A student will interact with curriculum and other learners. This activity will produce information. But what we choose to do with that information can vary widely. The same data sets can be used in multiple ways, for multiple ends. It’s this multiplicity of uses that makes analytics less an innovation in the traditional sense, and more a stimulus for innovation.
A single set of data can be used:
- by regulatory entities to analyze the impact of policy decisions
- to provide feedback to students to help them better understand how they learn most effectively
- by faculty to measure changes in new cohorts’ level of familiarity with the subject at the start of the semester
- by institutions seeking to allocate student support resources more effectively
- to reconfigure learning materials in real-time to best suit the immediate and unique needs of each student
There are many possible applications. Many more have yet to be conjured up by innovative educators.
In a subsequent post, we’ll look at the importance of “institutional fit” - how certain technologies fit more easily into the organizational design of higher education and how fit can influence its impact.