Teaching CS1010 introductory programming on a massive scale

Ben Leong School of Computing Computer Science 2013(2)

What Used to Be and Problems We Identified

After teaching for many years, we found that it was common for students to procrastinate when doing their homework assignments. Leaving work till the last minute was problematic because students would often end up rushing through their assignments and doing badly or copy answers from the friends. Neither of these scenarios are helpful for student learning.

What We Did

Inspired by a TED Talk by Jane McGonigal entitled “Gaming can make a better world” in 2010, we built a new learning management system where gamification principles were applied to make the learning and the doing of homeworks more engaging. The latest version of this platform is Coursemology v2: The platform has several features such as auto-grader functionality, an interactive discussion forum, work bin, survey tool as well as game elements like “experience points”, a leaderboard and badges to motivate students to compete their assignments and keep up with the class.

How This Helped

With gamification, we managed to improve the average assignment submission times from less than a day (15.5) hours before the deadline to more than two days (51.2 hours) before the deadline. The students also claimed that the game system made the course interesting and motivated them to work beyond what is minimally required and we have received consistently good feedback over the years in our student feedback. Our success is also proof that the use of game mechanics can indeed help to engage the new generation of students.

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