"The class Jesse refers to in his talk was the beta test of the idea last semester. I’ll also list here a few additional details missing from the syllabus, as well as some observations which may be helpful. Please understand that this course was Multiplayer Game Design. I’m a professional game designer and a gamer myself. If you are not, some of the references may be obscure. Google (or your students!) should help.
1. Guilds sit together. The classroom is divided into six zones. Each zone is identified by the name of a significant individual covered in class. For the Multiplayer Game Design class zones had names like the Fields of Koster and Garriott Gardens. Every few classes guilds move to a new zone (so slackers can’t cluster at the back for an entire semester!), and receive extra credit for answering questions regarding the person it is named after. Since they don’t know the questions in advance, they do research on their own. Last semester in our Theory and Practice of Game Design class I was planning to hide some quiz answers, taped to the bottom of chairs in each zone. They still had to match the answers to the questions, but they were encouraged to trade the information with one another. This directed their preparation for quizzes, forcing them to study when ordinarily many wouldn’t bother.
2. Quests labeled “solo” in the syllabus are completed by individual students.
3. Quests labeled “pick-up group” are completed by pairs of students not in the same guild. This helps foster a community in the class as a whole. Community is a very important word in MMO design.
4. Quests labeled “guild” are completed by all guild members. The guilds are given the option on how they would like to complete them. If they like, only one member needs to do all the work. In every case the guilds have decided on their own to work together.
5. The reading presentation quests were delivered to the class by their fellow students, with questions and comments from me. They relied on PowerPoint for the most part, supplemented by illustrations drawn on the board, and YouTube videos. I coached them on how to deliver PowerPoint talks (e.g. not simple bulleted lists that they read aloud); and to find new and innovative approaches. A guild last week built their presentation as a game! Every so often they had multiple-choice questions on material they had just covered, and awarded candy to those who got the questions right. They had the full attention of their classmates for an hour. It was awesome!
6. Solo Camping: Glossary Building. Not all students in the class are familiar with MMOs, or even video games. So on their own everyone researches and sends in suggestions to build a glossary for the class. Last semester we used a textbook that was so riddled with typos, grammar mistakes and factual errors, students hunted for them for XP. This was more successful than glossary building because it forced them to read carefully, and learn some spelling and grammar along the way.
7. The final grade is based on a guild project. In this case the concept document for an MMO. Since each guild member received the same grade, I added a secret ballot peer review, so that anyone not contributing would receive a weighted grade. I was concerned that they would simply give each other equally high marks, or that personal animosity might factor in. I saw no evidence of either in their rankings. The assessments they made coincided with my own observations.
I hope this material is of some help. I’ll be incorporating much of this into a book I’m writing due out in August: Practical Game Design: A Toolkit for Educators, Researchers and Corporations. What Jesse said is true. The participation in class rose dramatically from the usual “sage on the stage” lectures. Attendance was higher. And the average class grade rose from a C to a B compared to the previous class as a lecture."
Thanks Lee for sharing all this. Finally, my own thoughts on how to make your own Sheldon Syllabus:
1. Identify all of your gradable assignments.
2. Break them down into chunks and assign deadlines.- The chunks are called Quests
- They can be solo, pick-up, or pre-made groups
3. Assign points to the chunks.- The points can vary with the quality of the work
- In that case, assign points by grade within the chunks
4. Set each student’s points at 0 in each assignment and for the class.
5. Each time a student completes an assignment on time, grade it and add the points to his score.
6. Assign course grades according to the usual MMOG nonlinear mapping: It takes more points to get to a C than to a D, more still for a B, and the most to get to an A.Example:
F – 99 points and below
D – 100 points
C – 250 points
B – 450 points
A – 750 points
You should design some assignments as being basically voluntary, like mob encounters. Provide a certain number of opportunities to get points and allow students to do up to X of them, or none of them, however many they want. They can hand them in whenever they want, but there’s a respawn timer of a week after each hand-in. Assignments like this are graded pass-fail - you either killed the mobs or you didn’t. If you didn’t kill them, go back and try again.Group assignments are treated like instanced party quests. One-grade-for-all.
Lastly, tell the students exactly what’s going on: This is a system and they are invited to dominate it. Many will do so, and the ones who don’t will, as in MMORPGs, recognize that it was their own choices that led to their lower grade. If your experience is like ours, there should be gains to student engagement and performance from this system.