Motivation and Leaderboards

After a little more reading about leaderboards, particularly this article by¬†Scott Nicholson, I’m beginning to worry that while they motivate the students in the upper part of the class, they tend to discourage students in the lower part of the class. Frankly, that was discouraging to read. In my experience, students in the upper half of the class don’t need much additional motivation to succeed. 80% of the reason I wanted to try some gamification techniques was to see about increasing the success rate for the rest of the class.

I do understand that there will be some students who are motivated by the leaderboards who might not have been as motivated otherwise. That is a good thing. I’m just worried about the students who are not at the top of the leaderboard being discouraged.

In an effort not to throw the baby out with the bath water, this is my plan. I want a new, meta leaderboard. Not one that aggregates all of the other leaderboards, but one that consolidates all of the change in position across the boards. My thinking is that the top of the board will be relatively static, but in the lower half there will be lots of room for people to exchange positions. I don’t have any data on that. It’s just a gut feeling.

I’m also wondering if I should include all of the change in position information (net change) or just the positive change. My initial thought was to do net change in positions, but if I’m really just trying to encourage everyone to try to do better, maybe positive movement is all that I need to record.

Of course, the real question is how hard is it going to be to get this data.

Classroom Gamification Website Construction Notes

I wanted to do some experimenting with Gamification in the classroom, and Programming I seemed like a good class to try it with. I’d like to have leaderboards for some activities and award badges for others. The idea is that this will provide a little extrinsic motivation for students who are not intrinsically motivated and that maybe it will be fun.

We use Moodle for out Learning Management System at Lincoln Lutheran, but I couldn’t find a nice way to do badges and leaderboards in Moodle. None of the Gamification systems that I found did what I was after (as far as I could tell). This was a little disappointing, because I was sure that I found a site that would have been just perfect for this last semester. this semester, I couldn’t find it. Maybe it no longer exists.

I eventually stumbled on BadgeOS and their WordPress integration plugin. With badges covered, I looked for a way to do leaderboards. The website Leaderboarded came closest to what I wanted to do, but their thing is having multiple metrics that all feed into one main leaderboard. I was more interested in having several different leaderboards, so that students would have more of an opportunity to climb different boards.

I did eventually find a WordPress plugin that would convert a CSV file into an HTML table, and I figured coming up with CSV files couldn’t be too hard. Former Lincoln Lutheran student Ken Lahm, who graduated with at Computer Science degree from UNL last fall, wrote a Python program that would give me the CSV files I needed.

It’s a nice little program. It logs into Google Drive and retrieves a spreadsheet where I keep data on the various things that I’ve decided to track. Then it sorts and totals the data for each leaderboard (category) and each student. Finally it spits out CSV files for each of those an uses FTP to upload them to this website.

The whole thing is controlled with a configuration file and seems to be working well. Thanks Ken.