Creating and Assessing a Playful Online Course Design: A Case Study

Seann Dikkers, Chris Hawks and Amira Alkhawajah


This paper provides a mixed-method accounting of a midwestern university graduate level course iterating toward a differentiated, "quest-based", self-paced learning experience. Previous research has applied 'game-like' assessment and vocabulary to online course design, but often used traditional pedagogical approaches. Our case was a re-designed online graduate course that employed game-like vocabulary, and continued to product test a "dashboard" user interface and multiple forms of feedback (leaderboards, quest acceptance, and experience points), as other past work has done successfully. We continue this line of investigation by sharing our design process, and replicable models, for using a full unlocking 'quest tree' (174 quests total), hidden 'eggs', help forums/hotline, learner driven, repeatable, content, and context to present expert 'play' to other 'players via video conferencing. In our preliminary data and analysis, we present generalizable themes suggesting that continuing to add game-like elements to online course design continues to improve previous findings of increased student motivation, engagement, and striking investments of time, (i.e. 14 assignments in the previous iteration, to an average of 66.2 completed 'quests' in the playful design), that increasingly resemble hobby or game like behaviors and generate fan like communities of practice. This study included three course iterations, all three are complete, and we are still analyzing data for the second and third classes that so far reaffirm positive outcomes. We will have a full paper ready for Fall 2014 that includes data from all three iterations.