This term I have had the pleasure of teaching a graduate level course, Intro to Online Teaching. As part of the course, learners have to create an online course within Moodle, an learning management system (LMS) that I am using for the course.
My experience with online courses has been the more familiar instructors are with LMS tools, the better the course tends to be. I therefore felt it important to teach each of the tools to these future online instructors. However, I did not believe it a good use of “class” time to teach the class as a whole how to use each of the twenty different resources and activities. Instead, I created quests in 3D GameLab that learners had to complete to demonstrate tool mastery. Once the learners completed all the assigned quests, they would then be able to complete their course project. While we have not yet gotten to the course projects, I do believe the projects will be better because of this skill development phase.
3D GameLab is a game-based learning system developed by Dr. Lisa Dawley, CEO of GoGo Labs, and former professor and chair of the Dept. of Educational Technology at Boise State University, and Dr. Chris Haskell, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Dept. of EdTech at Boise State.
3D GameLab allows me to scaffold learning. Learners begin with one quest that explains what will occur. Once they complete the first quest, two other quests become available to the learners: how to use 3D GameLab and how to use Moodle. Completing these two quests will open additional quests.
Each quest provides instruction on how to complete the specific task. In addition to providing text instructions, I am able to include video clips, audio clips, images, and links. Typically, I will include a link to the Moodle book as well as a video to demonstrate the task. Learners can demonstrate task completion by providing evidence as a written explanation and/or uploading a file.
As I indicated earlier, quests will become available as earlier quests are completed. Additionally, a group of quests completed can result in the learner earning a badge. Badges can be used as triggers to open another series of quests. In the case of this course, learners must earn a resource development badge, activity development badge, and a course management badge in order to have the Moodle teacher badge available to them; this triggers the availability of a course shell for the final project. Learners also are awarded recognition when they have completed X amount of quests. Having spoken with a number of learners in the class, this unexpected recognition has put smiles on their faces.
At all times, learners can see their progress compared to their peers. They have been encouraged to create avatars to represent their presence in the system. The leader board shows experience points attained, number of quests completed, number of active quests, and number of quests in progress, awards, badges, and achievements. While performance is based on individual achievements, learners have indicated that they are trying to keep pace with the leaders.
3D GameLab allows learners to work on essential skill development on their pace. They are aware that completion of these quests will allow them to pursue the course’s final projects. The quicker they complete the quests, the more time they will have available to their final projects. I can also provide more attention to learners who are struggling with a specific tool or concept. So far, the feedback has been positive.