In a previous post, I ranted on how cool it would be to use pc-game mechanics in a programming course. Before actually getting down and dirty and try to come up with an actual system for this I surveyed my students to see if the idea has any resonation with the target audience, the students themselves, or not. Now it is very interesting to mention this cool project by Jonas Swiatek who is actually implanting a MEF-based extension for Visual Studio 2010 to allow achievements while coding! More on this project in a later post, but you should definitely check it out if you want to have a feeling of how achievements could be used in a programming environment.
56 of my students filled in a short, only survey consisting of 10 questions (the limit with the basic account on surveymonkey.com).
50% of the students are first year’s, and 25% each from the second and 3rd year.
The first set of questions concerned their current gaming behaviour and resulted in the following answers:
Hours spend gaming (including gaming on a mobile phone, etc.)
- 0 students never play games (big surprise there)
- Most students play a couple of hours per week
- About 35% play more than 1 hour a day (14% even admitted playing more than 3 hours a day!)
Type of games played:
- The largest group of student play First-person-shooters (71%), sports games (52%) and Strategy games (42%).
- 40% of the students play World-of-Warcraft or other MMORPG
- Only 2 students play on social networks (Farmville, Mafia Wars). 84% of the students are active on facebook by the way.
- 54 of the 56 students prefers to play games on their pc.
- 33% or 18 students prefer playing games on their Playstation
- Xbox, Wii, PSP, DS and other platforms aren’t very popular and only get about 2 or 3 votes each.
The last set of questions was to see what stance students had to my achievement-based labs’ proposals:
Two questions were posed on what students thought about a lab where one can earn achievements. The questions were how they felt about being able to view and compare each others progress.
Both answers resulted in a normal distribution, with the majority of the surveyed being neutral against the idea.
A final question was whether the students think they will work harder with an achievement-based system in place with the ability to compare each other’s progress.
- Again the same neutral distribution can be seen.
After the survey, students had the possibility to give additional feedback and comments. Some of the more interesting and funny ones were (translated from Dutch):
“Original idea! The system could use a ranking system where one could level up by making lab exercises…. We call it Call of C# =D “
“This idea is only feasible and fun for us [the students] if no additional work by us is required. By this I mean that we don’t have to go to some site ourselves to fill in our reached achievements.”
“Is this appropriate for a bachelor-oriented education? It looks fun for -18 years pupils, not for us…. It sounds a bit… unprofessional.”
“Only the real [game]freaks will appreciate this, the rest won’t bother.”
Drawing conclusions from this small survey aren’t very helpful but I think we can safely state that the idea is viable with one very big but. An achievement-based program course will only work if it really resonates with the students on all aspects: it should be fun, it shouldn’t create additional overhead and it should be really targeted to the audience (being technical adolescents). At least a large portion of the students is definitely willing to give this type of system a chance. The fact that all of our current students play games is also important: no one will feel like they are being obliged to perform an activity they don’t like doing; remember Suits definition of gaming: Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles
To be continued!