We have recently presented a paper that is looking at the perceived impact of competitive and collaborative environments on summative assessment. This study based its investigation on the StarQuest platform (http://starquest.eu/), a social and gamified collaboration application hosting a private online environment for small groups of individuals to co-curate and share digital contents. The project was in collaboration with Playgen Ltd, who developed the platform.
The pilot was carried out with the Sports Science team, where the target participants were the second year undergraduate students (Sport Psychology, n=94), who enrolled on a module entitled “A Fundamental Approach to Motor Learning and Control”. The module was carried out by Mike Smith, Mike Duncan et al. for 11 weeks and the curriculum was delivered using a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach. Students were allocated to one of 20 tutorial groups, which consisted of approximately five students per group. There were five members of staff who acted as PBL facilitators and the curriculum was divided into four two-hour lectures, seven two-hour tutorials and three two-hour lab sessions. Problems were set from current issues in the world of sport and students had to prepare group and individual information related to providing a solution to the problem before the first tutorial.
The results highlighted a number of strengths and weaknesses of implementing a gamified online platform for team working, which will inform future design, development and deployment of gamified and learning platforms. The pilot demonstrates that teamwork skills can be scaffolded via StarQuest, and the mode the teams were impacted on their level of engagement and attainment in the learning process.
The academic achievement data suggests that the gamification of learning does not necessarily result in improved attainment for all students. It is clear that the marks for coursework 1 for those in the Collaborative condition were significantly lower when compared to those in the Control and Competitive conditions. Analysis of interaction data indicates that autonomy afforded within the control and collaborative modes encouraged learners to interact more with the system, whereby the competitive group interacted less (less liking and commenting on others’ posts) but competed more within the platform and possibly outside the platform judging from their coursework marks.
The study suggests that the motivational orientation of the learners (individually and collectively) influences the learning dynamics, and that the Competitive group outperformed those in the Collaborative group, which we propose is due to the Sport Psychology students being naturally competitive, in order to increase their level and position in relation to their peers. This suggests that the subject area being studied may attract a different type of student (e.g. Sport Psychology versus Art and Design), which consequently may have significant influence over whether a competitive or cooperative climate would be most advantageous in their learning and consequently summative assessment. Therefore, further investigations into the reasons for this anomaly are required.
The pilot also emphasises that the provision may prove to be more effective with level 1 students compared to other advanced levels, linking to the motivational conditions of learners (individually and collectively) that influence the learning dynamics and culture as they level up which has also been recommended when implementing PBL in to the curriculum. Many of the level 2 students this study had already been introduced to a systematic way of looking at the PBL pathway in the level 1 module ( and consequently had already established their own collaborative methods and channels of communication in the first year, e.g. using Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
Slide deck for the ECGBL 16 conference is as shared below. The slides summarise some of the key insights. The paper should be published in the proceedings soon.