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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Gamification & other free online courses from top Universities

Not everyone can hope to study at the world's top universities. However, the internet is a great leveller and if you desire to learn there are plenty of resources...many of them free!

Coursera, a company founded by academicians from Stanford, is partnering with top universities in the world to offer free online courses for anyone to take and learn at their own pace.

I recently signed up for the Gamification course (Thanks Sid!) and I'm loving it! My teacher, Kevin Werbach, is an Associate Professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Gamification is the application of digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. The Gamification course examines the mechanisms of gamification and provides an understanding of its effective use.

This piece of insight about human psychology in a course lecture I was watching, made my day: What Things are Fun -

From the video transcript -

Winning - All right, that's an easy one. Many games have the idea of winnersand losers, and certainly winning is something that we think of as fun, but it's not the only thing. 

Problem-solving - Sometimes the fun comes in overcoming obstacles. In surmounting challenges, whether we win or not, even if the activity doesn't have the notion of a winner. Just solving the problem, achieving something that, in itself is fun. 

Or sometimes just exploring, just finding something new feels like fun to us whether or not it's embedded in some kind of challenge or some kind of game that has winners or losers. 

Or what about just chilling out. Lying on a beautiful beach in the sun relaxing, at least for me, is fun. Even though it doesn't have any of those other attributes. 

Teamwork -  We arehardwired as a species to enjoy collaborating and cooperating with others.Working together as a team to achieve a goal independently feels like fun. 

Recognition  -  Now recognition is little bit like winning, but it's not some objective standard that says you have been victorious in the game, it's someone else has told you that you did a good job. That's fun, that's feel good, whether or not it means you have won the game.

Triumphing  - Now here I'm talking about something that is similar to winning, but that has a particular aspect of it of which is you win, and someone else loses, vanquishing your opponent. Some people find that independently fun, above and beyond the joy of winning, the notion that you've crushed someone else.

Collecting  - We find it fun to assemble things together into collections. That's why some people love to collect antiques or certain categories of objects, and we find this more generally in games when people have an opportunity to assemble a bunch of things, even if that's not an express objective of the game, people do it voluntarily because they find it fun.

Surprise  -  There's something fun about being surprised. Why do we love surprise parties? Because the idea of surprise, of some novelty, something we didn't expect, is independently fun. And this will tie in later on when I start totalk about psychology, the way that our brain actually releases the chemical dopamine when something is unexpected. And the reward that we get is one that we didn't anticipate, more so than if it's the same reward that we expected.

Imagination  -  Daydreaming is fun. Just thinking about ideas and imagining something in your head has an element of fun in and of itself. 

Sharing  -  Being altruistic is fun. People feel good when they give money to charity, again,something that we are hardwired to think about as a species. Now, it doesn't meanthat every time we share, it's fun, and everyone shares everything all the time. Anyone who has kids knows that getting them to share is not always an easy task. But there is an element of fun in the act of altruism or sharing or giving someone a gift. 

Role playing  -  We love trying on roles. We love pretending that we're someone else inhabiting another character, whether that's all the way at the level of a role playing game, where we are playing a night elf druid or something to that effect to the more lightweight ideas of imagining ourselves in someone else's shoes. 

Customization - It's fun to be able to make something our own. It's fun to be able to decide exactly the color that you want for every aspect of the Nike shoes that you buy. We love to be able to personalize and customize things. 

And finally, goofing off. There's something fun about just letting it all hang out about exploring the opportunity to just be silly. 

I've been frequently visiting and contributing answers on StackOverflow & the StackExchange family of Q & A sites, sites that implement game mechanics, for over two years. I've enjoyed being there but this slide made me realize why I was having fun :-)

All the course lecture slides, videos & their transcripts are downloadable after you sign up for the class. The course has quizzes, assignments & an exam. Students who successfully complete the course above a threshold score within the stipulated time will receive a certificate signed by the instructor.

Coding Horror: The Gamification
Book Review: The Engaging Web

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