Virtual worlds are a great way to run classes. In fact, according to the latest Hypergrid Business survey, educators are the second largest professional user segment for OpenSim, and about a third of users overall used OpenSim for training and simulations.
You can have students from all over the world able to attend “in-person,” from the convenience of their own homes. But virtual classes also pose some challenges, including how to keep students engaged and interested. Here are some tips, from the world of gamification.
1. Have a reward for timeliness
This idea isn’t just used in games or online. Bars do the same thing with happy hours, offering two drinks for the price of one. Obviously you aren’t going to be offering people alcohol for showing up, but keep track of who shows up and when. Then you can post the results on an online leaderboard, or you can give rewards for people who attend a certain number of classes. That way people will have a reason to keep attending — aside from their love of learning, of course.
2. Keep track of progression
By keeping track of how people are progressing, you encourage people to keep progressing. Depending on what you’re teaching, you could even assign levels or titles to people. Students can start out at level one, or Novice, and then the more classes they attend, or the more tasks they learn or tests they pass, they go up in level. Obviously, this is more helpful for some subjects than others, but it can still be applied to most. For scripting classes, you can add experience for every successfully written script. The more experience they get, the higher level. Or they can progress up the ranks from Apprentice to Master.
3. Working together
Working together doesn’t just show students other ways of approaching a problem and teach them how to work together, it also encourages positive relations between students. If students have friends in the class, they’re much more likely to keep attending than if they don’t like or don’t even know their classmates. Put students in groups and have them work together on a problem or a special challenge. However, be careful in how you put together the groups. If students get frustrated with their classmates, they may get frustrated with the class.
4. Give students something to work for
If students have an overall goal to work for, they’ll be more likely to stick with the class. Have some big project for students to work on through the entire class, with the goal of having it finished by the time the class ends. Not only does this give you the perfect opportunity to encourage students to work together, but it also gives them something to strive for. Students will have some practical application of their knowledge, which will gives them a reason to keep learning. If you’re teaching a design class, then have students create a building or a virtual version of your school campus (if you’re affiliated with a school). If you’re teaching a programming class, then students can work together on a program. Once it’s done, make the finished product accessible to others, so the students have something to show for their class (and show others — free publicity).
5. Give rewards to students who complete specific challenges
In addition to giving students credit for progressing in the class, give them credit for extra challenges or problems completed that are outside the normal scope of the class. Rewards can include points, titles, or badges. Points can be kept track of on a leaderboard, the same with titles, and badges can be wearable items or an html badge that goes on a website. Either way, in addition to rewarding the student, you also get some extra advertising for your class.