I had an interesting thought: maybe the course grading system could be something like leveling up in a video game. The levels could be like “apprentice, novice, journeyman, master, arch-gamer”, and rather than get a grade at the end of the course, we would get continuous feedback of how we are doing through the level we are currently at. Every bit of the experience and skill points earned through the tasks would accumulate and help us to “level up”, although the current distribution of points may have to be tweaked to better reflect progress through the course (eg. instead of having the bulk of points going into final projects, they should be spread out more evenly).

Why would this be an improvement? Grades are mostly external motivators, whereas levels are more intrinsic motivators and give students a feeling of competence (Gee’s Achievement principle #11). Perhaps students can also choose whether or not to reveal their level, and whether they want to know the levels of others. The ones who are more motivated through competition can compare how far they are with others, while those of whom competition would be a negative motivation, can choose to keep their level secret. There would be an element of fantasy involved in the level system as well, for people who are more into gaming.

There is also continuous feedback through the course, rather than just at the end (Malone and Lepper’s performance feedback). I know CTools does have results, but who checks that? It would be easier to just monitor my “level” instead of having to count all the points I am accumulating. Should the level system be tied to the course grade? There are pros and cons about this, but my feel is that they could be separate systems, and still have an effect on motivation.