Gamifying Learning at Conferences

In the Spring of 2012, I went to Philly to run a game at the League of Innovations conference that was designed by Shelley Rodrigo and Laura Ballard. The game, PinPoint, was designed using Twitter. There were two parts. The first involved having attendees go to the exhibit hall and jump through exhibitor hoops. Of course, that's also where the larger prize was (and iPad). The second part involved regularly tweeting during the conference and award prizes like a Starbucks gift card for a particularly thoughtful tweet. 

The exhibitor part of the game proved to be a bit of an issue. They paid to be part of this game, whereas the presenters did not. So really, we should have been pushing the attendees into the exhibit hall. However, one of our goals listed was to increase attendee engagement in the conference content. We just couldn't do that with the exhibit hall. The iPad seemed to be an incentive for attendees to visit the exhibitor hall, but were they really learning anything by tweeting out the one of five phrases the exhibitors told them to? 

When the time came to revisit the game design for 2013, we did make a few changes. They primarily involved our use of Twitter. In 2013, we had someone constantly monitoring the conference hashtag stream, we had badges all prepared (not creating them on the fly), and our focus shifted even further toward the presenters (where the conference content was coming from). 

Now, we're getting ready to work on analyzing the data. So we're making decisions about how to do that. How exactly do we measure learning in 140 characters or less? How do we account for some of the things that gamifying the conference might have caused such as tweets that are not genuine? How do we measure whether or not the game increased learning? What else do we need to take into consideration because we gamified it? 

While I invite you to help us answer these questions, I'll let you know what we've been thinking so far. We're considering measuring learning by measuring engagement (using engagement tools of other scholars as a base). That's not really effected by the game itself though. The issue of tweets that are not genuinely engaged, it seems as though the primary source would be the exhibit hall tweets, and it might be that we remove them. As far as measuring an increase in learning, I'm not sure if it's possible because we don't know how much learning was happening before (and there's not really any way to tell other than possibly a survey). Gamification is a newish area to dabble into for me, so we've been trying to consider how we and our game design might have affected the outcome. 

Suggestions and questions welcome!

Photo Credit: Shovelling Son via Compfight cc

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