Can Gamification Lead to Better Student Behavior?

create positive social norms with gamificationexcessive alcohol consumption is the social norm on campuses

At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), almost all conduct problems are related to alcohol consumption.The prevalence of alcohol is not, however, something unique to UNH. In a 2009 UCLA survey of freshman, 34.2 percent of respondents reported that they had at least once consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in the past two weeks.

A common explanation for excessive drinking on college campuses is the influence of peers: drinking is the social norm.

In their review of the literature, Borsari and Carey (2001) break down peer influences into three types: overt offers of alcohol, modeling, and social norms. Stepped up enforcement or efforts to change misperceptions of how much students actually drink does not do much to change social norms or provide alternate role models to promote different behavior.

gamification has the potential to promote new social norms

It is in the development of new social norms and role models that Gamification affords the greatest potential for solving the problems associated with alcohol use.

Games often revolve around a form of healthy competition that pits one player against another. Many games transport the player to a world of make believe where fantasies are enhanced when shared with others. Regardless of the type of game, the social component associated with play introduces the opportunity for the creation of social norms and the development of role models. This suggests that it should be possible to create similar synthetic social groups designed to promote positive behavior within the broader collegiate experience.

Using game design principles, we can create communities of practice where students can actively engage in activities designed to address common social problems, academic interests, or career goals.

The purpose is create opportunities for students to interact with professors, staff members, or more advanced students in an effort to put them into contact with others who can serve as positive role models. Moreover, the opportunities are designed to show students that alternative forms of social groups are available. With appropriate design, the activities should lead to the creation of social norms that value behavior based on values that acknowledge and reward academic work.