Pwning Level Bosses in MATLAB: Student Reactions to a Game-Inspired Computational Physics Course

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A poster presented on July 30 at the 2014 Physics Education Research Conference (PERC), associated with the Summer National Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT); Minneapolis MN, Jul 30—31.

Abstract: We investigated student reactions to a Computational Physics course incorporating several ‘videogame-like’ aspects. These included use of gaming terminology such as “levels,” “weapons,” and “bosses”; a game-style point system linked to course grades; a self-paced schedule with no deadlines; a mastery design in which only entirely correct attempts earn credit, but students can retry until they succeed; immediate feedback via self-test code; and an assignment progression from “minions” (small, focused tasks) to “level bosses” (integrative, authentic tasks). Through semi-structured interviews at the end of the semester, we found that a majority of students enjoyed the course and found the game-like aspects beneficial. More than half claimed that the point system increased their motivation; the self-paced nature caused them to reflect on their self-discipline; the possibility and necessity of repeating assignments until perfect supported learning more material; and the authentic tasks helped them envision using course skills in their professional futures.

A PDF of the poster and the associated proceedings paper are available on COMPADRE.