Two Skillshare classes taken, 500 Codecademy exercises completed, and about 200 hours under my belt trying to drag my startup toward anything that could reasonably be termed “traction”… my brain hurts. In a good way.
The non-traditional learning opportunities that have emerged over the last year are almost unbelievable in breadth and scope. But the content isn’t new. Little is being taught today through these new platforms that you couldn’t get for free at the library (or worst-case by paying a course fee to your local community college).
So why the hell are they so freaking amazing? Why can this average-to-difficult student not get enough of this here ol’ larnin?
The best thing about these education platforms isn’t cost (although Codecademy is free and Skillshare courses often barely tick above single digits). It’s the concreteness of achievement.
In middle school, for every book that we read, we received a paper trophy that we could color in and pin to the wall. Then after 5th grade graduation, that stopped. Why?
I’m serious. Why?
It was a brilliant play to human nature. In general terms, we like getting things for doing things. We’re not good at receiving abstractions as consideration for a job well done. I’m not reading Wuthering Heights until I get a POG slammer with Heathcliff’s face on it, as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes. [Note: update this reference to something less painfully nineties].
“Badges” are a teensy step in the right direction, but clearly are only motivating to the weak-willed (guilty!) and easily impressed (ditto!). Soon, someone is going to discover a way to apply the crack-like effect of well-designed games like World of Warcraft to the educational realm. I want to learn algebra about as much as I want to spend eighteen hours killing and skinning virtual warthogs. Why is it so easy to get people (not just kids) to do the latter?
Education is just the beginning. Companies like EmployInsight are tackling the problem of employee engagement with psychological assessment platforms, so that people are matched up with the most appropriate positions. But what if you took on the problem from the other direction? What if you could increase engagement by gamifying work?
(Stephen Hawking called. He says that I just broke the universe.)
Is that so crazy? Dan Pink argues (convincingly) that job satisfaction is driven mainly by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. A well-designed game dynamic strokes all three. Maybe in ten years, we’ll have Level 62 Accountants running around, completing audit quests and hustling to get above 85 skill points in Tax.
Do games make us stupid? Sort of. They jack directly into the “dumb” part of our brain that rewards us, bypassing the “smart” part of our brain that makes us do things we don’t want to do. The end result? Underachievers can be motivated to learn and accomplish things beyond their conscious capacity.
And that will be awesome to watch.