Getting the right level of challenge

14/05/2013 in Course information

Continuing our series of featured contributions by ocTEL participants, here Nicola Whitton draws out some points from blogs and forums in the Week 3 activities (which she led). It’s good to see that several of the discussions from ‘past’ weeks are still drawing interest and interaction. 

I was struck by an interesting conversation in the ocTEL forums discussing the game NotPron. This is a particularly hard game, with a steep learning curve, that also requires high levels of technical expertise (or the ability and confidence to pick up technical skills very quickly). I think that NotPron is an interesting example of how technologically-simple games can stimulate learning; but it is a very bad example of how to make a game accessible for a wide audience.

Sue Folley blogged about the game, discussing the difficulties she had getting started and being able to play the game. In her analysis, the lessons learned from her experience for students:

… the hints provided were not sufficient scaffolding for me to guess what to even try to do to get to the next level. I suppose this is a lesson learned in making sure that that enough scaffolding is provided for all level of student, and it provided me with the insight of what it felt like to feel way out of my comfort zone.

Sue is certainly not alone, as several others on the discussion forum share her experience. Anna Warren agreed, and highlighted that the game prides itself on its difficulty, with only 0.0001% of players completing the game. She comments:

I’m trying to imagine us designing learning where only 0.0001% of students would successfully complete the task! But joking aside, I think it’s a reminder for me of the need to design learning that is challenging, but achievable. That the purpose and the outcome needs to be clear and explicit, and that there needs to be timely reward and feedback!

What struck me also was the number of times that words such as ‘frustrating’ and ‘losing patience’ and reflecting on how important it is to make learning activities challenging enough  that it’s not boring but not so challenging that it becomes frustrating. How to do this for a massively diverse learner demographic – with different interests, abilities, passions, concerns, confidence levels, background, etc., etc.? Now, there’s a difficult challenge.

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