"Who's Got Class?" is a social game that exposes players to the many facets and programs of WCET (the host for the game), and rewards them for their engagement and contributions. The light-hearted program is designed to provide a first-hand experience of social games and badges for learning. While geared toward representatives of WCET's member institutions, "Who's Got Class?" is open to all interested parties until October 31, 2012.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org (include name, institution/employer, work email) to receive your invitation to play "Who's Got Class?".
As of this writing, there are 23 active discussion threads within the Forum area of "Who's Got Class?". They cover everything from resource lists to diversity to quality assurance to suggestions for uses of game+badge programs.
I think my favorite thread (at least right now) is in response to a technical hiccup we had with our badge platform. The other day, suddenly and mysteriously, several players experienced a massive score increase. The result was that players and teams that had been highly ranked were no longer on the leaderboards.
One player was peeved enough to start a new discussion which she titled, "Cheating?" Many others chimed in. The comments were considered, even high brow. Questions were raised about authentication of badge awards, whether it's possible to game the game system, (de)motivation, the value of peer moderation (shunning?), whether scores should be displayed on leaderboards or kept private - pretty lofty and important stuff, really.
But it's the subtext of the entire discussion that is most instructive because truly, what everybody was worked up about was the possibility that they had gotten screwed. That some other player(s) had cheated, had gained an unfair advantage, and now the creeps were winning and the righteous and rightful leaders had been trounced.
Nobody likes cheaters, especially when you're the one getting cheated. When somebody beats you "fair and square," you may feel dismayed and disappointed. But if the game is fair and the win is legitimate, well that's the way it goes.
So how do we deal with cheating in a game-based social learning environment?
For games that are closed systems, designers are able to ensure that cheating isn't possible by eliminating (i.e., not recognizing) player actions that would result in cheating. (NOTE: this isn't 100% true - we can all think of examples of websites that give "cheat codes" to players who know how to find them.)
But in a social learning environment that intentionally sends players out of that environment to accomplish various missions and quests in order to earn badges and points, how do we prevent cheating? Should we even attempt to? When cheating occurs, how do we deal with it? Is it the instructors' responsibility to call it out? To render punishment, and how severely? What is the responsibility of other members of the learning community? And, no matter how you answer these questions, what are the ramifications of taking those positions?
Seriously, let me know what you think?