How I replaced Blackboard with 3D Gamelab

In today’s college classroom the LMS is commonly used to manage, track, and facilitate the learning process for both face to face and online learning courses. Most colleges currently run the Blackboard LMS, which is a very good LMS that is designed to meet the needs of today’s faculty. However, I personally have found Blackboard to be a bit dull because it’s used so often and I love to experiment with new things. So I learned about a new LMS called 3D Gamelab which was designed to function like a gamified LMS. Obviously given my interest in games and the fact that I teach a gaming course I was intrigued to find out more. So I got a copy and tested it for 3 semesters. I tested it in 5 courses during the Summer 14-Spring 15 semesters for my Instructional Technology graduate students.

What is it? 3D Gamelab is an LMS that is geared towards gamers. It functions just like blackboard and others but has some different features. For instance, badges, awards, and experience. There are no grades in 3D Gamelab. There is experience. So students rank up levels and earn experience as they complete assignments. This experience is then translated into your grade.

Assignments. Assignments are called quests. So each time a user logs into your course they see the quests that they need to complete. These can be big assignments – like here is your final project or small tasks like a quest asking users if they read the readings for the day. I found using it to have students confirm that they read the syllabus and such to be very valuable (something other LMSs do not really allow you to do).

Badges, awards, achievements. You can set up badges, awards, and achievements in the LMS. Badges are for skills that the students acquire, awards are awards for completing assignments and such, and achievements are for completing tasks. Technically all 3 can be used for the same thing if you wanted. I assign badges for skills such as being a beginner in HTML. These badges can then be transferred to the users Mozilla Backpack, which is awesome. I use the awards and achievements for things like completing an assignment, earning a rank, etc.

Grading. This is something that is both good and bad. It’s great because when I log in I can see what needs to be graded and students can see where they rank compared to the rest of the class. Also if students did not get a 100% on my assignment I return it to them and they will need to recomplete it for credit. The disadvantage is that you can’t give grades other than perfect. So if they got an 80% the only option is to send it back to the student to redo until they get a 100%. This is how games work which is why its set up like this however this makes it difficult for instructors. This works fine for my graduate classes which are project based and I rarely have students that do not get A’s. But this would not work for my undergraduate students who do not turn in perfect work, turn in things late, and do not always get A’s.

Price. It’s relatively inexpensive. The cost is around $100 a year per instructor for all of your classes. So trying it was a no brainer.

Usability. In my opinion is very simple to use and set up. However, I am a ‘techie’. I noticed that my older students tended to have trouble navigating and always seemed to ask me for help. This is not something I experienced with Blackboard but I did with 3D Gamelab. I think if the company offered a really good interactive tutorial that this problem would be solved. My younger graduate students had no issues.

Student reactions. My students loved it. They really liked it. There were a few glitches here and there but overall it was a good experience. They really like the badges and loved the experience/ranks/quests. The comments in their reflections were that it was different and was fun to use. However, they also noted that while they really liked this they thought that if it was used by the university for all of their classes they would probably lose interest quickly and just think it’s dull like they believe Blackboard is.

My recommendation. Try it out. It’s a lot of fun. It’s different. Your students will like it. It’s worth the money.

How will I use it in the future? I have decided that I will use it for two of my courses – gaming and project management. Both of these courses are set up as competition/gamified courses so it will work well. I am going to use blackboard for my other courses as I want to mix things up and I don’t want my students getting sick or tired of any technology in my classes. So variation is best.

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