Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Naysawn Naderi, founder of Art Sumo and a student in Kevin Werbach’s recently finished Gamification course. He also blogs once a week on entrepreneurship on his personal blog. Naysawn took Gamification with five friends in Seattle, Washington. He stopped by the Coursera office recently, and we asked him to share with you why he decided to create a study group and what he learned from the study group experience.
I’ve always been a big believer in the need for continuous education, having been self-taught in programming, foreign languages, and UX design. While I certainly have the motivation to learn new things, I find it particularly challenging to maintain the discipline and dedication in an online course. To combat this trend, I invited a few friends over to watch the Gamification lectures on a weekly basis with me. I thought it would make the lectures more fun, as well as give us a heightened social commitment to finish the course, rather than just a commitment to learn by ourselves. In effect, we could hack the learning process.
And so, we formed a weekly group to watch the lectures; it also helped that this particular group seemed to find the course incredibly applicable. One of my friends, Bradford Baker, is creating a board game for Alaska Airlines and was eager to deepen his understanding of game design. Lindsey Engh, a social entrepreneur, had been mulling over designing engagement loops for social change. Another friend, Brett Horvath, is designing an iPhone game targeting using gamification for behavioral change, and two of us (Bazil and myself) are internet entrepreneurs who are excited to learn about any method that increases user engagement.
With our motivation clearly aligned and a schedule in place, we huddled around a laptop to watch one Gamification lecture, over pizza, each Wednesday for the last six weeks. When together, it was natural to ask each other if we had done the assignments or watched the other lectures. Saying “oops, nope” shamed us enough to do the other required work on our own.
While it was great to see each other every week, there were other perks, too: we came to mutual understandings by discussing specific points found throughout the videos, especially when prompted or challenged by the professor. We all thoroughly enjoyed the group study experience and we plan to start another Coursera course sometime next month. But next time we are planning to:
1. Throw a kick-off party for the first lecture
Although at least six of us made it to most of the lectures, there were many more who expressed interest but never made it to single one. We found that if somebody had missed two weeks of the course, the four-lecture deficit was too large to overcome. Therefore, next time we’d like to place a greater emphasis on the first lecture; we plan to throw a kick-off party so that everyone feels that binding social commitment and starts on the same page.
2. Expand the group through friends of friends
While simply learning new material throughout the course was fantastic, next time I would like to use the opportunity to increase my circle of friends. Most people find that it’s pretty hard to meet new people and form bonds of friendship post-college; this is greatly exacerbated for those of us who work from home. I think getting together on a weekly basis naturally creates and strengthens friendships among all the participants – I certainly feel closer with my Gamification group of friends. Next time, I’ll plan on asking every participant to bring in at least one new person to the group.
These are a couple of photos from our group:
Our Wednesday night group from Seattle, Washington. Here we are getting our badge of completion for finishing the course.
Bradford Baker posing with the board game that he designed for Alaska Airlines.
Have you formed a study group recently? If so, please share your experiences in the comments below. If you’re interested in joining or creating a study group in your area, visit the Cousera meetup page.