When students 'game' online learning, they lose

April 10, 2017

Ryan S. Baker, Penn GSE
Dr. Ryan Baker
Online and blended learning approaches have a blind spot: How do you handle a student that loses focus and doesn’t attempt to progress through a lesson?

“Students are going to get bored, or they are going to game the system, even if it’s a very good system,” said Ryan Baker, a Penn GSE assistant professor and Director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics.

Instead of trying to solve a problem, a student will keep guessing answers until they stumble upon the right answer, or until the program gives it to them. These shortcuts rarely save time, but they do bypass the point of the lesson, which can have long-term negative effects on subject comprehension and student success. 

Baker argues that when students find ways to avoid answering certain questions in a tech-based learning system, it is worse than simply off-task behavior in the classroom. 

How can it be avoided? In this video from Digital Promise, Baker provides three strategies developers can use in educational technology design.  

In this video Dr. Ryan Baker, Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics, describes gaming the system: students’ attempts to get through material in an online or blended learning system without learning. Dr. Baker explains why gaming the system is even worse for learning outcomes than off-task behavior.