Gamification in Chemical Engineering Education – Part I: The challenges

Recently, I had a conversation with a university professor about leveraging technology in the teaching of chemical engineering. One interesting topic emerged – Gamification! Our subsequent discussion revolved around whether the gamification of some technical areas such as process dynamics study, process control, operation and safety can better suit the needs of the next generation of engineers, in particular the Generation Z note 1, and what options are available today if engineering colleges or schools are interested in implementing gamification in some of their curricular. In what follows are some highlight of our discussion:

  • Gamification is believed to be one of the effective approaches to enhance learning experience through better student engagement, interactive environment, team work and, the most important of all, FUN!
  • Though the Generation Z is good at getting information from the internet and is very resourceful as compare to the previous generations, however, the professor also observes note 2 that some students are simply extracting information from the internet without further verifying or challenging the validity. Some are not willing to dive into technical detail or reluctant to invest more time in difficult problems or get bored easily. So how to make use of the gamification to address the aforementioned challenges?
  • Though some professors/lecturers express interest in gamification, there is no incentive for them to go extra miles as their existing teaching,  researching, supervising, managerial and administrative works have taken much of their time.
  • There are a few key ingredients, we believe, are crucial to the success of gamification. These include, but not limited to:
    • Engaging atmosphere that simulates realistic scenario/challenges in practice and that helps to gain insight and fosters team work.
    • A good story/scenario that encompasses myriad aspects of the chemical engineering curricular such as basic chemical engineering principles, process dynamics, safety constraints and that requires the team to use their knowledge and skills to accomplish the given mission or missions.
    • A clear performance measurement and rewards.
    • Instant feedback and moments to conduct some self-/team-reflection.

Clearly, the gamification of the chemical engineering curricular goes beyond a mere technology adoption, but its success requires the ability to integrate technology, experience and practical insight into a session. Therefore, buy-in and support from the university management, government and industry are important.

In the next short article, we will share what are the options available in gamification of chemical engineering education. Stay tuned!

Notes:
Note 1: According to wikipedia [1], the Generation Z are those born between mid-1990s and mid-2000s and shares some common characteristics and values, such as comfortable with technology and values individuality and diversity. The Generation Z also shares some interesting traits similar to the Millennials (born between early-1980s and mid-1990s), which include seeking instant gratification and constant feedback [2]. Both the Millennials and Generation Z are very efficient in utilizing internet for information, lessons, view points and etc.
Note 2: The observations about Generation Z may differ across culture and can be personal.

References:
[1] Generation Z, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Z)
[2] Stewart W. Behie and Matthew K. Henwood, “Closing the skills gap.” Chemical Engineering Progress June 2018:36-41.

Further reading:
   

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