Industrial Technology Professor Explores the Gamification of Curriculum

In the spirit of Learn by Doing, industrial technology professor Ahmed Deif is conducting research on how the “gamification” of curriculum — incorporating interactive games into the learning process — affects students’ understanding and application of lean manufacturing concepts.

Dief says his interest in the research stemmed from industry trends towards gamification in lean consulting for professionals. He says that classrooms have fallen behind by sticking to traditional lecturing methods to explain core concepts.

“The classical way of using slides and presentations Cal Poly master's students work through a gamification experimentexplaining the concepts isn’t used anymore, even in industry,” Deif said. “When it comes to universities, that [approach] should be the same.”

In his research, which spans across graduate and undergraduate classes, Deif matches lean six sigma concepts to physical games. After a brief lecture, students work in teams to complete the game and then share their thoughts on a number on factors such as attention span, the game’s relevance, confidence in applying the concept, and perceived cognitive effort. Deif says he sees students apprehending detailed concepts during the games, even without an explanation in the lecture.

He first presented his lean gamification research proposal at the Institute of Industrial Engineers Lean Six Sigma Conference in Sept. 2015. After receiving support from an Orfalea College of Business career readiness research grant as well as funding from the Industrial Technology and Packaging area, he was able to implement the games in the 2015 fall quarter. Deif will be using the games throughout the remainder of the year, and hopes to have an accurate sample of student assessments to determine which games are the most effective.

Eventually, Deif hopes that the success found in gamification could be applied to other disciplines to improve student learning.

“I’m trying to jump into a new world with this idea. There are a lot of concepts out there without games or exercises to explain them. I want to understand from the already established games… and, in the next phase of the research, design new games.”