Whitman School Using Gamification to Promote Learning

What do Harry Potter and a smartphone app have to do with training tomorrow’s business leaders? At Syracuse University, plenty.

This semester, the Whitman School of Management is launching the Goodman IMPRESS program. IMPRESS creates competition among students to gain critical career skills. Students in turn track their progress on a smart phone app and earn "game points" by taking part in a variety of career-building programs outside of their normal classwork.

Attend a lecture, earn points. Gain Microsoft certification, earn more points. Students earn points for taking part in programs, including personal and professional leadership development, major and industry exploration, and community engagement.

"Focusing particularly on soft skills and extracurricular experiences, our goal was to develop a program that would ensure our undergraduates leave Whitman with a sustainable competitive advantage throughout their lives and careers," says Associate Dean and Professor of Practice Amanda Nicholson.

These symbols represent the four houses that comprise IMPRESS:  Adams, Harrison, Marshall, and Waverly.

These symbols represent the four houses that comprise IMPRESS: Adams, Harrison, Marshall and Waverly.

Student teams are divided into four houses (Adams, Marshall, Waverly and Harrison), each with a faculty advisor who serves as a house master, and each with its own name and shield, a la Harry Potter. The team with the most points at the end of the year wins the Goodman Cup, named after program supporter Kenneth Goodman ’70.

The use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context is at the heart of gamification, a concept that’s gaining popularity in higher education. In a nutshell, gamification employs the use of a game to make difficult or challenging work fun.

Goodman IMPRESS program participants are notified via text message about their next opportunity to earn points.

Goodman IMPRESS program participants are notified via text about their next opportunity to earn points.

Even though the program is in its infancy, student reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

“I noticed a difference this year in that the IMPRESS program has positively encouraged students to work harder outside the classroom by attending lectures and networking events. IMPRESS creates a well-rounded student who will be more prepared for the workforce than ever before," says Sarah Whittaker, sophomore and lead peer mentor at the Adams House.

“IMPRESS shows us what we can strive to be as Whitman students and what we hope to become when we leave and enter the business world," says David DuPont, a freshman in the Marshall House.

“The IMPRESS Program was a main reason why I chose to attend Syracuse. When I learned about what the program entailed aside from my academic career, I was sold. Similar to the college application process, landing a job is more than just being proficient in your field of study. It’s mandatory that I can present myself well, interact with others gracefully, give back to others and know what is going on around me. Not only am I learning all of that through IMPRESS to improve my chances of getting my dream job, but those skills will help me achieve success throughout my lifetime—no matter what the situation may be," says Nicole Anna Dementri, a freshman at Whitman.

Incoming students were provided with information about the program so they could hit the ground running when they arrived on campus. The official kickoff for IMPRESS comes during a gathering at Whitman School on Thursday, Sept. 11.

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