I Don’t Teach Lessons – I Give Quests

Dwarven PriestStarting next week, the WoWinSchool Project will become a reality.  We have a great group of students lined up to participate in the project and they are in for an exciting adventure.  From the beginning, I’ve suggested that World of Warcraft, and many other popular video games today, are at least at some level,  potential models for instructional design and delivery.  Today’s games are incredibly complex intellectual pursuits that our students consume with a ravenous appetite.  They are very focused on achievement and support the players’ progress with in-game help and game play that builds in complexity cumulatively.  And, this learning is highly individualized and customized in most cases.

Why can’t our lessons be like this?  I believe they can be.  How often do students struggle for a semester to learn a complex, vocabulary-intense subject like Biology only to fail at the end?  And when they fail, do they pick back up where they left off and attempt to re-master those concepts?  No.  They have to start back over at the beginning the next semester.  I wonder if World of Warcraft would have 11.5 million subscribers if it adopted a similar model?  If I worked hard to achieve level 79 and then failed a quest sending me back to level one would I keep playing?  I doubt it.  The game designers know that would be a disaster, and no one would pay for the game.

With the WoWinSchool after school project I’ve decided I won’t be giving students lessons on math, literacy, leadership, etc.  I’ll be giving students quests for those things instead!  Which would be more effective, to give the students an assignment in the classroom or give them quest, in-game, that revolves around the rich story world that Blizzard has created?  The outcomes, pedagogically, will be the same:  they’ll be writing, they’ll be doing math, and they’ll learn the 21st-Century skills.  The method of delivery, however, will be immersive.

Here’s how it may work:

  • The teachers working with the project will create characters and put them in a guild.  This guild will be known as something like “Keepers of Lore” or “Lore Masters.”  There has been much discussion in gaming circles lately that the next great virtual world/MMO will have to include player generated content.  This would be something akin to that.  We would have students interact with these characters as though they were NPC’s (Non-player characters), but they would, of course, be much more interactive.  We would give quests (assignments) that may involve out-of-game things such as creating machinima, writing a story in a forum, etc.
  • Their work could be rewarded with in-game rewards such as bags, companion pets, mounts, etc.
  • All of this would be handled in roleplay sort of environment perhaps even integrating existing themes current in the World of Warcraft storyline.  Students would also be encouraged to reply/respond in-character.
  • The Lore Master character would support the student learning throughout the process through in-game communication or even through responses in forums to student work.

So, what do you think?  Do you have ideas about how we might blur the lines between assignments and quests, between in-game and real-life learning?  If so, share your thoughts and comments!


6 Responses to “I Don’t Teach Lessons – I Give Quests”

  1. Hey Lucas,
    I am very excited about the actual start of your project! I think it is a brilliant idea and I am looking forward to your updates.


  2. Lucas says:


    Thank you for the words of encouragement! I intend to chronicle the experience ad nauseum both here and in the wiki.


  3. Nava says:

    I realise this is a late reply but im new to whats going on and working through it sequentially. Because the would perhaps have more knowledge of the game they could give directions to quests that students might have to find out on a wiki or game guide (especially since changes make leveling faster) so you could provide continuity of in game experience and to a degree direct traffic to those quest you will use for teaching concepts. Although looking up a wiki isnt a bad thing.

  4. Nava says:

    *Lore keepers (left it out probably because i put it in less than more than signs.

  5. carmen says:

    Hey I was reading this and I think its a great idea. So many students get distracted by video games but why not making learning part of the video game? I would assume you would do this on a private server though because we both no the cost of the actual wow game is expensive. Plus that would give you the control to decided who gets what rewards and mount. I think its a very interesting idea and I would like to know what are the results.

  6. Lucas says:

    Nope, we’re keeping it “above board” operating on the regular servers. Yes, it is expensive, and there are alternatives like Lord of the Rings Online for those who are looking for a similar tool without the cost.

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