The biggest issue is the XP system. Currently, students need to acquire 2000 XP per quarter in order to secure an "A" (this is run through 3D GameLab). The course is set up so that, typically, there are 2100 XP available in the main quest, along with a slew of "optional" assignments in which students can pad their results. With rare exceptions, none of the quests have been "required" to move on, a sad reality I had to accept back in September. While I originally wanted students to be unable to access Level 3 until they had completed level 2, it was clear some students were going to be content to sit at Level 2 until time ran out. As a result, the current system allows students to pick and choose which assignments they will complete.
For most students, and for most of the year, this has worked well. Around 80% of students were hitting the 2000 XP and above, while others just missed it, and still others fell far short. Many students, in fact, scored above 2500 points per quarter, giving them a large buffer zone this nine weeks.
This quarter, however, senioritis kicked in early. Some students with massive XP leads decided to use their buffer points and sit out a number of assignments. These students who had extremely high point levels at the end of Q2 are now just barely above the 6000 XP threshold. Others, despite not having a buffer, decided that a lower C, D, or F wouldn't be so bad considering they already had two solid A's in the first quarter. As a result, grades this quarter were far lower than they rightly should be. 60% finished in the range (good, but an all time low), though some of those are only there because they used buffer points.
Part of this buffer failure lies with the rules of the game. After six months of the Game Lab, two things are clear: 1) It's ok and actually essential that some assignments are absolutely required to receive anything above an Incomplete for the quarter and 2) Each XP should be monitored and measured and planned. As it stands, there are too many XP in circulation allowing for buffer zones that are far too high.
Is any of this shocking, or disheartening? Not really. It's just part of the game. To the students that used their buffers this quarter, congratulations on using the rules of the game to your own advantage. To those who "opted out" of assignments and ended up with poor grades, I hope you learned something too. To those who completed work as part of a group, yet failed to claim their XP in the game lab...interesting choice. To all seniors, remember that most of you no longer have a buffer zone. As it stands now, that game ends when you reach 8000 XP AND complete your senior speech. Everything else is "optional", though now that the extra points have been burne