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Sunay Palsole

Sunay Palsole is a true believer in the gamification of education. “Look at the concepts of gaming — competition, scoring points, a race against the clock,” said the associate vice provost of digital learning for the University of Texas at San Antonio. “Gamers also play together, so there is collaboration and cooperation. The key is to figure out how to use these concepts in various subjects.”

When he designs instruction for his courses, Palsole starts with what each student needs to achieve — a baseline — and then students earn points for each task they accomplish toward the goal. Students work in teams and choose what they want to learn. Along the way, teams can watch the digital scoreboard to see how they stack up.

And it’s not just course design in the physical world. Palsole is also creating virtual and online learning spaces to provide a better learning environment for students. While it’s clear technology plays a major role in how Palsole approaches gamification and education, it also helps him serve his students in other ways.

For example, Palsole utilizes technology to receive a variety of feedback on his courses, track student attendance and assist students who are falling behind. “I don’t want them failing. I want to have all the insight I can have,” he said. “I want to leverage all the tools to make sure they succeed, and whatever way there is to do it, I will do.”

He’s even taken this philosophy a step further. “I let students vote on office hours,” he said. “This isn’t about me. It’s for the students. The simple things, beyond the technology, they matter to me.”

Chances are good that they matter to his students as well. —Tim Douglas