Making learning addictive

Alumnus develops platform that allows instructors to turn almost any course into a multiplayer online game.

Portrait of Ping Cheng Enlarge
Photo credit: Ping Cheng

Professor Ping Cheng “Benson” Yeh’s awakening came the day he caught students sleeping in his class. Determined to keep students engaged, Yeh (PhD EECS ’05), an electrical engineering professor at National Taiwan University, developed a platform called PaGamO. It gives instructors the digital infrastructure to turn almost any course into a multiplayer online game.

A territory acquisition game similar to Risk, PaGamO requires students to answer questions from a problem set uploaded by their instructor. Correct answers help them build their territory or successfully attack other players.

Yeh, who earned U-M’s Outstanding GSI Award in 2003, says his years at Michigan sparked a passion for  finding ways to help students learn.

He launched PaGamO in 2013 as part of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC); it now has more than 350,000 users worldwide, according to its website. Its features have been expanded to meet the needs of K-12 students and align with U.S. Common Core standards. The platform took the top award at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s 2014 Re-Imagine Education awards, which bills itself as the Oscars of higher education innovation. In 2016 Yeh became the first academic to receive Taiwan’s Presidential Award for Innovation.

“We really get our students addicted to learning,” Yeh said in a video after the platform’s launch. ”That’s the dream of every teacher and we’re doing it…I believe MOOC and PaGamO are going to create the next paradigm shift for online education.”