Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have swept the world in recent years. Benson Yeh, the director of the MOOC program at National Taiwan University and a professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering, led a start-up team to join the inaugural Reimagine Education Awards in Philadelphia, the world’s largest education innovation competition. Benson Yeh’s team won the overall award and first place in the E-Learning Award section with its innovation, PaGamO, the world’s first online gaming platform for education.
Giving learning another chance
Combining video game elements, such as leader boards, land acquisition and role play, PaGamO attracts users from schools, universities and corporations. No matter how old you are or what the learning content is, it transforms a dull learning experience into something like a game that you cannot stop playing. Only four to five weeks after the school-level learning material was launched, the student in the first place on the leader board had already done more than 5,800 exercises, which amounted to more than 100 exercises per day. The degree of student involvement was astonishing.
In the past, video games were perceived as a hindrance to learning motivation. Fortunately, PaGamO has succeeded in integrating learning with gaming, making video games beneficial to learning and turning learning into an exciting level progression game. Benson Yeh said, “PaGamo is an enticing game to many students, especially those who have lost confidence in learning or are not motivated to study. It rekindles their passion for learning, which is why it is so inspiring.”
Seeing the potential of PaGamO, Benson Yeh started to guide students who had developed the first version of PaGamO and a few other engineers of the younger generation to establish BoniO Inc. in the spring of 2014. This company continues to deepen the influence of PaGamO and develop the best software for improving learning effectiveness.
By gamifying the learning experience, Benson Yeh has put BoniO on the map of the education world. Its main product PaGamO has not only attracted the attention of Korean television, but also gained a worldwide reputation for the “flipped classroom” it uses in Taiwan. With more and more B2B and B2C cooperation with domestic and overseas schools and corporations, BoniO is playing an increasingly influential role in shaping the future landscape of education.
Being a good leader means being a good teacher to employees
Dedicated to creating technology that can “flip” education, Benson Yeh’s philosophy on leadership is very close to the idea of the “flipped classroom”. Benson Yeh remembers listening to a speech approximately three years ago by Jiang Ming, an experienced Taiwanese manager who used to work as the deputy director of TI. This speech, especially the idea that “leadership is not about authority”, left a deep impact on Benson Yeh’s leadership style. Jiang Ming said that he did not follow the traditional top-down management approach. Instead, he wanted to let his subordinates know that he was helping them become better people.
Later, Benson Yeh contemplated that management approach, asking himself, isn’t helping subordinates become better people pretty similar to what a teacher does for students? “Good leadership is about becoming a good teacher to your employees. A business owner should make his employees feel like working here is not just about making money, and that they can instead also achieve many things for their own benefit,” said Benson Yeh.
What’s to flip next? Building a “borderless classroom” to nurture world-class leaders
Benson Yeh has noticed that Taiwanese society has gradually come to have different opinions and discussions on the issue of education. However, most people are still used to putting responsibility on teachers. He shared his personal experience and observation: Teacher’s Day one year happened to be on a public holiday, when Benson Yeh and his colleagues were holding a seminar on the “flipped classroom”. Originally, they thought fewer participants would come because the seminar was on a public holiday. But to their surprise, more than 2,000 teachers from different schools around Taiwan voluntarily attended the event. It seemed that many teachers were already very passionate and concerned about education reform, but the “whole of society hasn’t caught up with these teachers”. Teachers who are keen on promoting education reforms are often restrained from implementing innovative teaching methods by the current system.
Given this, Benson Yeh joined forces with a group of teachers who share a common goal to launch an education research program on the “borderless classroom”. In this program, curriculum from Year 5 to Year 12, a period of eight years, is implemented on the basis of the “flipped classroom”. Learning content is customised to accord with the different potential of different children. In this way, children become the subject of the learning process. It is hoped that this new form of curriculum can nurture a new echelon of world-changing leaders who will one day be initiating major global trends.
Benson Yeh hopes that the borderless classroom can become the latest example of innovative education, encouraging teachers in the current system to persuade parents to pursue a new teaching method oriented at enhancing students’ abilities and inspiring children to use their talents, so that it can be put into practice in every school in Taiwan.
Advancing from PaGamO to the borderless classroom, Benson Yeh and the BoniO team will continue to promote reform and innovation in the education system, making learning no longer dull and boring, and turning schools into places of hope and incubators of positive change in the world.