Thursday, August 19, 2010

Students Betting on Their Grades

The Wall Street Journal contains a story today about an internet company that allows students to place wagers on what grade they will get in classes they take. Placing bets on higher grades or more difficult classes will win a higher return than betting on lower grades or easier classes.

Reading this story immediately took me back to my 10th grade biology class. I bet a friend one day that I would do better than him on the next exam. He took me up on the offer and I was glad to take his money after the next exam. That one bet steamrolled as more classmates got involved on consecutive exams. After our teacher discovered what we were doing, he would, with great drama and fanfare, announce the winner after each exam.

The whole experience was great fun, but something else happened--all of our grades went up!  I made straight A's in the class after I started making bets. It wasn't even a lot of money. Most bets were about $1, if I recall. The amount of money didn't really matter because what motivated me was my desire to win. So, from my experience, betting on grades can be a great motivator for students.

I do, however, have a couple of concerns about the website. Apparently, you can also bet against yourself. It makes no sense to me that the website would allow this. It should be easy for students to engineer the outcome. Plus, to state the obvious, betting against yourself won't help you make good grades. In addition, I don't envy the professor with the student in their office begging them to change their grade from a B- to a B so they can make $100.

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