Gas station without pumps

2012 September 16

Weird problem in Coursera course

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:33
Tags: ,

Katrin Becker has been blogging about the Coursera course she is taking on Gamification.  She posts one of the questions they have to answer, along with her response.  I’ll extract just a bit of the problem:

You are approached by Ryan Morrison, the mayor of a medium-sized city in the Midwest of the United States.  He has heard that you know a lot about gamification and believes that gamification techniques can transform city government.

He would like to start with the health of city employees.  The city has 50,000 employees and they happen to have exactly the same rates of obesity as the U.S. average: 34.4% overweight (but not obese) and 33.9% of them are obese.

My first reaction was 50,000 employees for a “medium-sized city”?  I’d regard 500,000 as medium-sized, and employing 10% of the population by the city is ridiculous.  According to The Chicago Tribune, in Nov 2011, Chicago (a large, not medium-sized, city) “will employ an estimated 32,300 workers — a 23 percent drop since 2002.”  So 50,000 employees for a medium-sized city is indeed ridiculous.  Rather than gamifying their attempts to get employees to be healthy, they’d have much bigger savings by reducing the hugely bloated staff, starting with the ones who suggested gamification as a cost-savings measure.

Note: I would have posted this comment on Becker’s blog, but she has disabled comments except for those who log into her blog.  I already have way too many accounts and passwords to keep track of, so I’m trying to limit the number of nuisance accounts I create.  Accounts created just for the purpose of commenting on a blog are nuisance accounts.


  1. My immediate impulse was to congratulate the city’s personnel office on being so successful at not discriminating against fat people. But what do I know?

    Comment by HelenS — 2012 September 16 @ 11:52 | Reply

  2. Sorry about the disabled posting – I had turned it off because the spam was getting out of hand.
    I’m adding a social login plugin that should let you log in with an existing account. Hope that helps.
    Feel free to re-post this on my blog.

    p.s. I really hadn’t bothered to think about whether or not 50,000 was a reasonable number. You’re right – it’s silly.

    Comment by Katrin — 2012 September 16 @ 13:36 | Reply

  3. I’ve had a lot of hits on this post from people searching for the problem statement. I think that I’m seeing evidence of MOOC cheating—students looking for solutions posted by other people that they can plagiarize. I’m sure that they were disappointed that my post didn’t have much that was usable in that way, though I suspect that the teachers will be hearing about the ludicrous numbers in the problem from students who didn’t think of it themselves.

    Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2012 September 17 @ 10:23 | Reply

    • Interesting.
      It never occurred to me that people would want to take my answer to submit as their own (DUH, huh?)
      It would be fun to find out how many people try using your comments as their answer or, how many submit my response as theirs.
      I think I’ll try and message the powers that be in the course and see what happens.
      Stay tuned….

      Comment by Katrin — 2012 September 17 @ 10:48 | Reply

  4. […] Weird problem in Coursera course […]

    Pingback by Blogoversary 3 | Gas station without pumps — 2013 June 1 @ 20:01 | Reply

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