Gamification Strategies for the Virtual Classroom
This blog post is the summary of a professional development presentation scheduled for March 13, 2019, which I will hold as a guest presenter from the Teach Now program during my clinical practice at FuelEd, a for-profit online K12 educational service provider.
The term ”Gamification” was coined by Nick Pelling in 2002. He was designing a user interface that had game elements for electronic devices. Basically, it came from the computer programming realm and it eventually migrated to an educational context.
Karl Kapp, the author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction defines gamification as “the careful and considered integration of game characteristics, aesthetics and mechanics into a non-game context to promote change in behavior. It is most often used to motivate and engage people.”
In other words, gamification can be applied to any non-game field and it doesn’t necessarily mean making a game, but including game-like elements to improve motivation.
What are Some Game-like Elements?
Playful, creative designs inspire the players.
Example: Video games allow you to navigate or even build imagined worlds. Think of Sims or the augmented reality of Pokemon Go.
The purpose of games is to have fun. This is pretty self-explanatory.
Players have a sense of suspense as they progress. They don’t always know what’s going to happen next.
Example: Think of the mystery-solving game Clue. Or any guessing game using a card deck like Apples to Apples.
Sense of agency
Players spend most of the time in a game being actively involved.
Example: Card games with simple rules like Go Fish get the action going immediately.
Players can often test out a variety of social identities and responsibilities.
Examples: Baseball team players each have different responsibilities. In many video games, you get to choose your character (Mario vs. Luigi).
Points and badges
Players make visible progress and they can earn added badges for qualities, rather than points.
Example: Non-point rewards are most common in narrative video games where you earn “powers” or new “weapons” or “energy” to continue playing.
Safety net for failure
Players can spend as much time as they want to play a game and this gives them the ability to take risks, fail, and try again.
Example: Have you ever played Tetris for hours like I have? …failing again and again just to try to beat my highest score.
Games often encourage competition, and it can become an enriching memorable experience.
Example: Team sports!
Applying Game-like Elements in a Classroom Setting
According to gamification experts, these are just a few of the benefits of using games or game-like elements in education:
Motivation: Student engagement increases.
Emotional Content: Games elicit emotional responses that create memorable experiences.
Immersive Experience: As active participants, students can reach a concentrated flow state.
Here are a few examples of gamification in the educational setting:
Keeping the FuelEd context in mind, which requires stringent adherence to FERPA, for-profit copyright restrictions, and inflexibility in the curriculum, I have come up with a few tools and tips that can be immediately applied.
Badges for Achievement
First let’s consider badges. If you have ever participated in Girl Scouts or Campfire, you gradually earned badges for skills that honored the full range of benefits you bring to a situation. Badges are not limited to academic knowledge, but they can also honor also social skills and leadership qualities.
When creating badges, you’ll need to first design the badges, then create standardized guidelines for how to achieve the badges, and then you’ll have to post these guidelines as a resource for your students, and finally deliver the badges in student feedback when they earn them.
I created these badges using Accredible’s Badge Builder Tool.
These are the badges I created and the guidelines for awarding them in a virtual classroom environment. These include some example award messages I have created that also explain the sample badge guidelines.
The second tool I’ve created is a badge leaderboard. This takes the concept of badges one step further so that the students who have earned the badges are visibly displayed in your announcements or as an external link in your student resources. Leaderboards provide some of that healthy competition that students often crave.
For our purposes, you’ll need to keep FERPA confidentiality requirements in mind, but this can be done by allowing students to create their own aliases or giving them anonymized names.
The next tool I would suggest trying is to create avatars with your students. Avatars are made up images that give you a creative personalized identity without using selfies. This is one that I created using the open source tool called Androidify created by google. Here is the link to my Ms. Eller English Android.
This program can be used without copyright restrictions in your classes. Since it is a gif file, the image will actually move in the screen of your feedback post, if you upload the ‘gif’ file as a regular image file.
Links for External Game Resources
Finally, perhaps the easiest way to give students gameified educational tools is to include EdTech games as external links. Here are just a few examples I found that can be provided to students. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
https://www.icivics.org/ - Games to learn civics.
https://www.codeavengers.com/ - Games to learn coding.
https://www.waldengame.com/ - Interactive game based on Thoreau’s book On Walden Pond.
https://www.duolingo.com/ - Fun game-like language learning tool.
https://sheg.stanford.edu/history-assessments – Students collect flags for passing history assessments.
https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks - Find lots of external Edtech resources that make learning fun.
So, now that we’ve explored ways to make education more engaging through gamification, I’m sure you may have thought of some of your own ideas for including game elements in your courses. Let me know in the comments if you have thought of more ways that you could gamify your classes.