Best practices: Gamify your class with Moodle

According to gamification “typically involves applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” In education teachers have gamified the running of their classrooms as well as incorporating game design into the curriculum itself. In this blog post we’ll explore why you might want to gamify your classroom examples of gamification and how to gamify with Moodle.

Reasons to gamify your classroom

Games appeal to a wide variety of people. By using game mechanics (rules that underlie games) teachers discover new ways to teach students by using rules and patterns that are already familiar to them. Still need some convincing? Here are five reasons to gamify your classroom:

  1. Engagement: Quests challenges dungeons and boss levels are short- and long-term activities that aim at gaining and holding your students’ attention while they learn the content.
  2. Safe failure: Games offer a safe place to fail because the player can always try again without real-life penalty. The same is true in a gamified classroom. Students are able to rework a project or assignment until they master or complete it. The teacher’s role is to offer constructive feedback and to help guide student learning.
  3. Alternative rewards: When students meet expectations teachers typically reward them with a grade. And let’s face it not every student is motivated by getting an A on their report card. In a gamified classroom experience points (XP) badges and achievement titles are all part of a flexible reward system that identifies and represents student learning achievement. Skills attitudes knowledge and other achievements (not necessarily represented by the traditional grading system) can be validated with alternative rewards.
  4. Student choice: You can greatly motivate some students by offering them a choice of what they can do within the context of your gamified classroom. They have an opportunity to learn the content depending on their skill and interest level. And by completing certain tasks or quests students can “level up” to unlock additional content receive bonuses or special privileges or even purchase items from the class store using awarded experience points.
  5. Collaboration: Getting small groups to work together smoothly can be a challenge. Games too have “small groups” or teams called guilds families or houses that have similar goals and identify with each other in some way. Working together not against each other is the goal of a guild and can be for your small groups too.

Classroom examples

Activity completion and restrict access settings in addition to a new twist on the gradebook work very well for a gamified Moodle course. The following are examples of how you might use them in your course.

Quests (releasing content)

A quest is a task-based journey with obstacles that your students must overcome. To create a quest begin with the end in mind and determine what it is that you want your students to learn. From there determine the tasks they need to complete to meet those goals of the quest. If they need to complete the tasks in order make a note of that for later. Then create resources and activities in Moodle for those tasks. Consider using a story line or narrative to link the tasks together to create a cohesive whole. Use activity completion tracking and restricted access to release content. Most quests begin with a “quest giver” typically yourself or the first piece of content that students access for the quest. When a student marks a task as complete the next step in the quest is revealed automatically via the restrict access settings. This works well for short term activities although you can release a whole topic and once everything has been completed within that topic the next topic can be released using the same techniques.

Awards (gradebook)

As mentioned earlier an alternative rewards system is a flexible system that acknowledges all the skills knowledge and attitudes that a student has rather than just achievements on a test or assignment. To create an award system you will need to determine the actions you are rewarding and how it will work. For example a quest might be worth 10 XP but helping the rest of the “guild” might result in an extra 10 XP. Being late to class may result in a 25 XP deduction. Doing something out of the ordinary may award a badge that can be displayed on a blog or website if wanted but not award XP. To create an XP system within the gradebook do the following:

  • Create your categories. In the example Quests are the tasks and assignments Equipment Checks are quizzes and knowledge checks and Raids are group activities. You may also put in an extra credit category like Farming or Crafting.
  • Set all categories to use the sum of grades aggregation method.
  • Create your resources and activities and add them to the appropriate categories.

When you have set up the gradebook go back to the home page of your course and add an HTML block. In the HTML block write out what the levels are that students will achieve with each new XP gained and giving them a visual confirmation of what the XP means. For example Journeyman 0 – 100 Master 101 – 200 Expert 201 – 300 Epic 301 – 400. Why set up the gradebook this way? In a typical classroom students are given a set amount of points that they will lose as they go through the semester. With an XP system the experience points are achieved over time as students start out as n00bs (beginners) but as they learn they level up and achieve the next experience level. The difference is in how they are practiced despite being similar in numbers.

Easter eggs (hidden info)

An Easter egg is an intentionally hidden message joke or feature within a game. In a Moodle course this can contain an interesting video a new piece of information to make a task easier or an extra quest (i.e. resource or activity) that is not available until that point. You can reveal and hide these Easter eggs using restrict access. When you configure the settings:

  • Set a condition for releasing it.
  • Choose to hide the item entirely until its conditions are met.

Do not indicate activity completion for the item. These are only a few ways that you can incorporate gamification into your Moodle course. By using these and other game techniques in your class you can gain and hold your students’ attention while they learn through gameplay. Happy moodling! ~April

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