November 18, 2016 — Once I put my first course online, I began to realize that this could easily look like more like a game than a course. First, I experimented with course badges. Then, I moved into gamification. Students often inherently understand the structure of a game, yet struggle in an online learning environment. So, making the classroom look more like a game bridges the gap they experience in their online learning.
The first task is to leverage the vocabulary of gaming. Students are characters, and their tasks are not assignments, but quests. They search for objects that have names based on a theme, such as medieval or space themes. Teachers become sages or mentors and the whole learning experience is a journey. Think: The Lord of the Rings.
Next, grades become points. Many websites are built to help teachers gamify the classroom experience by assigning points. In a traditional classroom, students start with a 100% and lose points when they make mistakes. This causes anxiety in many students. It also gives the wrong impression about where failing fits into the process of learning.
In a gamified points system, though, all students start at zero. Then, they earn points as they demonstrate competency. The old school scenario of 3 pac mans, and it’s “Game Over” is no longer the norm. Students reattempt activities until they achieve mastery. The skills they learn are valuable to their success later in the game.
In the most complicated of gamified courses, students can choose their own journey. As they complete simple tasks, more complex tasks open in a branching way, like a quest game. They then choose which branch they want to pursue next. This student driven model provides choice and increases student motivation.
Gamification of courses requires more planning on the part of the instructor. Not only does content need to be developed, and implemented online, but the instructor must draft a sort of plot line that the material follows. The more detailed and logical the structure, the more intuitive the game experience will be for the students. However, there are sites (like ClassRealm) that assist in this endeavor.
Gamification doesn’t work in every subject area every time. However, those instructors that incorporate it into their online learning environment will provide students with a truly personalized and customized learning experience. In turn, those students will demonstrate engagement in the material in a completely different way from that of their fellow students in a traditional online course.