Game on!

Christi talks about gamification
Christi talks about gamification

I am personally excited about the first presentation of the morning for the University of Wyoming Technology Bootcamp. Christi Boggs, Meg Van Baalen-Wood, and Karen Williams will be discussion gamification in education.

Instructors and trainers in all areas are talking about how to effectively integrate games into courses, how to make courses more game-like and how games can improve education. In this session, we will describe how we used several pillars of game theory to redesign our own courses, complete with epic wins and fails!

Christi explains why she added game elements to her course. She wanted to lead by example. When first thinking about gamifying a class she felt she could not compete with professional games. We read a book in  called Reality is Broken in the elearning guild. Games to not have to be really complex, they can be simple an get the instructional principle across. Your class is already a game, just a badly designed one. Classes and games both have points. There are obstacles and barriers in both games and classes. Instructors are the big boss that must be defeated to get the “A.” Students adapt to beat the boss. We don’t normally give them all the rules or resources they need to succeed.

Failure is an option, do overs are an option. Normally, we only give one attempt. In a game like environment, you have multiple lives.

Resources help you achieve more. As instructors, we need to keep providing resources. The tasks must lead to new knowledge. The “Boss” also known as the instructor is a resource for the class.

Choice is a important factor. But the students had choices of assignments, how they could complete the assignments. With choice, students feel they some control of the situation and what happened to them.  Christi provided activity and path choices, time, and topic.

Chisti outlined her course. She provided 5 quests worth 200 points for a total of 1,000 points. Each quest has around 300 possible points. Only 200 points in each quest could be counted toward the grade. 1-2 required elements which required mastery (70%) to move on. Students could resubmit as many times as the student wished. Students worked through the course at their own pace. Results: Students were completing 280-300 points while only needing 200 points.

Karen talked about the courses they used for gamification. The principles they are using are not discipline specific. Karen recommends the book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Karen points out that a good game lets you explore and lets you find resources on your own. A game allows you to try. In a game there is support. We need to bring this to the classroom. Instructors need to be resources and support. Karen and Christi maintain robust and rigorous rubrics, they provide feedback so the students can try again. They provided a suggestable pace for completing their quests. More students earned higher grades. Because the students could redo work, grading for the instructor was easier. It was easier to be critical. It was easier to maintain a rigorous rubric. Students felt the course set them up for success.

Karen discusses the challenges. She mentioned some students waited until the last minute to turn in work. The online system did not maintain grades as they wanted.

Karen mentioned that she felt less overwhelmed in grading and providing feedback for most of the course. She felt she gave more meaningful and timely feedback. She had more dialogue with her students than traditional courses.

Meg talks about her experiences
Meg talks about her experiences

Meg talked about her course and the demographics of her students. She prepares students to write in the workplace. When she first thought about gamification, she initially thought “no way.” In a traditional class, she felt like a timekeeper and a barrier in the classroom. Meg says she is not a game player. She implemented game principles with terminology appropriate jargon for the discipline. She used choice, resubmission, etc. She used project units where students could choose projects. Instead of discussions, she had “think tanks.” The grade point average was higher for the gamified course than other courses. She does not take required drafts, but experienced higher number of students turning in drafts. She saw greater improvement in writing in her course.

Meg’s course had 5 units, and a required task in each unit with an array of optional units. Students could participate in a number of different activities.

Meg had three major themes: Community, ownership, and perception of instructor.


Over half the class granted permission to use their work for examples. Students noticed and appreciated the sense of community in the class.  Students thought about community when participating in the “think tanks.” Meg experienced uniformly successful collaborations in group projects. They used wikis to complete their work as a group.


Eleven out of 21 students spoke about time management and planning. Students spoke about project planning needs. Meg learned new strategies for working with revisions. She saw great work, and was tired by other work.

Perceptions of instructor

Meg received comments from students that saw her as a valuable mentor. This was the first online course where she was asked for a recommendation. In this class, she received two.

Limitations or lessons learned

Students unfamiliar of course design and lack of structure. Students were anxious. Meg was anxious about students finishing. She had trouble about managing pacing and grading. She was no longer in control of the class. She found it difficult to see an assignment in week eight that should have been turned in on week three. She wants to do more scaffolding in a future course. She also wants to explain to her students what is a useful revision and what is a waste of time. Christi will be requiring more mastery for completed class assignments.

“You cannot fail this class unless your CHOOSE to” ~ student.

Karen said she could be more playful in the course. As a result, the students were more playful, and had fun with the class.