Why Gamification? Quests & Badges to Engage Students


“Badges, I don’t Need No Stinkin Badges”

Actually Yes I Do and Students Do Too!

If the caption above confuses you, this youtube video is where it came from. You can rest assured the video has nothing to do with online learning. 😉 But badges on the other hand, yes, they certainly do!

When I was in Boy Scouts years ago, they had a merit badge system. Complete the projects and learn what you needed to learn (competency based) and then you would earn a badge to show everyone that you accomplished something. This article talks more about badges for competency.

Now consider video games. One of the motivating components of a video game is the fact that you can earn points, acrue tokens, weapons, or other advancements as you proceed through the game.

Both of these concepts can be applied to online learning. There are a variety of articles on gamification in learning. Boise State University developed a 3D Gamelab Professional Development course, which I took last summer. It was a learning management system developed to implement gaming principles. There were options and rewards with a totally different setup compared to what you often see in traditional learning management systems.

So I’m left to wonder, If I’m using Blackboard, what principles of gaming could I still do? Here are a couple ideas but I’m hoping those of you reading this will provide some additional insight in the comments area below.

1)  Develop Modules So They Are Quests With Options. Give students the choice of selecting a number of the options (or quests as 3DGamelab calls them) to complete. You can even make the diffrent quests worth different point values (which is similar to how the 3DGamelab works).

Imagine you have 10 quests (modules/topics). Students are asked to choose however many topics they like, but they have to earn 100 points by the time they complete the course. Some modules may be worth 10 points, others 20 points or more, but this gives students a choice as to what they want to learn (which quest to complete). It also makes it clear of what is needed in order to “win the A” (earn 100 points). Finally students are free to choose what they like while still learning the key concepts the instructor wants them to learn).

2) Implement Badges as Proof of Concepts Mastered. Imagine being able to have simple proof that you’ve mastered something. Yes, a degree is that in a sense, but how much learning goes on that isn’t attached do a degree? How much learning is going on inside just one class or maybe even inside one unit? You still learned a skill. Why not have a badge that you can show for it?

There are several articles that talk about the use of badges in learning. What I take away from it is that students want to be able to say “Look, I learned this”. If a course is vague or not relevant to students, its less likely they will be able to finish the course and say to themselves (or better yet a future employer) “I have learned this skill, and this skill, and I know how to do this….,etc”. 

Badges are a great way to movitate students and let them know just how much they have learned. I think the motivation is similar to that of being “certified” in something. I’d sure like to add an “Social Networking” or “Adobe Photoshop” badge to my digital portfolio that shows mastery of these concepts. When relevance is often forgotten or overlooked in courses, these badges can really make a lasting impression on students.

3) Even better, do both! One of the cool things about the 3D Gamelab was that it had the best of both of these. It had quests (topics) open so I could pick topics that most interested me as I earned the points.  It also had badges, awards, and achievements to motivate me.

Here below is a video introduction of the 3DGamelab.

This all sounds great and I get really excited until… I remember that I’m not using the 3DGamelab system, I’m using Blackboard…But wait! There has got to be some way to implement these ideas (at least partially) using a standard LMS. Right? Now, I’m bound to figure out some way to implement these principles in a regular online class using Blackboard. I think its going to be a little tricky but its definitely worth considering!

Have any tips for me? Do you do quests or badges in your online courses (or using a standard LMS)? Please leave  comments in the area below.

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A 100% Mobile Course Using Blackboard Mobile: PE

About a year ago, we sent our students a survey to ask them how they would like to interact with their courses using mobile devices. Not surprisingly, they overwelmingly responded that they wanted to do it all!

55% of our students (Idaho HS students) responded that they had access to a mobile device with Internet access. An additional 5% said that they plan to have access within the next year.

Survey: What do students want to do with mobile devices?

  • #1 – Check my grades – 84%
  • #2 – Discussion boards – 65%
  • #3 – Complete Assignments – 50%
  • #4 – Review with Practices, Podcasts, & Mobile activities – 45%

Here are just a few of the suggestions we received from students:

  • Make all the assignments compatible with mobile devices 😉
  • Make class work compatible with mobile devices. We’re entering a world of which includes many new innovative tools that are taking us into a new technological period… Modern educational innovation is what I crave as a student. 😉
  • Continue to offer different things using mobile devices.
  • Being able to study for test on mobile devices.

Because of this feedback, we began implementing mobile learning options for our students. I will write more about the different ways to jumpstart mobile learning in your courses in a future post but this one is specifically on our completely mobile course we developed using Blackboard Mobile.

Why Blackboard Mobile?

The majority of the online courses we offer are developed using Blackboard. It made sense for us to leverage the knowledge we already had when developing a mobile course. We also liked some of the tools available in Blackboard Mobile. We decided that for our first mobile course we would offer Mobile PE (Lifetime Fitness).  Note: This course is 100% mobile for students only. Currently, teachers still need to do the grading, etc using a desktop or laptop computer.

Why Lifetime Fitness?

We’ve offered online Lifetime Fitness for several years. Kids love it! Mobile devices allow us to leverage new and exciting ways to learn the content in the course. Also, lifetime fitness, by name logically relates to movement and exercise, which is done away from a standard computer.

How is the course designed?

This was our first attempt at designing an online course to run completely on mobile devices. However, we referred to Basic Principles of Mobile Learning Design to help us get started.

  • Modules are small to allow students to easily start & stop.
  • The discussion boards and blogs tools work great in Blackboard mobile so we designed the assignments around these tools. Currently, neither the assignment tool nor the test tool are mobile friendly so we did not use them for this course.
  • The Check Grades tool also works well so students can check their grades at their convenience.
  • Types of Assessments Include:
    • Discussion Board.  The discussion board tool works pretty well in BB Mobile. We did have to create a thread inside each discussion board with the prompt in it to ensure that the students can see the prompt. 
    • Public Blogs.  Similar to the the discussion boards, these look great in BB Mobile. Students are able to post pictures to the blogs in collaborative assignments. 
    • Private Blogs – I presume that in the future Blackboard will make the assignment tool and/or the test tool mobile friendly, but currently they are not (meaning you have to click “view in browser” and then zoom in and out in order to complete the assignment or test).  Because of this, we used the private blog so students could submit their responses to their teacher privately. It’s a good alternative if you keep in mind two things: 1) Students don’t want to type long essays using their keypad so you will want to minimize the data entry and 2) For teachers, grading a blog may be more time consuming than the regular “assignment tool” assignments.
    • Free iOS apps (there is no textbook) but the students download the apps to practice and learn from as they progress through the units. Its much more than just reading the content thanks to these cool apps. The teacher also developed a list of extra websites and “additional apps” just in case an app dissappears from the appstore, is no longer free, or if an app doesn’t install correctly for whatever reason on the student’s device. Then once a student learns the topic using the app, they post the answers to questions related to the app using the “private blog” assignment tool. Some of the apps we use include the Nike Training App, Target Weight, Heart Rate, Calorie Counter, Daily Burn, and GoLearn Cycling.
  • Navigating Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

  • Module View of Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

 

  • Snapshots from Course. Additionally here are some views of the course.
    1coursemap3module12discussionboard2-5discussionboards

We also built in mobile surveys using Surveymonkey throughout the course to get feedback from students on what they like and what they think could be better about the course. This data will be crucial as we integrate mobile learning components in future courses.

By the way, in case you missed the earlier post, here are 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design. Blackboard also has some Best Practices for Mobile Learning with BB Mobile.

What do you think about Mobile Learning? Do you have any suggestions on design tips for an effective mobile course?

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This information was shared thanks to Idaho Digital Learning.