This is a guest blog post by VEDAMO, a partner of eThink Education. VEDAMO’s Virtual Classroom is a simple solution, yet rich with features for interactive teaching that allow teachers to easily moderate online sessions.
Gamification involves the use of gaming techniques in order to provide engaging learning and training experiences that result in increased knowledge retention and improved outcomes. There are quite a few approaches you can take to incorporate this method into your learning program. In this article, we’ll share 4 gaming techniques commonly used in various types of online courses.
Why Should You Gamify Your Courses?
To achieve success with gamification you first have to understand which learning challenges you’re looking for a gaming solution to solve. (This applies to online as well as traditional styles of education). Are your learners struggling to concentrate? Is there a lack of consistency in their performance or test results? Are they motivated to learn? Understanding which areas your learners may be struggling or where they need encouragement can help determine the best gamification tools to try.
Gamifying your courses is easy as long as you have a flexible Learning Management System (LMS) that can support it. An open-source solution such as Moodle™ or Totara Learn allows you to seamlessly incorporate gamification tools that focus on addressing specific pain points of learning for your industry or organization. Read on to discover specific gamification techniques that help learners better retain information, improve course success, and make learning fun!
The Main Gamification Technique: Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (PBL)
The main technique used by game creators is called PBL – points, badges, and leaderboards. We can use this approach in many educational systems.
- Points offer the simplest reward for learners to earn in a course. Often, learners may receive a reward or unlock new levels or courses after earning a certain number of points.
- Badges typically represent a new achievement, milestone, or completion of a course or objectives. Badges are a great tool for tracking progress and acknowledging when new skills have been earned. Depending on how they are laid out in a course, badges can also break the main objective into smaller, more digestible tasks so that the course appears much easier to accomplish and keeps learners motivated through to completion.
- Leaderboards show how well learners are doing compared to others and encourages friendly competition amongst peers or colleagues. You can maintain a leaderboard on a separate page on an online whiteboard. There are some instances of leaderboards in Moodle™, too. Leaderboards can be filtered or organized based on your preferences, and can encourage a higher level of engagement from learners.
The main thing that points, badges, and leaderboards adds to the learning experience is a form of acknowledgement and reward for the learning that is taking place, which helps keep learners engaged and motivated throughout their learning plans.
Edutainment – Let’s Add Some Fun
Fun is at the core of all games. When you combine gaming with education, it’s important to determine what kind of fun you want your educational activities to offer. The 4 Keys 2 Fun by Player Experience Design (PED) expert Nicole Lizzarro, highlights each type of “play” experiences and how each style helps create more captivating and effective learning through gaming:
- Easy Fun – amusement that induces surprise and wonder
- Hard Fun – entertainment from a challenge caused by a problem or its answer
- Serious Fun – the enjoyment from doing things that you see as worthwhile and that you think are good for the environment and the community
- People fun – the satisfaction of social communication, playing different roles, competition, and teamwork
Education Rewards and The Game Economy
Rewards play a key role in creating the motivation needed to be successful. PBL is not the only rewards option. Game creators have developed a rewards system called Game Economy. Rewards are split into 4 categories:
- Things: These are rewards associated with obtaining something. They can be material or non-material.
- Self-esteem: These are rewards that create prestige and are a very valuable source of motivation. For example, you can prepare a special certificate that a learner receives at the end of their education. Moodle™ automatically gives certificates to learners upon finishing a certain activity. It is a great rewards tool.
- Social capital: These are rewards designed to allow the learners to find contacts and membership in groups. They, too, are a great source of motivation for older learners. Some versions of Moodle™ have the added capability of providing a recommendation letter, which is a great reward in this category.
- Fun: These are rewards whose purpose is to entertain you. You can use VEDAMO’s online whiteboard in your virtual classroom for this purpose. This tool allows you to not only teach, but to also reward your learners. One great example is the morphing trophy. First, place an image onto VEDAMO’s online whiteboard. You can start with an image of a person, an office filled with people, or even with a completely blank sheet. You, or a randomly chosen learner, will then add something to the paper that resembles the learner who contributed to the lesson or a thing that resembles a memorable situation that occurred in the class. Everybody who is rewarded will add whatever they think is funny or interesting. In this way, as the class moves forward throughout the semester, the image on the online whiteboard will gain more and more details. At the same time, it will impact each learner in a different way, allowing them to see all of their collective accomplishments accumulate.
Use Specific Tools for Specific Learners
No tool is perfectly effective for every learner. The ability of a course to adapt to differing types of learners is a key opportunity for instructors using eLearning systems. According to the Richard Bartle’s popular taxonomy, there are 4 types of players depending on their preferences to act or to interact and focus on other players or on the surrounding environment. This is the same for learners too.
- Socializers: These players or learners prefer interacting instead of acting and are focused on the other players and not on the surrounding environment. If you want to motivate these players, create a community and provide opportunities to progress within it. Socializers can use an online whiteboard or breakout rooms, like the ones provided by VEDAMO, to collaborate with instructors and learn lessons in a more engaging and entertaining way.
- Explorers: This is a group of players, which, much like Socializers, prefer to interact, yet they are focused on the surrounding environment. About 10% of learners fall into this category. These people appreciate the opportunity to communicate with experts. They willingly take part in a team project to investigate a problem in their field. Forums are the perfect tool for them.
- Achievers: This is a group of players who prefer acting instead of interacting, but like Explorers, are focused on the environment. They, too, make up about 10% of learners. They tend to prefer individualized education over group projects because it prevents the need to conform to the progress of others. It is important that they have interesting supplemental materials related to the course topic to review and that they are given individual tasks that challenge them to find new things by themselves. Badges, leaderboards, and having progress monitored is important for them.
- Killers: This is a group of players who prefer acting instead of interacting and are focused on other players. They act directly with other players. Around 1% of the people fall into this group.
In short, the main objective of education is to guide learners through different challenges in order for them to gain the desired knowledge or a new skill. Game makers do the same and call it the “pathway to mastery.” With this goal in mind, they deliver engaging and challenging tasks that continue to improve skills as learners advance through and complete them. That’s why the use of gaming techniques in education is an incredibly valuable tool when it comes to successfully overcoming learning challenges.