Written by Lexi Schlosser, Faculty Developer of Online Learning, and Kellie Ferguson, Instructional Designer
In the third and final part of our gamification blog series, we are going to explore gamification as a teaching strategy and demonstrate some higher-tech, more complex ways to incorporate this type of learning into your course. If you haven’t been following along, check out Part 1 for some foundational knowledge on gamification and game-based learning, and Part 2 for some easy, lower-tech ways to get started.
One of the more advanced ways to bring gamification into your course is by designing your entire course around a narrative, quest, or game. Centering your course around a larger narrative can begin as a simple way to gamify your course but can also evolve into something much more complex. To move this beyond the simpler elements described in our previous blogs, consider the following:
- Taking your quest to the next level might involve using course design tools, like Cidi Labs or H5P to develop knowledge checks and visual design that fits within the quest.
- Record video and audio elements that present instructions, present content, or provide deeper explanation while supporting the larger course narrative.
- Create a map or gameboard that can help learners follow along with the course and track their progress.
- Use avatars, images, and design elements to develop a cohesive aesthetic for your narrative.
In Part 1 of this blog series, we mentioned DU’s own Dr. Roberto Corrada, who turned his Administrative Law course into a narrative centered on themes from the novel Jurassic Park. He used elements like language and concepts from the novel to develop the narrative of this class project. The heart of this work was centered on students working through a simulation based on a scenario from the book in which students use the lens of Administrative Law to “[address] all of the issues that might arise if dinosaur parks were authorized to be licensed” (Corrada, p.19). Corrada’s layering of both narrative elements and simulation-based learning to meet the learning outcomes he had developed for the course exemplifies gamification being used in a more advanced way.
So, let’s consider some advanced use-cases for gamification in higher education courses:
Many people have heard of AI tools, like ChatGPT. For information about how to handle these types of tools, check out the OTL “AI in the Classroom” resource page. The use of AI in the classroom can be controversial; however, it also provides the opportunity to create scenario-based simulations, in which students can have a “conversation” with the AI to mimic a real-life scenario, support problem-solving skills, and even provide assessments about how students respond and interact with the scenarios they are working through with the AI.
In his blog, writer and futurist Bryan Alexander experiments with ChatGPT in an academic context as a potential simulation generator, providing it with a number of prompts and engaging in a dialogue to practice working through the scenarios he gave to it. He found that using ChatGPT “learners can now ask the bot to lead them in such simulations, simply by writing and adjusting the prompts[…]. This could take the form of official assignments or any learning making them on their own. Students could then submit transcripts as proof of work.” As Bryan shows, these scenarios can easily be integrated into a gamified course as part of a larger activity or work as an individual assignment. Check out his original post for a detailed overview of the prompts he provided the AI bot and the kinds of responses he received.
If you are not a fan of integrating in AI to develop these types of simulations, there are a lot of other ways to create this experience.
This video series gives a great overview of some of the basics while modeling what this type of learning might look like:
Or, check out these links for some additional examples
- Simulations, Games, and Experience-Based Learning: The Quest for a New Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
- Simulation Based Learning in Higher Education: A Meta-Analysis
You can make individual assignments into simulations or spend time transforming the entire course into a simulation-based learning experience. The point here is to focus on experience-based learning—allowing students to develop “real world” experience by practicing using the skills they acquire throughout your course. Then, gamify these experiences through technology use, creating simulations (as we mentioned previously), developing quests, etc.
Nicholson (2015) defines escape rooms as “live-action team-based games where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal (usually escaping from the room) in a limited amount of time.” Recreationally, the goal might be similar to the widely known childhood boardgame, Clue. Academically, the goal might be tied to your specific learning outcomes, aligned with your subject matter, and require students to do activities that they might do once they enter the workforce. Escape rooms can prove to be highly effective, whether students are experiencing an increase in motivation, engagement, and satisfaction (Huraj, Hrmo, and Hudáková, 2022), practicing collaboration and team building skills (Dietrich. 2018), or developing critical thinking and analytical skills (Adams, et al., 2018).
The College of Charleston provides a plethora of resources about creating and facilitating escape rooms as an element of active learning. From the design of an escape room in a physical classroom on campus to the impact of escape rooms on student learning, the resources outlined will walk through the process and steps to get started.
Check out a few discipline-specific examples of escape rooms below:
Perhaps you are already using educational technology tools in your class and are interested in elevating the student experience by gamifying the way students interact with these outside technologies or are wondering how you might use additional technologies to support your course narrative or quest. We’ll show you some examples of how you might take some of these technology tools and create more complex games to engage students with their learning.
For instance, you might use Flippity to create a gameboard for your course. Each stop along the game board could include a required activity they must complete. Activities might include course readings, reflections, application, collaboration, or connection with the instructor, like attending office hours. Or maybe you layer the use of these tools so that students are completing different activities as they reach checkpoints or levels within a larger quest you designed for the course. For instance, students might submit a Flip video to introduce themselves to the class, which levels them up to the first level. Later, after working through some course content, they might achieve level two standing by contributing to a group Padlet, and so on. These types of achievements can even be tracked using ed-tech tools like Classcraft, where students and instructors can monitor student progress in a gamified fashion!
Remember that a lot of the strategies discussed in this blog are intended for more advanced approaches to gamifying a course or activity. As you design more complex games for your students to engage with, make sure you are giving clear reasons for students to use the different elements present in the gamified activity. For instance, if you have videos, is there a reason for students to watch them? If you have an activity, like playing Bingo or Jeopardy, are these activities supporting further learning and development of skills tied to your overall learning outcomes? Additionally, be sure you aren’t overwhelming students with too many technology tools or using tools that are outside of the range of your student’s abilities.
A Call – Are you using Gamification or Game-Based learning in your course(s)? Reach out to email@example.com so we can feature you on our website!
Nicholson, S. (2015). Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities. White Paper available at http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/erfacwhite.pdf
Huraj, L.; Hrmo, R.; Sejutová Hudáková, M. The Impact of a Digital Escape Room Focused On HTML and Computer Networks on Vocational High School Students. Educ. Sci. 2022, 12, 682. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12100682
Dietrich, N. (2018). Escape Classroom: The Leblanc Process—An Educational “Escape Game.” Journal of Chemical Education, 95 (6), 996-999, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.7b00690
Adams, Vickie, Burger, Stephanie, Crawford, Kaile, Setter, Robyn. (2018). Can You Escape? Creating an Escape Room to Facilitate Active Learning. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development 34(2):p E1-E5, DOI:10.1097/NND.0000000000000433
Murillo-Zamorano, L.R., López Sánchez, J.Á., Godoy-Caballero, A.L. et al. (2021) Gamification and active learning in higher education: is it possible to match digital society, academia and students’ interests?. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education 18, 15 https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00249-y