Gamification to improve Blended Learning Outcomes


I spent a semester of grad school in a class about gaming in education. The class was challenging, because of the foreign nature of the content. I have never been one to play games unless I was a part of a social activity. So taking a class that was a game was kind of exciting, an excuse to play under the guise of learning. I would say, “I have to spend time in second life learning to fly a spaceship,” some someone else has to do the dishes. But then the class was over and I went back to real life and cleaning the kitchen.

After I completed my Master’s degree, I stepped away from teaching students and began a new role with many facets, but none of them lent themselves to putting into practice anything I had learning in my gaming class. Most adults, want the hurry up and give me the digest version of what I need to know.

So two years later, I am again teaching a math class. I am in a blended, online platform, and true to high school students, they struggle getting their work done. Most are just procrastinators, but some were rebellious and others had “life stuff” happen.  So we are getting ready for second semester and I think it is time to try something new. Because this is not the only thing I do, I am going to try to add just a few gaming elements to my class and see what I can pass on to fellow faculty members next year.

Thinking back to what I learned, one place to get started is to have a theme. The first thing I did was ask my daughter, a Rick Riordan fan,  about the greek gods and goddesses. As students level up, they will change from lower level characters to higher ones. My daughter was quick to write out all twelve including what they are the god of and their symbols.

Another thing I need to do is calculate the point values. Currently, I use an approved a-g Syllabus, so I can’t deviate too far away from what is expected in the document. I took all the HW, tests and final and used the weighted percentages (50%, 30% and 20%) to calculate the points each item will have. Because I want to use fairly round numbers I will have a 4000 point goal, then total HW will be 2000 and the tests 1200 points and the final 800.  Next, I need to think of bonuses like Starbucks Star Dash; students get a bonus of 20 points for 5 assignments in a row on time, or 100 points for 20 in a row.

Another area I hope to see improvement is in detailed explanations of mathematical reasoning. Some students struggle with showing any work, let alone detail. In an online environment, that is where I really get a sense of what they know and it is getting repetitive taking points off or writing comments. So I am going to make another Bonus for detail. But the key is to think of clever names for these things and make them known that they are an option.

When I took the class we used an Learning Management System built for gamification, called 3-D game lab. However, my school uses Schoology, in fact I am the admin for Schoology. So I don’t have gamification features built right in. The best way to communicate the options to students is probably a Google doc or a slide embedded in a Schoology page. This way if I want to make a change, or we change LMSs I have all the work I put into this class in a format I can take anywhere.

Here is what I have so far:

This semester you are on a quest to become the Zeus of Algebra 2.  As we move through the remaining chapters of Algebra 2 you will move through the ranks of the Greek gods, based on the points you earn. To earn points, turn in HW and tests with the problems written out, detailed work shown, and be neat.  Earn bonuses for being on time, giving detailed explanations, working with a partner, and trying a project.  When you advance to a new level, you will receive a new character you can add to your profile.