When you add game elements to your class, it can really increase student happiness and engagement.
I recently posted the need for educators to gamify their class. Remember, gamification is not simply playing games in class. I love using games and simulations in my own classes but gamification goes beyond.
Gamification involves adding game elements directly to your own course[s]. Students take on the role of players. Students don’t just play games in your class. Your class IS the game!
I have been adding game elements to my own courses for the past couple of years and while it is not a silver bullet, it is still an effective tool for increasing student engagement and learning. Plus, it is just plain fun for me!
I recently posted on the main reasons why we need to seriously consider gamifying our courses.
First and foremost, we need to consider adding game elements because students are playing games! Educators are in the business of not just content delivery, but also of trying to motivate students. We need to connect with them on their terms, not ours.
For me, that means using whatever tools or means I have to try and get them involved with their own personal development, their skills, and the content.
Fill The Happiness Gap
It wasn’t that my class lacked happiness. We weren’t all work and no fun! Student and I would joke, laugh, explore, create. I mean, we are in the business of people. I always felt that happy people were more productive people.
I started adding game elements to my class piece by piece and here is what I have learned.
Gamification can make students happier in 3 ways.
It gives students a chance to celebrate their achievements. Every unit is a battle against the content, expectations, and time. They need the chance to celebrate their efforts and victories.
The tool? Awarding virtual badges and achievements.
Students can look back and see exactly how many units, quizzes, days they have worked.
It quantifies their efforts with clearly visual rewards. Yes, students show up to your course, but many don’t have a choice. It is something that they must do for their next stage in life.
But why not celebrate their efforts? It makes them happier when we do.
This is related to the Celebration reason above. Think about the school year, it is one giant race. A race to the end of class. To the end of the day. To the weekend. Then to the next vacation. Then to the test. Then to another vacation. Finally, to the end of the year. Students and educators race all the time.
A part of learning is reflection. Students need the chance to reflect on what they have learned. Not just for pedagogy’s sake, but for their own sake!
So much about learning is abstract. Unless we are having students produce something, there is rarely a chance for students to “show off” their knowledge. A badge or achievement can be an easy tool to help students make connections. I would often point out an achievement and say to a student “look, remember when you completed X challenge?”
The sight of a badge/achievement gives them a visual cue to latch onto. It acts like a memory bookmark. Students can reflect on their growth and make connections that otherwise be difficult.
Yes, you could say that a chapter in an actual book does the same thing. But if you are making your badges/achievements unique, I guarantee students will remember and identify a badge over a random page in a book.
Ever seen the game Minecraft? One of the best parts about the game is looking at all of your impact on the environment. To stare in awe of all that you have shaped, created, or built.
One of the great features about games is that they allow the player to start over. How many times have people played Flappy Bird or Tetris and lost. Only to start over?
By making my class “replayable”, students focused more on their chances of success than their likelihood of failure.
Gamification gave all of my students the chance to replay “levels” or units. If they didn’t do great on an assignment. Why make it “one and done”?
Gamification is all about optimism. Students need to feel optimistic about their abilities and chances of success. It makes them happier and more excited to learn.
In every game, we have the chance to get better. There is a reason why students will sink hundreds of hours into a video game. Even if they don’t get better right away, it is the chance of getting better that motivates them.
In education, educators usually give an assessment opportunity once. We will say things like “oh, you can study better or prepare better for the next test.
Imagine buying a game where you could only make a mistake once. Imagine a game combat simulator Call of Duty where players could only die once. In this instance, players would then be given a message after dying: “Good Job. Practice And Buy Call of Duty 2 To Try Again”.
If given the choice, players would move on to another game but it sure wouldn’t be another Call of Duty.
If given the same chance, would your students willingly take your next “one and done” assessment? Give your students the chance to improve. It will make them more optimistic about their own abilities.
Want to take a first step at making your students happier? Think about trying one of three gamification in your own course.
- Add badges/achievements to celebrate wins.
- Add opportunities for students to reflect on their work.
- Add opportunities for students to “replay” assessments until mastery.
For extra help: Check out the FREE Gamification Webinar by clicking here!
Question: Why do you think playing games makes students happier? How else can we add those elements to our courses?