Want to play? Let’s play a game!

So this week’s waffle is about another section of the Horizon Report on Technology in Higher Education.The last time I waffled about this I focused on the Flipped Classroom – this week I’m going to focus on something which I really want to get more involved with – so grab those open badges, those actions and levels and prepare to enjoy some gamification.


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Playing games - enter if you dare! Original Image from pixabay.com

Playing games – enter if you dare! Original Image from pixabay.com

While the flipped classroom approach for learning is recommended to be implemented within one year or less, gamification is recommended to be implemented within two to three years. Not to be confused with Game Based Learning – gamification has motivated gamers to spend long and regular gaming sessions, working towards that unique item or that ultimate level of achievement. This form of motivation has long since been used within commerce where customers save points by visiting stores or purchasing itmes -I have so many store cards where I collect points and I am always working towards my free coffee at Starbucks and Costa- and business where targets are established with rewards at the end for the highest scorer. This has and continues to be successful so it was only a matter of time before it would be applied to the area of education. I am a gamer (mainly World of Warcraft and starting with Minecraft) and I know and like that feeling of attaining something which I have worked hard for both within the games and out. But can this be applied to education and can it work as well?

What to implement?


After looking across the internet and listening/reading to podcasts and articles, I decided to focus on three areas of what I considered gamification within my own site (the one which you are currently reading). Two of these have recently been implemented and the final one is still in the development/finalising phase.

  • Waffling Legend!-First I have a simple levelling up game. Once you have registered, players (not sure if this is the correct term) can gain points for completing actions ranging from just visiting a page to commenting on waffles. Everything contributes to the number of points they have and this allows them to progress through aptly named levels. As you progress the level titles change and eventually you can achieve the ultimate Waffling Legend! Along side this I am currently working on providing ‘benefits’ at certain levels and as well as badges for certain specific actions – for example on my personal blog – if you visited my Elf Yourself video during Christmas time you got an unique badge. These are not really Open Badges – this is the feature which is still in development – but they can be seen within the software and stay with you as you progress to other sites using the Captain Up software.

  • Win a Badge! – The second ‘gaming opportunity’ I’ve implemented is one to win a badge – this is using some software called Gleam which allows you to set various actions which gives the players ‘entries’ to the competition. At the end of the defined time, the software will ‘pick’ the winner from the number of entries each participant has and then the reward can be sent/delivered. Although both this and the previous software have paid versions, I am using free versions of both.

  • What I have learnt so far?


    I have only just recently implemented both of these so I am not fully in a position to say how effective they have been on my limited audience within my site, however, I do have some thoughts…

  • Benefit for learner – From the two gaming activities I am running at the moment, I need to further consider the benefits for the learners. What concerns me is that there is obviously a personal benefit for my site from these games, and both software boasts that their implementation will increase visitors and participation. For me the focus is less on my own analytics but more on the learning which the games might encourage/promote. Initially there is the learning associated with actually reading/watching the content (no comments about that please – let me believe the content has some learning associated with them!). There will be the ‘prizes’ and the ability to say what ‘level’ you are on the site – but can this be really classed as a benefit. When playing games such as ‘World of Warcraft’ the benefit for me is the enjoyment and also the sense of achievement. These could be seen as the two primary benefits of participating within the games on this site with the secondary benefit being the engagement with the waffles and topics. There is also the possibility that while participating or gaining levels players see something which interests them and this promotes their own learning within a topic. This would be different for each of the participants or learners using the site. Both games are, of course, optional and people do not have to participate and it will be interesting how many actually engages with the levelling and competition.

  • Clicking vs engagement– I am always thinking about engagement – not as in marriage but regarding learning and learners. One aspect of the games on the site which causes me some concern, is that it becomes a clicking game rather than an engagement game. Most of the actions require the players to click or watch or visit. Although there are options to comment, the initial actions do not require complete engagement with the pages/videos/waffles- although I do hope that people will not just click and will actually read the content – is this naivety on my behalf? The competition for the badge actually plays the video within a window which is opened when the player clicks on the link. This means that the video will play and I think the controls are disabled so meaning that the whole video needs to be watched. This does not mean that engagement has been achieved and it could also be detrimental since the player might not like content/topic of the video and leave the competition. Also being ‘made’ to watch/read something almost goes against my views about engagement/motivation. Is it possible to focus the levels/actions, which allow you to achieve levels, on engagement – without the need to constantly and consistently manage and record the level of engagement? Maybe this is where Open Badges comes in or the next level of the gaming software?

  • Attracting Gamers – This is probably not unique only to my own site but being a site with a limited audience, it is something which is harder to achieve. In order for these games to work, you need a well established audience for your site. Not only does this need to be an established audience but there also, within that audience, needs to be group of learners who are motivated and/or willing to participate with the game mechanics. This naturally also relates to what the learners will benefit from participating – see a previous point – but without the audience/gamers to participate the mechanics will slowly grind to a halt. Advertising the games is essential at this point and I have tried to do this within social media and with, what I consider my main audience, my student learners. Is it enough to encourage participation by stating it might benefit your learning? or that you could achieve the title of Waffling Legend (not that employers will recognise this). Or are participants only attracted by employable achievements, prizes or indeed wealth? As a gamer myself, I would participate to support colleagues and/or to achieve levels and learn more – but do I represent a small group of people?

  • I am really looking forward to seeing how the ‘games’ work on my site and the feedback I receive from them – whether this is through comments/emails and through the degree of participation. I am also considering how to use gamification in my everyday practice within the sessions, for those who wish to participate, and I am continuing to develop Open Badges ready for implementation. I really like the idea and concept behind gamification and can see the benefits of this approach – but whether this would be beneficial for all learners I am not sure. Maybe it is just an idea which will briefly touch education and move on remaining within the areas of commerce and business and in the world of gamers.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun and I’ll catch you later