The Office of Faculty Development


Looking for fun and creative ways to interact with and engage your students in lessons, activities, and assessments across modes of instruction? Consider adding gamification into your lessons and activities! Gamification is rapidly becoming a very popular pedagogy wherein elements of gameplay (i.e., points/awards/badges, competition, leaderboards, team building, puzzle-based tasks, etc) are embedded into lessons, activities, and assessments to enhance interest and engagement. 

Check out the research, application tips, and resources below to learn more!

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    Examine selected research on gamification in higher education:
    Note that these are primarily focused on entrepreneurship.

    Majdoub, M. (2022). Applying gamification to enhance the Universal Design for Learning Framework. Handbook of Research on Transformative and Innovative Pedagogies in Education, 233-256.

    Isabelle, D. A. (2020). Gamification of Entrepreneurship Education. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education18(2), 203–223. in new window)

    Eyal, N. (2012). Want To Hook Your Users? Drive Them Crazy. Tech Crunch.

    Examine selected research on escape room pedagogy in higher education:

    Makri, A., Vlachopoulos, D., & Martina, R. A. (2021). Digital Escape Rooms as Innovative Pedagogical Tools in Education: A Systematic Literature Review. Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland)13(8), 4587-. in new window)

    Vergne, M. J., Smith, J. D., & Bowen, R. S. (2020). Escape the (Remote) Classroom: An Online Escape Room for Remote Learning. Journal of Chemical Education97(9), 2845–2848. in new window)



    Ready to apply gamification in your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    1. Structure your class/lessons/activities in a way that promotes both team and individual growth - consider assigning badges and/or awards for achievements!
    2. Promote student feedback through gamification (e.g., leaderboards, badges, points, virtual scenarios, etc.)
    3. Get creative! Click HERE (Google Slide) to trial some fun tools that will enhance your gamification implementation! 
    4. Expand your implementation of gamification by creating Educational Escape Rooms (EER) for readings, activities, quizzes, and even syllabi orientations!

    Why consider Educational Escape Rooms (EER)?

    Teaching using EERs promotes teamwork and student engagement. The gentle, no-stakes competition supports students' emotional connections to learning and enhances retention of material and concepts. EERs provide a framework to practice skills, teach new or complex vocabulary, and review/preview materials in an engaging way.

    Interested in creating your own EER? Click HERE (Google Slide) to access the Using Escape Rooms to Engage Students and Enhance Learning, created by our own Dr. Karen Schreder, and get started. 

    Check out these examples and ideas for using Gamification in Entrepreneurship courses:

    1. Leaderboards

    Entrepreneurs are competitive by nature. Starting a company is tough and it requires a certain mindset - a willingness to compete. Achieving a high score, a personal best, or topping someone else’s record, measuring our standings against our peers can foster healthy competition. In an entrepreneurship course, leaderboards can be set up for multiple aspects i.e. quizzes, lessons, assignments. Points can be given for more than just completion as well, for example the time it takes to set up a Subscription module which allows web site visitors to sign up for a newsletter. It is important to avoid the first mover advantage where the first few students gain the lead and then stay ahead. To avoid this make monthly or weekly or even module or lesson-based leaderboards. That way all participants will have a chance to earn a high score, and early winners will be motivated to stick around to defend their title.

    1. Badges

    Badges and other achievement trophies are popular and widely used in the context of online education. Many apps use badges as a way to reward user engagement, and they’re also a staple of many video games (for obvious reasons). When it comes to online education, badges can encourage learners to use certain functions of the learning platform, gain new skills, complete more courses, or even participate productively in the community. You can even take it a step farther by allowing learners to level up certain badges as they reach new achievements. One of the appeals of having earned a badge is that, unlike a leaderboard score, badges are permanent. However, to keep learners interested, it helps to include a mix of badges that are more or less difficult to earn. That way the excitement of gaining some early badges will encourage learners to keep going till they unlock the harder ones.

    1. Points and currency

    Points are a variation on badges, and can also be used as currency within a program. For instance, you can offer learners a point for every comment they leave in the discussion forum, and then let them redeem a certain number of points for rewards and discounts. In entrepreneurship education, money is already important, and points can be used to provide students the ability to, for example, later run marketing programs of different levels, purchase items which advance their venture such as research, etc. Like badges, point systems can be used to instruct learners about the learning program itself. For instance, you could offer a few points to learners who fill out an Entrepreneurs Profile, finish a lesson, or log in for a certain number of days in a row. You could even offer them points for winning badges!

    1. Progress bars and “level ups”

    One challenge in asynchronous courses is that some students fall behind. If they are on their own and struggling, they might never make it back fully engaged with the course. If they have progress bars which are public, then the competitive nature of the individuals may rise up and incite them to take action to ensure an on time delivery. Progress bars can help by enabling students to visualize their advancements. You can even add a bit of interest by creating “level ups” that unlock new course features if that is possible in the LMS.

    1. Virtual scenarios

    Entrepreneurship provides a rich foundation for immersing students into virtual scenarios. To begin with students choose who they are i.e. “the founder of company X.” As they move through the course they have to develop business components which help them develop the business, for example a business model, a social media plan, a set of goals for various analytics. Rather than just provide an assignment that says “Run a marketing campaign,” we can develop more detailed and interesting scenarios - for example, the Run a Marketing Campaign can have a significant backstory, for example, placing the venture within a range of competition, setting goals for rising up, like website conversions, or visitor downloads of newsletters, etc. Even something as simple as putting up a user profile to share with the class can become a richer scenario. Perhaps there is a classwide competition where the students vote on the top three profiles in a “Most Promising New Entrepreneur Contest.” Now rather than simple, brief profiles, we are likely to get much more robust, interesting profiles, complete with nice graphics or something interesting and unique based on the skillset of the students participating. While it is true that it takes more time to build scenarios, once built they are likely to last a long time. Branching scenarios are capable in many LMS these days, and can provide opportunities for students to learn and explore while learning. If the student does not score as well as they might like they can run again, choosing a different set of branching choices. Students can work their way through the scenarios, then see how well they scored at the end. If they’re not happy with the results, they can try the scenario again to earn a higher score. If time on task is also associated with a badge or points, this will encourage students to spend the time on going through the scenario multiple times, thereby gaining a broader and deeper understanding of the materials. 

    1. Variable Rewards

    Variable rewards have been shown to “hook” users. By providing one or more types of variable rewards, students are more likely to spend more time on a task, longer time working through more difficult parts of the learning, etc. all because they are anticipating that they are going to hit a jackpot any minute. A variable reward for an entrepreneurship course could include winning money that can be used for investing and advancing the venture.

This Teaching Guide was created by participants of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Faculty Learning Community (FLC).