Wednesday, 06 January 2016 20:35

Adding Gamified Elements to your Blended or Online Course

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Gamification is a term that has been creating buzz in education for the past several years. There is a lot of information, literature, and even MOOC’s on the subject. We have discovered that it can offer our students engaging and meaningful learning experiences and increase learner motivation. We also have established that a good place to start is by looking at the learning outcomes in your course, deciding on the type of game structure, then adding motivational elements throughout your course. But have you thought about how you might build gaming elements and experiences directly into your online or blended course? Many of the features that exist in your learning management system (LMS) already lend themselves to gamified experiences.

When planning these experiences for your students, it can help to relate to our own preferences as gamers to realize what motivates us. Think about a game you have really enjoyed playing. What qualities made it so enjoyable for you?

According to gamer psychology (Bartle, 1996) there are 4 main types of gaming personalities:

  • Explorers: These gamers love to explore all corners of the game. They like to wander and find all hidden areas, knowledge and facts along the way. Explorers like to teach others what they have learned.
  • Achievers: These types like to improve their status by leveling up. They love to master the game and collect as many points or achievements as possible. They are playing for the power and mastery over the game.
  • Socializers: These gamers look forward to interaction that is gained by playing the game, rather than focusing on the game itself. They want to make friends, gain recognition, followers, and contacts through play.
  • Killers: These types like to take down other players by damaging or causing grief to fellow gamers or opponents. Their sense of achievement comes from knowing how to attack and cause strife, therefore resulting in reputation or recognition.



The gaming mechanics you use will appeal to different personality types. There are many gaming mechanics that will motivate and engage players. These mechanics will often fall into the categories of providing feedback, objectives, or progression. Many of them lend themselves to the educational theories and methods that we already use. For example, levelling in a gamified situation can be compared to scaffolding concepts. Achievements in a game could be compared to mastery of a concept, and discovery to formative assessment.


Each of the above objectives results in one or more benefits:


Full Infographic Link:  


The following table outlines how you may use your LMS to gamify aspects of your online or blended course. It also details what mechanics are used, the benefits of that mechanic and the gaming personalities targeted by the activity.

LMS Activity


Gaming Mechanics

Gaming Personality


Activity Completion

You can set up your modules so that certain elements or pages are released but only after completion of previous pages/activities.

Goals, Levelling



Module Restricted Access

Students must first work through an entire module and complete the assessments before moving to the next topic.

Levelling , Achievements


Engagement, Incentives, Fun

Content Pages

A story, character, or situation can be developed through the content pages in a course.

Quests, Discovery


Engagement, Loyalty, Fun


Set up groups in your course so that students can work to achieve a goal as a “team”.

Goals, Quests, Achievements


Engagement, Fun, Incentives


Badges or trophies can be issued once students have achieved an outcome or benchmark.



Status, Incentives, Fun

Discussions/ Up-voting

The feature of “upvoting” exists in many LMS discussions which can serve to create a leaderboard or competition.



Status, Loyalty

Simulations/ Case Studies

Case studies and simulations can function as an exploratory experience that students can ‘solve’.

Discovery, Quests


Fun, Engagement

Have you had experience using gamification in your blended/online course? Share in the comments below.



Kiang, D. (2014) Use the four gamer types to help your students collaborate.  Retrieved from
Raymer, R. Gamification: using game mechanics to enhance elearning. Retrieved from:
Viola, A. (2013) Strategies for Gamification: The Sequel. Retrieved from
Viola, A. (2013) What are the elements of learner motivation? Retrieved June 6, 2013 from
Bader, S., Lindsay, E., Robertson, A. (2015, October). Gamify! Play! Learn! Presented at the Annual Educause Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana.


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Erin Howard

At work I pride myself on being a helpful resource for our online instructors- troubleshooting technology issues, creating resources, and helping them feel confident in the online classroom. I feel that by working with instructors it will lead to a greater experience for online students. I also enjoy finding technological solutions for instructors that can enhance their existing pedagogy - taking what they already do well and making it more efficient for the instructor and engaging for students. When I’m not at work, I am usually busy doing something active with my family, friends or dogs. I love running, kickboxing, weight training, hiking, wakeboarding, yoga, biking, dancing and basically anything that gets me moving!