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Creating Gamified Learning Tasks: From Ingenious Ideation to Impactful Implementation

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

It is indeed a daunting task to engage learners in the online learning environment. During online teaching, many educators are struggling to motivate their learners to complete tasks due to the seeming lack of control as compared to teaching them face-to-face physically. Thankfully, there are some measures that can be taken in improving this situation. One of them is by re-examining the existing tasks and re-designing them in order to create a playful yet meaningful online learning experience.

Steps to Gamify Solutions

It is very important to note that tools and applications will not automatically transform your activities or tasks into something interesting. A careful ideation process is vital. In this post, I am sharing five key steps that I believe are useful in creating gamified learning tasks that are able to increase student engagement and improve learning attainment. The diagram illustrates the steps.

Step 1: Decide the Scope/Topic

It is important to outline the existing scopes and topics that are included in your course or subject. Then, from the list, decide the one(s) that you would like to re-design as gamified learning tasks. Typically, you might want to choose the topic that is causing confusion to students or the one that is more difficult for them to understand. While you are selecting the topic, do remember to roughly list the tasks that you want them to complete and align those tasks with the expected learning outcomes so that you are able to measure them later.

Step 2: Chunk the Tasks

Based on your initial list of tasks, chunk them into a series of manageable steps or “levels”. Try to imagine this process as something similar to challenges in games that one must go through in each level. You can name your “each chunk” as “mission”, “challenge”, “stage” or other suitable terms. This step is illustrated in the above table.

Step 3: Add Game Elements

This is the part where your task will be more engaging in which games elements or game mechanics are added. From the chunking that you have done earlier, you are required to add suitable game elements that would fit into each chunk. Typical game mechanics would be points, badges and leaderboard, but I highly recommend you to refer to the Octalysis Framework by Yu-Kai Chou, which specifically outlines mechanics that you could use. An example of this step is shown in the table above.

In the given example, the element of unpredictability and curiosity is added. Students who managed to fulfil the task will be awarded a virtual mystery box. This creates a sense of excitement in anticipating “what’s in the box?” and students would be more motivated to complete the tasks. However, it is advisable not to have too many game elements added in each mission as “too much of a good thing” would create annoyance. Also, ensure that you are planning it in progression so that the series of tasks would not be disjointed. Ultimately, you still want your students to learn from the whole process and not merely collect “points” for each mission.

Step 4: Map to Relevant Tools

There are hundreds of online tools available that you could explore and select for you to include in your gamified learning tasks. It is highly recommended that you try and experience those relevant tools first before deciding which ones to be used, as familiarity at your end would allow you to guide students better. In the case of the virtual mystery box earlier, you could do it using, Padlet or even Google Sites whereby only the “winners” will get access to the page and get the extra clues. Essentially, you do not have to restrict yourself to a singular tool. Make use of the relevant ones that are user-friendly or with a gentle learning curve, something that students could learn without spending too much time on the technical aspect of it.

When you are doing the mapping in this step, do not forget to include spaces or rooms for you to assess the students progressively as well as provide timely feedback. For example, if you have chosen Padlet, do allocate a section where students are able to ask questions about the task. You may also include a mini quiz as a form of a task or challenge. Progressive checking is key in encouraging students to be engaged with the tasks given.

Step 5: Package as a Narrative

All your hard work in Steps 1 to 4 would be meaningless if you structure everything like how a typical assignment would look like. Hence, it is pivotal to think of a suitable narrative that would be interesting enough to lure your students to complete each stage. Try to talk to your students and learn what the majority of them love the most or use issues that are trending as part of your narrative.

A sample of a narrative that I have used is the “Marvel Universe”. Characters from the Marvel comics were used to form a whole storyline for the tasks assigned to them. I have also used stories from Netflix series and trending computer games in creating my gamified learning tasks. The reason for having such a narrative is to ensure all tasks are synced and students get to understand the content at the macro level, giving a bird's-eye view of what awaits them.

To Gamify or Not to Gamify?

Gamification has been widely researched to show positive effects on learning, but the most important aspect of this endeavour is still in the ideation process that would eventually turn into an impactful implementation. It would be a fallacy if one thinks that adding content using “fun tools” would immediately make the tasks fun. Careful mapping of tasks, learning outcomes, game elements and tools is inevitably necessary. As Ken Eklund aptly said: “If you make a game about something that matters, your “players” will want to participate in that larger discussion. If you genuinely make that participation meaningful in the game, it can also be meaningful in real life.” So, I hope the steps I shared would be useful for you to go on the “gamification” adventure in redesigning your learning tasks.

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This guest post is authored by Kee Man Chuah, a senior lecturer from the Faculty of Language and Communication, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia.


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