Author: Stephen Taylor – Senior Learning Technologist, Blackpool & The Fylde College
My brother is a PlayStation ‘completionist’ and will only play games if he knows he’ll be able to unlock every single trophy. He has completed hundreds of games this way, and he isn’t the only person to do so.
Most games have similar reward mechanisms: a virtual badge for achieving a challenging task, or points that ‘level you up’ – potentially unlocking new cosmetic items for your virtual character. The excitement upon unlocking one of these is visceral and is often something that people will share with one another. There’s only one game I’ve managed to reach platinum on, and that was a Batman game – I was so excited!
This is the fundamental cornerstone of the gamification of learning. You give students a digital reward of some description, for reaching a certain milestone. This pushes them subconsciously, and sometimes consciously, to do better because they want that virtual reward. They want the evidence of their hard work, that they can show to their friends and peers.
Lots of technology companies have realised the potential of virtual rewards, and in particular, digital badges. The Microsoft Educator Center and the Google Edu programme, both reward badges for the completion of various training programmes. Flipgrid and Wakelet also have certified user/community badges, with various levels to them. There are even certified badging companies like Acclaim, which provides badges that are recognised professionally. It’s always fun to try and collect these and prove to your peers what you can do.
For staff training at Blackpool & The Fylde College, we have created an experience point (xp) system – with each optional training video being worth a certain number of points (50 for basic, 100 for intermediate and 200 for advanced). You also receive a badge depending on the xp you’ve got – Apprentice, Practitioner, Expert or Master.
People proudly display their badges in their email signatures, and we have a weekly leader board that shows who currently has the top 3 scores in the College and individual departments. It has massively increased engagement in the resources, with many people vying to be in the coveted ‘top three’!
It’s well worth giving badging a go in your teaching, to see how your students respond to it. It’s not for everyone, but it will increase engagement for many. In fact, why not have a badge for having read this blog post?