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A topic that has been trending for a while now in education (think since 2010 – see below) is gamification.  If you haven’t heard of gamification before, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version.  Gamification is the incorporation of gaming elements, such as scoring, competition, leveling, etc, in educational, or other, contexts that are not typically game-like.

‘Gamification’ Google Trend History


Here’s an example, not an educational one, but one many of us can relate to, that demonstrates the motivating and fun-inducing power of gamification.  Imagine Petey, a child uninterested in having a bath and getting ready for bed.  You say, “C’mon Petey, it’s time for bed.  Let’s go have your bath and get ready.”  Petey doesn’t budge.  “Petey, you need to get cleaned up for bedtime.  Let’s go.”  No movement from Petey.  Being the clever parent that you are, you alter your approach.  “Hey, Petey, I’ll race you to the bathtub.  I’ll bet I get there first.”  Now if Petey is anything like most children, probably before you finish the second sentence in your challenge, he is up and running.  More than that he is smiling and having fun doing something that not two seconds earlier he was completely uninterested in.  That is the power of gamification.

So why gamify?

One of the benefits of gaming and gamification are the positive emotions that are encouraged when learning is playful.  Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken and all-around gaming expert, reports that gaming promotes the following:

  1. Creativity
  2. Contentment
  3. Awe and Wonder
  4. Excitement
  5. Curiosity
  6. Pride
  7. Surprise
  8. Love
  9. Relief
  10. Joy

These are all of the emotions that we wish our students felt when we share the wonder of our content with them.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen.  Yet, when educational experiences are gamified, students are more motivated, spend more time learning, and persist when working through challenging material.  The ultimate goal of gamification is for learning to awaken an epic win for students, a sense of absolute accomplishment and pride.


Ok, you sold me, so how can I gamify with D2L?

One of the key elements of gamification is having clearly identifiable accomplishments that are then rewarded.  In D2L there are tools that help students clearly accomplish a task and there are tools that help establish a motivational reward system within your course.  The table below provides an overview of some of the possibilities.

The D2L Gamification Toolbox




D2L Assessments Task/Accomplishments Create measurable, scorable tasks for students to complete using D2L assessment tools like the Dropbox, Quizzes, Grades, or Discussion Boards.
Competencies Task/Accomplishments The Competency tool associates learning objectives with particular desired competencies.  When a student successfully completes all required activities associated with learning objectives for a particular competency, students achieve the competency.
Checklists Task/Accomplishments Some projects and activities are multistage.  Checking off an item on a checklist can trigger the next step in a challenge.
Groups Teaming Gamification challenges don’t have to be individual.  You can use the Groups tool in Desire2Learn to create team challenges so that students must work together to achieve their goals.
Release Conditions Reward/Recognition and Leveling Release conditions are a key element of gamification in D2L.  You can use release conditions to unlock “higher levels” and to reveal badges and awards within your course.
Intelligent Agents Reward/Recognition Intelligent Agents are automatic email messages that can be sent to students based on Release Conditions.  These can be used to motivate students, inform them of new challenges, or provide recognition for achievements.
Homepages and Widgets Reward/Recognition Another way to celebrate achievement is through leaderboards and badges.  You can create custom widgets in D2L that can act as a leaderboard or reveal badges to students based on release conditions that they have met.
Replace Strings Reward/Recognition and Encouragement Replace strings are strings of code that are replaced by other data.  Here’s an example.  In Widgets and News Items, you can type {firstname} or {lastname} in part of a message.  This will be replaced by the logged in user’s first and last name so that they are reading a personal message.

Desire2Learn has created a ‘recipe‘ that outlines some of the potential for incorporating game mechanics in your course.  But of course, we’d love to help you gamify your course.  So drop by the Exchange and let’s talk about the possibilities.  Stay tuned for a post with a concrete example of how these tools can be woven into a gamified course unit.