Gamification and Badging

Gamification refers to the process of transforming a boring or mundane task into a fun one by applying the principles that make games engaging. In essence, you make things into games.

Principles of Gamification

Here are the five principles of games that are useful to teaching:

1. Display Progress

  • reward effort, not just success
  • reward after fixed intervals (eg, every five tokens) but also randomly
  • momentary rewards ("great job" flashes on screen) or persistent rewards
  • provide rewards in the form of badges – people are natural collectors
  • use progress bar if not using a badge list
  • show progress summary not only when initially accomplished, but in a global spot that is easy to access later (and visible publicly to other participants)

2. Maximize Competition

  • motivation through innate competitiveness
  • leaderboard
  • beware FERPA issues

3. Calibrate difficulty Carefully

  • "balance" issues – neither boring nor anxiety-inducing
  • early, easy wins, then ratchet up difficulty
  • add skills incrementally
  • return to early skills with spaced repetition
  • boss levels

4. Provide Diversions

  • mini-games reset the attention clock
  • reward exploration via Easter Eggs (example: humorous TITLE text on images)
  • your word choices: "quests" rather than "objectives"
  • allow for nonlinear (or branching) progress toward the goal?
  • where practical, EMBED games and other content rather than link away

5. Employ Narrative Elements

  • start with a hook (high concept, "elevator pitch")
  • determine a central conflict that drives the storyline
  • think in terms of Set Up, Build Up, and Payoff
  • do not tell a story so much as construct a mystery (start "in medias res"?)
  • imagine characters, backstories, and use as many details as possible

Easter Eggs

Students are surprisingly obsessed with finding hidden objects/messages if they know there are a set number to be found per week. We recommend that Easter Eggs lead to hidden web pages that offer a Keyword, and these Keywords are then the answers to a special Easter Egg quiz each week (scoring a perfect score on all the Easter Egg quizzes could open up special "fun" content in the class, or yield extra credit).

Here are some ways to hide Easter Eggs within Canvas:

  1. Link to a blog post "hidden" as white text on white background
  2. Relay location of link (under a period) in a foreign language, with no translation
  3. URL hidden in the TITLE (mouseover) tag of a picture
  4. No-copy script on one HTML page so that naked URL visible, but not clickable
  5. Naked URL visible but has an "empty" three space—if copy/pasted, those three spaces turn out not to be empty after all but contain letter that were white on the page and thus invisible.
  6. Link within a paragraph masquerades as a "more information" link but goes to a YouTube recording, which shows a static image and a voiceover slowly saying the blog URL to actually visit.
  7. Link hides in small font at the bottom of a REALLY long HTML page
  8. Link expressed in example dot com form in the midst of a long paragraph and not underlined.
  9. QR code with no explanation


The use of digital "badges" (icons to be collected) can significantly add game-type elements to a class, and can be stored easily within Canvas. To use badges, simply plant the desired .jpg file onto a Canvas page to show it's been awarded. We recommend using teams (rather than individuals) as the competition, so that the actions of one student can win a badge for the entire team; this reduces the weekly workload for the instructor, as there are fewer badges to update on the page.

You may freely download and use our digital badges. They are intentionally not labeled with words so they can represent whatever award you decide.

Sample ideas to earn badges:

  1. First discussion post
  2. Best challenge tech
  3. First perfect test of the week
  4. First perfect Easter egg hunt of the week
  5. Best question on discussion board (DB)
  6. Best answer on DB
  7. Most interesting DB contribution of the week
  8. Greatest number of "perfect score" Easter egg quizzes after 1 day
  9. Most amount of perfect scores on test at end of week
  10. Person with most DB posts for the week


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