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Gamify Your Class Website

May 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

Atari Games

Given my love of gaming and my interest in the motivational value of video games, I’m surprised (baffled, really) that I’ve only recently heard of gamification. It’s not that the concept is unfamiliar to me, far from it, but this new (to me) terminology has opened the door to a whole world of people attempting to gamify education. Empowered by my new $5 word, I went on a marathon search bender to find out how people are gamifying their classrooms.

The question for me is how to incorporate game mechanics into my class in a way that is meaningful, but doesn’t require a lot of upkeep on my end. A web-based system seems like the ideal way to add a level automation to the process, and this post from the Chronicle of Higher Ed lays out a WordPress based system that looks promising. From the article:

  • BuddyPress — The foundation of a social class site, BuddyPress builds on the WordPress system so that it acts more like Facebook or Ning. I’d previously avoided BuddyPress because it seemed like it could decentralize the course. For a class aimed at developing those same elements, however, BuddyPress is ideal for putting out multiple options and encouraging organic development.
  • CubePoints with CubePoints BuddyPress Integration — In many ways, CubePoints makes use of information that’s already available in the system: who is checking the site regularly? Replying to questions on the forum? Adding links to interesting new content? CubePoints rewards users with points for all these actions and can keep a leader board with ranks unlocked. It’s all highly customizable: you can set the number of points for each action and add names and images to ranks.
  • Achievements — The Achievements plug-in lets you set rewards for particular actions. These can be automated, like a reward for posting a certain number of times to a class forum, or triggered by you. Achievements that require you to moderate their success can be more difficult to manage, but they give you a chance to reward behaviors that go above and beyond class requirements. (This can also work as a points system, though it does not yet integrate with CubePoints—the next version of both might fix that.)
  • BuddyPress Rate Forum Posts — The ability to rate posts acts as an extension of peer review and a check on excessive but meaningless contribution. If you’re rewarding high “scorers” in the class game in structural ways, such as with first choice of presentation dates or the ability to propose extra credit “missions” (two rewards I’m trying this semester), the voting system also asks as a way to encourage students to be their own community moderators.
  • BuddyPress Links — A plug-in for sharing links that is already integrated with CubePoints. If you have a class that involves a lot of current content, this is one way to build a space for the sharing of links to relevant material. There’s also a voting system on links that will help in tracking down dead or useless links.

I like this method for its level of automation and for the variety of actions it can track, but I can’t help but wish that weren’t a standalone system. I’m already building a great network in Edmodo, wouldn’t it be nice to leverage that with a social gaming system? Edmodo recently gamified the teacher experience a bit with a profile update that adds a completion bar, a sharing score, and badges; it may not be such a stretch to think they might incorporate some game mechanics for students as well. Maybe the best solution would come from a generic gamification API that educational sites could leverage for a single, unified experience.

Until then, I’m going to start experimenting with the aforementioned WordPress system. If you’ve tried to gamify your classes, please share in the comments.

[image from Flickr user Great Beyond][via the Chronicle of Higher Ed]

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  1. Jared Price says:

    Mr. Caldwell,

    I am very interested in the topic of gamification in K-12 classrooms. I just stumbled across open source “UserInfuser” ( and am looking into the possibility of using it in combination with an open source social instructional environment of some kind. I’ve considered Edmodo and Schoology, but would ideally like to keep the whole thing open source. I’d be interested in hearing about how you choose to move forward.

    Good luck,


  2. Josh Caldwell says:

    Thanks for sharing UserInfuser, I’ll have to check that one out. I too would generally prefer to keep everything open source, but I’ve come to really value the community that Edmodo provides. If I were to build my own site using open source tools, I would miss out the ability to connect with other teachers and classes using Edmodo.

  3. I just starting looking at UserInfuser, also. I have used Edmodo for a couple years, and love it.

    I have been asking Edmodo to expose their API to allow users to make plugins/add-ons. This could be their monetization — have their own plugin App store (like Google Apps Marketplace). Actually, I talked with one of their head people last summer and he said they were going to open it up… he also said they were going to add PowerSchool integration… and a quiz-making feature… and…, so who knows if or when they will open up their API. I have actually been betting on that, otherwise I would have jumped ship earlier.

    I see many LMS (Schoology, Edmodo, getting it close, but none are the whole package. I should probably look at Schoology a little more.

    The first to integrate Google Docs, a built-in quiz feature, (teacher-manageable) Gamification, and expose their API will win the race. I have some other ideas here:

  4. [...] frameworks out there with some potential, such as the Mozilla Open Badge project, UserInfuser, or this hodgepodge of WP plugins. On the other hand there are university projects, such as the MS/RIT collaboration Unified Game [...]

  5. Hyle Daley says:

    I am using Edmodo as well and have a great group about Education Gamification – Group ID = 9gl9cp

    We have put a lot together and are currently looking for a way to distribute and organize the rewards system. I was checking out UserInfuser – seems a little advanced to me at the moment.

  6. Josh Caldwell says:

    I’ve been following your progress on Edmodo for a while now, very exciting stuff! Have the folks at Edmodo provided any help with the integration?

  7. FYI…
    Edmodo has added student profiles & student badges.

    Teachers can make their own or use Edmodo-created ones. The problem is that they aren’t automated. Oh well… it’s a step.

  8. Josh Caldwell says:

    I noticed and have been playing around with it quite a bit (upcoming blog post). I agree that the lack of automation is a big downside, but I’m hoping that will be remedied soon.

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