Gaming in Education Part Two: Achievements

After yesterdays post about Gaming in Education I got a lot of positive response and questions about how all of this works, and how people can use in in their classrooms. I’m going to post a few ideas about different strategies over the next few weeks for both tech and non-tech applications.

The first one is going to be about achievements and focus on using an LMS to accomplish some automation with achievements.

First you’re probably asking what the heck is an achievement? Remember when you were in 1st or 2nd grade and you would get a project back with a gold star on it instead of a grade? Achievements are the same thing!

Achievements were put into games first by Microsoft who were trying to think of ways to keep people playing. Gamers play a game and when they do something they can occasionally get an achievement. It may be beating a level under a specific time limit, it could be finding something hidden. Achievements are all over the place in gaming. Microsoft really hit a nerve with gamers because today achievements are EVERYWHERE and some gamers literally spend all of their time getting achievements and never beating the game. That’s an important point to remember: Achievements to NOT impact you beating a game. They are side bonuses.

That is how I, and a lot of my colleagues, look at Achievements. They are a way to entice students to work more or harder in a class. Nothing more. Below are my list of rules and guidelines I recommend you follow if you choose to add these to your class.

There are three types of achievements:

Stated – You blatantly show an achievement. You give an assignment, say it’s worth X number of points, and if you do two more steps you get a 10 point achievement.

Hidden – You don’t tell students until they’ve gotten the achievement. If a student gets 11 questions in a row right on a quiz, they get an achievement.

Awarded – You let students know an achievement exists but you manually award them.

Rule #1 Achievements are NOT GRADES – It is really easy to see the work achievements and think it’s bonus points. I disagree with that idea. First, you’re just going to get everyone to scour your course for achievements just to get a  better grade. You’re also going to force all of your students to participate. The goal of achievements is to encourage participation, not pad grades. Keep it separate and let them know that. The most achievements don’t warrant the best grade.

Rule #2 Leader board – Whether it is using code names or real names post up an achievement leader board. Just having a list with who has the most is almost always enough motivation to participate.

Rule #3 Give a mix of achievement types – I don’t recommend using only one type of achievement in a class. Going all hidden means students will just try everything. Going all awarded makes the students not explore. A balance is key.

Rule #4 Make it fun – Remember the point of achievements is to encourage your students to engage. Make it enjoyable! Instead of a grade reward add something to achievements that is something of an incentive without it being the whole point of participating. In one elementary school I helped a teacher create achievements, we made the “Crown of Awesome” it was a ridiculous oversized crown the leader on the leader board could wear. Other classes we used “You get to teach.” In college we did it with a pizza courtesy of the professor once a month. You’d be amazed how pizza can motivate college students. Find something good but not insane. Don’t give away an iPad because that’ll end up being the only reason. Get something that’s good, but isn’t the end of the world if a student doesn’t win.

With a little patience and time you can end up creating a wonderfully enjoyable reward system for your students to encourage and engage learning, while you focus on the real assessments of the class. Even if you don’t set your entire class up as a game I really encourage you to at least try it on one part of the course. You have a lot to gain and not very much to lose.


2 comments on “Gaming in Education Part Two: Achievements

  1. Thanks for posting these articles about education! I’ll be experimenting with a similar idea in my next English course. When you have used achievements in the past, how many students seem inclined to go after them? Is it a large portion of the class? Also, what ages are the students you’ve tried these out with?


  2. I’m glad to hear more people are trying it out! It really does work though I’m still not 100% sure why. I’ve done achievements with classes as big as 25-30. I would say easily 2/3rds of the students jump on it. It’ a competition between classmates and students are very competitive. I think the students who don’t jump tend to be the ones that don’t need the extra motiviation.

    Most of my experience doing this was actually with college and grad school level students. I have a lot of friends who go with it for Middle/High School.

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