How to add gamification to the Open edX platform

Gamification in Open edX platform can make a meaningful difference for individuals and institutions of academic-industry who are looking to substantially improve the engagement and learning capacity of their students through productive and interactive means. This article provides ideas on how to implement this kind of strategy in the Open edX platform.

What is gamification?

Gamification is basically the application of game design and mechanics to non-gaming scenarios such as academic courses to enhance users’ interest and extent of engagement. Through the introduction of improved design and game elements, educational tasks for school, college or even lifelong learners that are usually considered to be dull and monotonous can be turned into fun and interactive assignments that learners are actually willing to do. Gamification strategies may also include some sort of reward-based system that creates a sense of purpose as well as healthy mutual competition.

Why you may want to add gamification to your online courses?

A number of studies have pointed towards gamification to be a highly effective tool for a multitude of reasons including:

Improved Engagement – One of the key reasons for gamification is drawing students’ attention toward academic learning. Conventional methods have proven to be too monotonous and repetitive and the introduction of gaming design and activity-based learning helps to gather and preserving students’ interest in coursework.

Enhanced Learning – Better engagement through gamification automatically leads to improved retention increasing students’ capacity of learning. When students are inclined toward investing their time and concentration in gamified exercise and courses, it results in quicker and more effective learning.

Short & Long Term Objectives – Conventional academic methods lack in terms of evoking a sense of purpose which is necessary to trigger motivation. Gamification through Open edX allows for the introduction of milestones that can earn students virtual rewards. This gives students a sense of accomplishment and motivates them to continue.

Healthy Competition – Gamification in Open edX means you can design courses and tasks where individual ranking can be determined. In order to break into top ten, students are required to spend more time on their courses learning more in the process. This also gives birth to a productive competition between students.

What factors need to be considered when adding gamification?

Just like any other venture, the process of gamification also requires planning. Before going forward with the idea, it is imperative to study your audience including finding out what their average age is, what they’re into, what are the latest social and gaming trends, etc. Without studying your audience, you can’t expect to optimize engagement levels.

A common misconception about gamification is that it is all about adding badges which fundamentally act as an acknowledgment of achievements. That limits the scope and potential of gamification incredibly as the process allows you to go beyond badges and add so much more to the learning experience such as storylines, narratives, exchangeable points, virtual rewards, graphical effects, avatar, etc. If you are only adding badges, then you are not employing the full potential of gamification at all.

A more comprehensive framework, proposed by Yu-kai Chou is the octalysis framework, explained in detail here.

This framework denotes 8 significant gamification drives:
1) Epic Meaning & Calling
2) Development & Accomplishment
3) Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
4) Ownership & Possession
5) Social Influence & Relatedness
6) Scarcity & Impatience
7) Unpredictability & Curiosity
8) Loss & Avoidance

Now the open edX platform does not necessarily implement tools with the specific purpose of adding gamification, but it’s general-purpose tools sure can be used to this end.
Here are some suggestions on how to include each of the 8 gamification drives with the tools that you already have available in open edX:

1. Epic Meaning & Calling

This is just about storytelling and the way the courses are articulated and presented to the audience. It can be implemented into a course in open edX with the tools already available for content such as video and Html components.

2. Development & Accomplishment

• Invite users to see their progress often.
• Challenge the user at the beginning of the gradable activity and use the flow control xblock to show them a visual reward when they reach a certain grade
• Keep a leaderboard based on grades and update it often. It will not be computed automatically, but it’s still a way to engage users.
• Use the feedback feature in all problems to engage with learners depending on the correctness of their response.
• Use course certificates and badges to recognize achievements

3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

• Use the forums and to promote creative responses to be shared with all the course and promote alternative formats such as image, links, etc.
• Challenge students to upvote the most creative proposals in the forums
• Use the open response assessments and peer validation to promote creative responses and specific feedback.
• Use problems to have learners figure things out instead of simply providing answers to questions.

4. Ownership & Possession

Use the grades of certain problem to represent the collection of certain “object” or milestone and use the flow control xblock to remind the user about his collection.

5. Social Influence & Relatedness

Leverage on social networks for these interactions. The social network feeds can be included in the course as part of the course hangouts section, or on a separate page.

6. Scarcity & Impatience

• Use the time restriction between problem submission attempts to allow for some appointment dynamics.
• Use the flow control xblock to restrict access to certain units based on the learner’s accomplishments on specific problems.
• Use the subsection prerequisites feature to restrict access based to complete subsections based on the learner’s accomplishment of a previous subsection.

7) Unpredictability & Curiosity

• Use random elements in the numeric or custom-built problems
• Use a random selection of HTML components or problem components from a library with the Randomized content block xblock
• Use open questions, polls, surveys, and discussions to foster curiosity
• Use visual tools such as the Image explorer Xblock, Zooming image tool, or drag and drop problems to let the learner discover the content and the information progressively.
• Use the Peer instruction Xblock to engage users in complex, paradoxical questions

8) Loss & Avoidance

This one may be harder, but one way to implement this drive would be to add the flow control xblock or the subsection prerequisite feature after the course has already started to restrict access to certain parts of the course content for learners that didn´t complete the work to be done. In order to make it work the rules of the game will have to be explained clearly from the start to motivate the completion of the work and avoid the loss of content.

What if I need to change the platform to accommodate my gamification strategy?

If you are not sure where to begin or need assistance in extending or integrating the Open edX platform with external tools, you can contact eduNEXT for consultancy and professional services. With years of experience and technical expertise, eduNEXT can bring a lively interactive experience to conventional learning that every student will highly appreciate.

This case study can give you some ideas and examples of this kind of modifications built into an Open edX course.

Final Word

Gamification in the Open edX platform can make a meaningful difference for individuals and institutions of academic-industry who are looking to substantially improve the engagement and learning capacity of their students through productive and interactive means.

When implementing gamification strategies in your courses it is crucial to consider accessibility. Sometimes, being too ambitious with gamification results in the addition of features and mechanics that restrict people with disabilities to properly interact with the course. Ensure whatever you are introducing doesn’t put a disabled student at a disadvantage.

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