Going Gameful

Go Gameful

Ready to implement a gameful learning approach into your course? Use the resources below to help guide you through!

This guide will help you think through detailed logistics and your own personal philosophy around grading and assessment structures. We estimate that it takes 3-4 hours to work through the structure of a single class, plus the time to create the necessary support materials.
Step 1: Define learning objectives

Creating your learning objectives from the beginning gives you a better understanding of what goals you have for your students and will allow you to make assignment choices that match those goals.

If you want to see what makes good learning objectives, start here.

Step 2: Decide Autonomy method

There are many different ways you could introduce autonomy into your course. Here are a few examples:

Autonomy through submissions:

  • History of the game of Life
    • Research the history of the game of Life. This research can be delivered as a presentation, written paper, play, song, or any other method if approved by the instructor.

Autonomy through assignment selection:

  • You need to receive 1500 points to receive an A in this course. They can be made up of any combination of
    • Exams (1000 pts possible)
    • Papers (550 pts possible)
    • Quizzes (500 pts possible)
    • Group Project (1000 pts possible)
    • Individual Projects (900 pts possible)

Autonomy through collaboration (or not):

  • You need 8,000 points to get an A
    • Every assignment is worth 500 points as a solo assignment or 2000 points as a group assignment.
    • Group assignments are, riskier, take longer, and require coordination, but students have the potential to earn more points with them.
Step 3: Think through unlocks and badges

In many games you can’t fight the boss until you have finished off their underlings. Your gameful course can be set up in the same way. Using a gameful learning management system, like GradeCraft, allows you to set paths for students to follow through your course. GradeCraft also allows you to create badges for various actions in your course that can be used in the unlock scheme.

Step 4: Determine your assessment approach

Next, you’ll make a few decisions about how you’ll grade assignments. In gameful courses, we walk instructors through decisions in each of the following areas:

  • Using rubrics. Using rubrics ensure your expectations are transparent to students. Some instructors say this is a time-intensive process, but it’s often a one-time investment that saves time during grading.
  • Allowing resubmits. Allowing students to resubmit assignments gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. This makes if safe for students to take risks on assignments that are outside their comfort zone.
  • Allowing choices. Having a lot of assignments is another way to help students recover points if they need to. To keep your workload under control, consider breaking up larger assignments into smaller components. 
    • For example breaking a research project into several parts (hypothesis, proposal, draft, final paper and presentation), with each step graded separately. 
    • Using an unlock system you could even have later components locked behind successful completion of earlier components. This allows students to get points for the progress they make even if they decide not to finish the paper or give a presentation.
  • Allowing students to self-assess. Research on self-assessment shows that students are quite accurate when it comes to reviewing their own work. This approach can help reduce the total grading workload for instructors, and create opportunities for students to be guided to think about their performance in a new light. With transparent expectations students can really examine if the work they did meets your expectations and reexamine if it doesn’t.
Step 5: Set up assignment type

List the types of assignments that will be included in your course. For example:

  • Course Example 1: Videogames and Learning
    • Class Attendance
    • Reading Quizzes
    • Blogging
    • Learning Game Reviews
    • Learning from Playing a Game
    • Boss Battles
    • Grading System Quiz
    • Team Competition
  • Course Example 2: Intro to Political Science
    • Attendance
    • Readings
    • Discussions
    • Blogging
    • Boss Battles
    • Group Project
    • Conventional Academic Essays
    • Scribing

Make sure that your assignment type titles are clear so that students can understand what to expect from each assignment type.

Step 6: Create assignments and assessments

Note: If an assignment doesn’t map to any learning objective (from Step 1), you can decide whether to drop the assignment or add a learning objective. 

Next, you’ll create your individual assignments and implement your autonomy method. As you create your assignments, make a note of which are required and which are not. For each assignment, you’ll provide clear descriptions so students can make informed decisions about which assignments they’ll choose to do.

At this stage, you’ll also create your assessment rubrics if you chose to use them.

Step 7: Set achievement levels and grading scale

Next, you’ll set the number of points students need to reach for various achievement levels.  This scale can be anything you want: you can use traditional letter grades or labels like “master, expert, moderate, novice” and so on. The numbers on the scale are completely arbitrary; what matters is that students feel a sense of progression and understand what how to make progress toward their goals.

Need some inspiration? Consider these examples:

A. Match level names to hierarchies that are relevant to your course content – students learn while they level up.

B. Create a leveling system that helps students see themselves make progress long before they have earned a full letter grade.

C. The number of points between levels does not need to be consistent. The farther up this point scale, the larger the gap, making the ‘game’ feel progressively harder as the student builds mastery.

D. There is no need to use the full grading scale. This course chose not to include F or A+. You could also forgo any letter grades until C- since that’s the pass criteria.

Step 8: Assign Points

It may be unconventional to assign points after creating all your assignments, but now you have the full picture of your course, including the assignments and achievement levels, which will allow you to be more purposeful with point distribution. The points values you assign can incentivize (or decentivize) students to do certain assignments. 

For each assignment, consider whether it’s formative or summative.

  • Formative work is generally intended to monitor students’ learning on a topic like reading quizzes or short blog posts.
  • Summative work is intended to evaluate students’ learning on a whole unit of content.

Typically, summative assessments are worth more points in an assessment scheme because students are expected to do a variety of work to learn the materials in preparation for them. However, there are moments where we explicitly incentivize formative assessments — for instance making reading quizzes valuable in order to get students to do the reading. There may also be moments where we devalue summative assignments to make lower their stakes.

Other things to consider:

  • how frequently this assignment will occur (weekly assignments are probably worth fewer points than ones that occur only once)
  • how much work you expect students to put into the task

Sum up all of the points for the assignments you’ve listed.

  • To help foster the freedom to fail, we recommend your assignment total be at least 150% of your A level. For example, if it takes 12500 points to get an A in your course than your assignment point total should be 187,500.
  • If your total happens to be less than your A level, adjust your points or adjust your levels.
Step 9: Review and launch

Review your course with some of these questions in mind:

  • Are you enabling students to show that they have learned material through a variety of media? Can you add assignments that would allow this and work towards your learning objectives?
  • Are you enabling students to make choices about what advanced content they will work on such that they can customize it to match their unique interests and goals?
  • How are assignments distributed across the semester? We recommend looking at the workload week-to-week to make sure that the course isn’t so backloaded that no one is able to make progress until the very end of the semester.
  • Do students have control over when they do work, enabling them to balance your course against their semester schedule? Many instructors have certain categories of assignments due at different intervals throughout the semester to stagger the grading and discourage students from procrastinating.
  • Are there distinct assessment pathways that involve a progression of content or skill acquisition? You might make these explicit by using unlocks to declare that completion of one is required to move on to the next.
  • Do you anticipate that some students in your course will come in with a high level of knowledge on the content already?

Launch! When everything looks ready, you can launch and run your course. While you run your course, try to get meaningful feedback from students to help you iterate (Step 10).

Step 10: Iterate

Take all the feedback you get during your term, look through your design, and make whatever changes you feel are appropriate to achieve a balance between challenge and motivation. Try to think of running your course in the same way gameful pedagogy thinks of assignments: we hope you feel like it’s safe to fail and try again.

Astronomy 106: Aliens

In this course we will discuss the on-going search for extra-terrestrial life. We will place a strong focus on the scientific hurdles that lie in our understanding the development of life and for its potential evolution towards interstellar travel and communication. The framework of the course will be based upon the Drake Equation, first posed to estimate the total number of intelligent civilizations that might exist in the Galaxy at a given time. Thus we will take a census of the potential for life beyond Earth through an exploration of our own solar system. We will then survey beyond our own star system to the exciting search for “extra-solar” planets and their biological potential. We will end with a group activity where students and professors will try to estimate how many ET civilizations might exist and then move on to discuss our future potential to travel to the stars.

Astronomy 106: Aliens

Honors 240: The Games We Play

Games — real and metaphorical, formal and informal — are everywhere where humans are: Games are a metaphor for politics, romance, and much in between. There are children’s games, war games, and the Olympic Games. In the world of fiction, there are games of thrones and hunger games. People watch and play football; others play it on their XBox and Playstation consoles. Some games seem to have a gender, while some gamers want to exclude one gender from their world. Language is a game. There’s the game of life, and college is an important part of it.

Honors 240: The Games We Play

Honors 242: Deep Time: The Science of Origins

In this Honors Core course, we explore the intellectual history of the science of origins, beginning in the 17th century, when science had little to say about the origin of anything, and ending on the last day of class, with discoveries made while the course was taking place. Working together, we investigate not only what science has learned about origins, but how these things were discovered, who contributed, and why progress was made where and when it was. In short, we explore the origins of origin science. Along they way, you will learn a lot about how science really works. To learn these things, we will read original scientific works from the 17th through the 21st century, contemporary reviews, historical accounts, and philosophical papers on epistemology. This course is highly interdisciplinary, exploring the origins of the Earth, life, and the universe using approaches drawn from geoscience, biology, physics, chemistry, and statistics.

Honors 242: Deep Time: The Science of Origins

Linguistics 370: Language and Discrimination

This course examines the ways language serves as a potential site of social statement, and sometimes social conflict, particularly with respect to questions of “race” and ethnicity. We will explore issues concerning language-based discrimination in various public and private contexts, multilingualism, regional and ethnically-linked dialects, ideologies about language and language variation and finally hate speech and political correctness. As we explore these issues, we will also examine the ways in which language is used to construct and reflect social identities and social group boundaries. We will discuss how different aspects of social identity relate to language practice and will use the critical lens of race and ethnicity to center most of our discussions.

Linguistics 370: Language and Discrimination

Education 333: Videogames and Learning

Why are videogames fun? The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think. Good games draw you in, teach you how to succeed, and keep you engaged with a “just right” level of challenge. Most importantly, players learn while playing a well-designed game. Why isn’t school like that? This class takes a hard look at videogames, a hard look at education, and considers ways that each can be improved to maximize learning.

Education 333: Videogames and Learning

Building Multiple Assessments Worksheet

If you are just getting started and wondering how to brainstorm how to build out assessments to support autonomy, this Word document may help.  It is designed to be printed on 11×14 paper.

Planning Document (Word Format)

Gameful Planning Spreadsheets

Gameful assessment design “flips the frame” and has the potential to have more points that is necessary for an A.  Sometimes this new framework can be hard to re-conceptualize how success will play out for students.  The below spreadsheets are a way to build out potential additional assignments, set a tentative grading scheme, create student personas to “test” the grading scheme.  The first is a generic with blank categories, the second has categories set out by week.

Gameful Planning Spreadsheet (Excel)

GC Planning Spreadsheet with Sample Data Week by Week (Excel)