Adding Game Elements to Your Online Course

There's a growing body of evidence that indicates the educational benefits of game-based learning. Although some courses are likely to be more conducive to a game-based approach, it's helpful to consider how game elements might enhance the learning experience.In an interview with Online Classroom, Clare Parsons, English lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park, highlighted several game elements and explained how she uses them in her online and blended courses.

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There's a growing body of evidence that indicates the educational benefits of game-based learning. Although some courses are likely to be more conducive to a game-based approach, it's helpful to consider how game elements might enhance the learning experience.

In an interview with Online Classroom, Clare Parsons, English lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park, highlighted several game elements and explained how she uses them in her online and blended courses.

Game elements can help make courses “more engaging and immersive,” Parsons says. However, they may be more suited to skills-based rather than content-heavy courses.

Parsons uses game elements in her business writing course and makes this approach explicit in the syllabus:

I am attempting to “gamify” the more traditional blended course. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, gamification is a process whereby a designer tries to apply the aspects of video gaming that make game playing an education in itself. I am not trying to make this course into a video game. My goal is only to apply principles that will make your experience more rewarding. …

Each week you will complete a number of tasks and assignments to familiarize yourself with many different documents and rhetorical strategies. However, since business needs are constantly changing, you will need to be an adaptable writer and a critical reader of all kinds of documents. Ideally, by the end of this course, you will approach each writing task as an exercise in information design and presentation.

Parsons uses the following game elements in this course:

Parsons uses a discussion section where students post the results of their challenges and provide feedback to each other. “Rather than having students rip [these assignments] apart, I ask them to analyze one and provide a brief argument about what makes that particular assignment the most successful. There's usually one group that gets the most kudos. That's the ‘badge' or reward that they get beyond the grade,” she says.

 The use of elements from games has enhanced Parson's courses, due in large part to the type of courses she teaches and the nature of business. “There aren't that many rules, and they vary company to company. It's all strategy, and you've got to make it work according to your circumstances. It's a matter of being able to analyze those circumstances and work within those constraints.”