Gamify Your Online Teaching

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

We built an online faculty development course to explore games and gaming concepts in online course design. The course itself implemented gaming concepts and gave the faculty an immersive, gamified, online learning experience. Come see how we did it, and how faculty experienced it! 


Andrew holds the Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University in 2013. His dissertation is titled, The Strained Partnership Between Secularization and Sectarianism in Higher Education. He earned my B.A. in religion from Westminster College (PA) followed by my M.Div. and Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary where he won the Fellowship in Practical Theology. Andrew began work in faculty development as a Senior Instructional Designer at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ and then as a Federal Title III Grant Program Director at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. He has published in the Teacher’s College Record, the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, and the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. He has also co-written a book chapter in the volume, Private Higher Education in Post-Communist Europe: In Search of Legitimacy (2007). Andrew has presented at conferences such as The Association for the Study of Higher Education, the Online Learning Consortium, Educause, and the Educause Learning Initiative. He is the proud father of two young boys and have an adorable black lab. He is an avid reader, drummer, insatiable consumer of music, coffee fiend, and you will find him running whenever and wherever he can.

Extended Abstract

The Sony game God of War broke sales records by selling 3.1 million units in its first three days. Gaming is a significant driver of online marketing and behavior while table top gaming has been on a steady rise for parties, social events, and cafés all over the world. So what is it about games, game playing, and how people behave and learn in a gaming environment that is so alluring, and what can we use from gaming in our online teaching to support learning? We developed an online faculty development course to find out. 

Gamification and the use of games in online instruction enhances both student engagement and motivation to improve learning outcomes. Developing and implementing the tools and techniques of games in online teaching is something not immediately available to most faculty members. The learning curve for achieving the best outcomes with gamification is steep and the opportunity to learn and practice the use of these techniques and tools for online course delivery did not yet exist at a large, research institution. Even opportunities outside of this institution for this kind of faculty exploration were also rare. 

A team of learning designers and faculty development professionals sought to help faculty identify the most innovative and effective gamification tools that they could easily integrate into their online teaching. Effectiveness of the individual gamification techniques were determined by their effect on student learning within a variety of fields. Most faculty at this institution did not have the means, the time, or the systems available to develop and integrate games into their online teaching. The challenge was to leverage the course management system available to all faculty at the institution, but in a way that used gamification concepts and tools so that after faculty completed the course, they could then apply gaming concepts and tools to their own online teaching. 

The course is a different kind of experience for faculty because while they learned about ideas in games and how to "gamify" an online course, they also participated in a course that is highly gamified. The course uses gaming culture nomenclature, a scoreboard structure for the gradebook, narrative components, goal seeking, and many other concepts. Because the course uses the learning management system structure it appears like most other courses, but the felt experience and how completion of course objectives works gave a faculty a unique online learning experience that was both innovative and entertaining. 

The course is designed around a narrative quest concept where participants review modularized examples and research on gaming and gamification of course design only to have to "defeat" level minions (low stakes knowledge checks like quizzes) and bosses (higher order application activities). Weaved into the course are discussions to invite a social dimension. While the course is self-directed, it is also instructor coached in order to exemplify how a gamified structure would work in a course where instructor presence is a core feature of the experience. Even the gradebook was rethought to follow a scoreboard concept so that participants can reach the "winning" point total in more than one way. 

What we found is that once faculty got used to the course structure, they found it to be the most interesting and adaptable gaming concept to apply to their teaching. They were able to develop gaming concepts to apply to their own courses and discussed examples of what they would try. Even those who remained somewhat skeptical of applying gaming concepts to their teaching found significant value to some ideas in order to affect student motivation and improve their online learning experiences. 

This session will discuss what our goals were in developing the course, show session participants what the course looks like and what some of its unique features are, how faculty responded to the course and what they learned from it, and what faculty took from the course to apply to their own teaching. The presenter will invite a broad discussion of gaming as it applies to online teaching and learning in general in order to clarify some distinctions and maybe question assumptions and skepticism around gaming. More specific questions and answers will be invited throughout the session to see what might be useful to participants at their own institutions.