No More NPCs: How Gamification Elements Can Motivate and Engage Learners

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

By adding gamification elements to online graduate English courses, an instructional designer and a faculty enabled differentiated learning and maximized student choice in types of assignments while still guiding students to achieve course objectives. This resulted in enthusiastic student feedback focusing on relevance to career goals and freedom of choice.


For over twenty years, I have taught graduate and undergraduate technical communication courses at Boise State University. Prior to teaching here, I taught at universities in California, New York, Arkansas, and Virginia. My teaching and research interests include universal design & accessibility, data visualization, student-athlete welfare & academic success, and leadership. I also serve as our institution's Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR).

Extended Abstract

In this session, participants will learn how an English professor and an instructional designer created a course design framework that increased student engagement by adding gamification elements to an online graduate course in visual rhetoric. The biggest factor was maximizing student choice in types of assignments which allowed differentiated learning while still guiding students to achieve course objectives.

This session will benefit faculty, instructional designers, program planners, or anyone interested in making courses or programs more engaging and/or motivating by giving students more choice over how they will be assessed. People interested in how to gamify a university course could also be interested.

The main focus will be on the design and implementation of the new course structure, especially how students were given a wide choice in which assignments to complete while still ensuring students met all of the course learning objectives. We will also examine the following: how the structure was introduced to the students; how students were guided to choose the mix of assignments that best suited their needs; how students have responded (including data from student evaluations); managing gradekeeping with so many different assignment possibilities; arranging and managing real-world clients for students; and possible updates to this design approach in the future.  Time will also be spent on how the course elements align with best practices in motivational and gamification design models.

A toolkit for adding the same gamification elements into your own course will be provided. This includes assignment and “game plan” templates, as well as course planning tools created for this particular approach.