Learning Technology

Gamification in Moodle (Sally Chappell)

September 14th, 2016 at 10:09

Sally Chappell in the School of Life Sciences is our guest today, posting about gamification in her Moodle modules.

This project aims to introduce game-based elements to the “Molecular Basis of Genetic Disorders” module, which is part of the MSc Molecular Genetics and Diagnostics, a 1-year, full-time course. The module is currently being redesigned to include several “flipped classroom” sessions, where independent learning is provided via screencasts and other resources, and the timetabled sessions are spent on more applied exercises and data interpretation rather than didactic teaching (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015).

Although the design of the applied exercises should encourage students to engage with the material provided for their learning, experience has shown that not all students will spend as much time on this as we would like. It is also apparent that students lose their initial enthusiasm for certain approaches if they are used all the time across all modules, even if initial engagement was high, suggesting that a variety of approaches need to be used across the course.

The Moodle design includes several game-based elements in order to encourage active participation and engagement with the learning material to ensure that the students are fully prepared for the timetabled interactive sessions and allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the module material. This will use key elements from games in general (eg levels of achievement), but also elements from specific games such as geocaching and crosswords. Student engagement with the activities will also be rewarded by the award of badges for particular achievements, as well as reward in terms of the instant feedback provided by individual activities which is vital for learning.

An example of a game which is embedded throughout the Moodle space is the “DNA collector” activity. There are 20 icons representing flasks of DNA hidden throughout the module, which students have to click on to collect. These icons can be within any of the resources provided in Moodle, e.g. quiz questions, lesson pages, Moodle books, forum posts etc. The hope is that this will encourage students to look at all resources provided.

The students will be rewarded throughout the game-based activities in a variety of ways. This will include immediate feedback when completing quizzes (either in the Moodle lessons or as standalone activities), or other activities where feedback can be automated and delivered upon activity completion. Students will also be able to acquire electronic badges as they complete particular tasks, to serve as recognition for their efforts. The acquisition of badges has been shown to increase user activity (Hamari, 2015), although some have raised concerns about whether this actually translates into better performance in course assessments (Dominguez et al, 2013).

There will be 5 badges available for the students to collect as they progress through the module, as well as a bonus section which is released when they complete a particular set of activities (Figure 1). The criteria for the bonus section will not be explicitly stated, with the aim of encouraging students to complete more of the activities than just targeting the ones that they know from the outset will result in a particular consequence.

Badges and bonus sections available within the gamified Moodle space. Badges and other descriptors use language taken from game environments (e.g. “Your current level”) as well as providing acknowledgement of their contribution (“thanks for contributing so many questions”).


Abeysekera, L and Dawson, P (2015) Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: definition, rationale and a call for research, Higher Education Research & Development, 34:1, 1-14.

Domínguez, A; Saenz-de-Navarrete, J; de-Marcos, L; Fernández-Sanz, L; Pagés, C and Martínez-Herráiz, J (2013) Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education 63: 380-392.

Hamari, J (2015) Do badges increase user activity? A field experiment on the effects of gamification. Computers in Human Behavior. Article in press (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.03.036).

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