Gamifying a Moodle course. What difference does it make? Week 2
Week 2 of my ‘gamified vs. non-gamified‘ Moodle course and school has been closed since Wednesday 27th March due to the Easter break. Since there hasn’t been much activity on the course, and I have had a few requests asking me what modules I use in the course, this week I’ll focus on the course structure and how I ‘gamified’ it.
You can read the post about week 1 here.
The course I have designed is nothing Earth-shattering, but it seems to work well in the given context (MYP Technology, 12 year olds). At the end of the 11 week unit of work (could be called ‘project’), students need to hand in two deliverables:
- the product (usually a Scratch animation)
- their documentation of the process (usually a 15-30 page word processed document)
In this unit of work students are to use technology to create a tutorial to teach others a dance choreography they have put together. The unit of work is not prescriptive in terms of technology used but I only provide extra scaffolding for Photoshop, Garageband, Google Docs, Word & Scratch, so most students tend to hand in a Scratch animation as their product.
Along the way students learn the basics of computer programming, photo and audio editing, as well as word processing. The nature of the MYP Technology framework is such that most of the marks are awarded for the documentation & process, rather than for the product itself, hence a lot of scaffolding is provided for the documentation.
My teaching groups are mixed in gender and ability. Some of my students have rather extensive experience using software such as Scratch, when others have never used it before. A mixture of blended learning and flipped classroom using Moodle works well in such a context, as students can work at their own pace (with minimum interim deadlines) and all abilities can be catered for.
The course is split into 6 main parts
- Completed project
The four sections at the middle follow the Design Cycle as found in the MYP Technology framework.
I use labels a lot, mainly to visually break down my course and allow students to navigate it more easily. I also use labels to inform students of their main deadlines.
Videos > Kaltura
The vast majority of my students’ first language is not English, and some students find it difficult to really grasp the intricacies of the unit of work. I have created video lectures that students can watch at their leisure, either in or out of the lessons, along with a text version of the script, so that students can copy-paste it into Google translate should they so wish.
I have also created a few video tutorials that are specific to our context, and that students would not be able to find during their investigation (e.g. upload a Scratch animation to our course database). Students know where videos are available as the ► sign is shown in the resource title on the course page (see here for more signs you can use in resource titles). I often set those videos to be watched as homework, prior to the lesson.
I use pages mainly to display the level descriptors. The videos mentioned above are also embedded in pages, rather than using the ‘kalvid’ module in Moodle.
I share a few documents in the course, such as an exemplar of a previous student’s work, a ‘help booklet’ that includes the unit question, level descriptors, etc. and working Scratch animation samples, ordered by level of difficulty.
Some of the vocabulary in the MYP Technology framework can be a bit confusing (e.g. ‘design specification’, ‘design problem’, ‘design brief’, ‘designs’, etc.) so I have made available some definitions with examples in glossaries. Students are encouraged to add their own terms to the glossaries, as long as they are not already available in any of the glossaries. This is very useful to deal with subject specific vocabulary.
I have put together a couple of very simple lessons, neither of which include questions. I like to use lessons to create ‘micro sites’ within my courses. I could have used the ‘book’ module instead but I like the flexibility that the lessons offer, should I decide to add more complex branching in the future.
Students are encouraged to share their Scratch creations. I also encourage students to comment on each other’s work (e.g. what could be done to improve a particular part of the creation) and/or to remix it. Respect of intellectual property is a big part of this unit of work and this activity allows students to practice it first hand, as content creators & end-users.
As mentioned above, students are expected to write a rather lengthy document to keep track of their process, at every stage of the MYP Technology design cycle. This can be very demanding for some students and I provide them with a checklist for all of the four main parts of the design cycle.
Turnitin helps me reinforce the ‘Academic Honesty Policy’ in place at my current school. It is always interesting to have whole-class discussions about ‘what constitutes a good originality score’ (students always ask me this).
Although students are not really marked on the technical complexity of their final product, I have put together a ‘star scale’ for students to self-assess the complexity of their Scratch creation (if they choose to make something else, then we have a chat together). The number of stars attained depends on the types of blocks used in their scripts. Once they have finished creating their product, students use the ‘choice’ activity to gauge where their creation stands on the ‘star scale’.
Although the workshop activity is rather difficult to tame at first, it is a fantastic for self and peer-assessment. I break down the unit level descriptors into about 25 to 30 easy to mark criteria (e.g. ‘The design brief is mentioned in the document’ — Yes/No), usually with the students so that the language is easy to understand. I allocate 3 pieces of work to be marked for each student, plus their own. We have a class discussion about what makes useful comments, prior to the task. On average, it takes students between 90 minutes and 2 hours to complete this extremely useful task. Each student has had their work peer-marked 3 times, with comments on how to improve their work, in a language that they can easily understand.
I use the actual level descriptors for teacher marking and therefore need to have students upload their work in a regular Moodle assignment so that I can attach a rubric to it. I usually give students some time to improve their work after they have read the comments written by their peers in the workshop activity. Once they are happy with their work, they upload their final deliverables to this assignment for me to mark.
Whether the course is gamified or not, every student is given a certificate once they have completed the course.
How I ‘gamified’ the course
There are a few very clever developers who have created plugins (1, 2) to gamify Moodle, one of which will make it to Moodle core in the very near future. However, when I started gamifying my courses there were no such plugins so I had to find a way to get it done with only Moodle core functionalities (warning, this only works in Moodle 2.0 and newer).
The whole idea behind my ‘gamified’ course is simple; I created some ‘badges’ (really they’re just labels with some clipart and a name) that students can ‘unlock’ when they complete specific activities (the labels are hidden until students have completed activities & resources). That’s about it! Read here for more details.
I usually would put together some Youtube video to show you how it’s done but I need to keep things quiet in the house, I wouldn’t want to wake the baby up! Until I manage to find some time to make the video, this simple walkthrough should be enough to get you started.
- Enable conditional activities & completion tracking at Moodle site level. Settings > Site Administration > Advanced Features (you need to have administrator rights for this).
- Enable completion tracking at the course level. Settings > Course Administration > Edit Settings > Student progress.
- Each resource/activity can now be ‘aware’ of its completion status for each user, but you have to set it up for each resource/activity. When editing a resource/activity you now have two extra boxes called ‘Activity Completion’ and ‘Restrict Access’. Please visit this page for more information on the available options – most of the options are self-explanatory though.
- Select the resources/activities you want to keep track of. I personally don’t keep track of labels, because it doesn’t really fit the needs of the course. You also need to choose whether a resource/activity’s completion state is marked manually by the student, or if it needs marked complete when specific conditions are met. Note that it is fairly important that you get this right as soon as students have started completing activities you won’t be able to change the options without losing some data.
- Think about what badges you would like for your students to collect.
- Decide what conditions students will need to meet for individual badges to be ‘unlocked’ by students.
- Create your labels with your fancy clipart (I get mine from openclipart.org)
- You now need to restrict access for each or your badges (okay, labels). You can take a look here to see the conditions students need to meet to unlock badges on my course
If you do decide to gamify your Moodle courses I’d be interested to hear from you, so please write a comment below or give us a shout @TeachWithMoodle on Twitter. For those who wonder, I haven’t woken the baby writing this post!