Week 4 of the ‘Gamify or not gamify‘ a Moodle course experiment. In week 1, I looked at early statistics and wondered what students were actually up to on the course, how they use it, what they click on the most, etc. This week, I am taking a closer look at the students’ activity around the course so far.

Gamifying a Moodle course. What difference does it make Students’ activity in the first 4 weeks of using their Moodle courses

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First impressions

I was rather surprised to see that students enrolled in the non-gamified course have interacted with activities & resources more than the students enrolled in the gamified course (3,634 clicks vs 3,423), as it contradicts figures gathered in week 1 of the experiment. However, the figures above only show clicks to resources & activities, and do not include visits to the course homepage, to check if badges have been unlocked, for example.

Only resources & activities3,4233,634
Including course homepage4,9044,728

Number of click (or hits) to the courses

As you can see, students who are enrolled in the gamified course have visited the course homepage more times than students in the non-gamified course. I suspect it is mainly to check whether they had unlocked badges. I am not sure whether this is positive or detrimental to the students’ learning.

Some activities have been very popular in both courses, namely the database, the checklist and the lesson. This was to be expected as students were encouraged to share at least two of their Scratch animations, based on resources available in the lesson. As they progress through the course, students are also encouraged to keep track of their progress using the checklist.


Example of a lesson in Moodle

Students were encouraged to use the links to Scratch tutorials provided in the lesson. Students in the non-gamified course used this quite a bit more (+39%) than the students in the gamified course. Students were allowed to look for their own tutorials to follow, or to re-use some of the projects they had completed in primary school. Students in the gamified course may have chosen those options over the using the tutorials provided, it is hard to tell. Based on classroom observation, both sets of students thoroughly enjoyed their lessons, whether beginner or advanced users, always good to see. 


Breakdown of clicks for each page in the lesson


Moodle database to share and peer assess

Once students have completed a Scratch animation, they are to share it with their peers using the database provided. They then have to comment on, and rate each other’s work. As you can see, both sets of students have used the database a fairly similar amount of times, with a slight edge to the non-gamified course. However, the students in the gamified course produced more Scratch animations, and of better quality (I cannot share them here, so you’ll have to take my word for it). From the quick survey I did at the beginning of the course, there was an even split of Scratch skills between both courses so I am not quite sure what to make of this data. I was not satisfied with the quality of the comments provided by the students – we clearly need to work on that.


Breakdown of activity in the database

Lectures & video help

Example of Kaltura with Moodle

As mentioned in the ‘week 2‘ post, I recorded videos explaining what the different parts of the project are about. I also recorded some videos showing how to perform specific actions, such as ‘How to upload a Scratch animation to the database?’. Those videos proved more useful than I thought they would. 

► Whole project lecture52214821
► Investigate lecture187236319
► How to share a Scratch animation89237321

Hits for each video in the ‘Investigate’ section

I am not surprised that the students in the gamified course watched the ‘Investigate lecture’ so many times, as many were struggling to understand concepts such as ‘Design problem’, ‘Design brief’ and ‘Design specification’ in the lessons. Almost all of the students needed help uploading their Scratch animation to the database, although it wasn’t especially hard – there goes the ‘kids know how to use computers, anyway‘ mantra…


Example of a checklist in Moodle

As mentioned, students are encouraged to keep track of their progress using checklists. Students in the gamified course have been more diligent than those in the non-gamified course (+25%).

Checklist visits587469

Hits to the checklist


Example of a quiz question

The quizzes in this course are not compulsory and are used to stretch those students who feel up for a challenge. Students have the choice to take the quizzes during, or outside the lessons. So far, students in the non-gamified course have attempted quizzes more than their gamified counterparts. This makes sense to me, as students in the non-gamified course have gone through documenting their work faster than the students in the gamified course (not all students, but most). This might also be due to the fact that students in the gamified course spent longer practicing their Scratch skills, sharing more of the outcomes with their peers. It will be interesting to revisit these figures when more students are done with documenting the ‘investigate’ part of this project.

Quizz hits351                          545

Hits to the quizzes

Other resources

The exemplar has been downloaded a total of 226 times, by all 46 students enrolled in the courses. I will modify the course in the future, so that this appears as a book rather than a PDF file, as clearly students do not access the file from where they have saved it, they prefer downloading it again. I would probably turn this into a lesson with questions, or use the book module.

I am not very happy that so few students have viewed the level descriptors.


From the data I have gathered, so far  having badges on the course doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact. However, it is worth noting that quite a few students enrolled in the gamified course thought that the penguins were the only thing they had to collect, and had not made a clear connection between completing activities and being awarded badges. This became clear to me when I started turning the badges into ‘house points’ (the school’s reward system), as they were asking for more points than they had gathered badges – they were asking for as many points as they had gathered penguins. If the last two sentences don’t make any sense to you, you should read the first post of this series. It is also worth noting that students enrolled in the gamified course seem to have been more diligent in their documentation of the process, and created better Scratch animations as part of their going through tutorials, although this evidence is anecdotal.

I was worried in week 1 that students in the gamified course would go on a clicking spree to get as many badges as possible – this clearly has not been the case so far.

Stay tuned to see what happens in the next few weeks, when all students have understood the relationship between completed activities/resources and awarding of badges.

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


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.

Course structure

The course is split into 6 main parts

  • Introduction
  • Investigate
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Evaluate
  • Completed project

The four sections at the middle follow the Design Cycle as found in the MYP Technology framework.

Modules used


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. 

Using labels in Moodle

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.

Example of a video lecture 

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.

 Files in Moodle


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.

Lesson in Moodle


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.

Example of a database in Moodle


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.

Example of a checklist in Moodle


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’.


Example of a page in MoodleExample of a choice in Moodle


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.

Example of a workshop in Moodle


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. 

  1. Enable conditional activities & completion tracking at Moodle site level. Settings > Site Administration > Advanced Features (you need to have administrator rights for this).
  2. Enable completion tracking at the course level. Settings > Course Administration > Edit Settings > Student progress.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Think about what badges you would like for your students to collect.
  6. Decide what conditions students will need to meet for individual badges to be ‘unlocked’ by students.
  7. Create your labels with your fancy clipart (I get mine from
  8. 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 want to add ‘Easter eggs‘ to your course, you will need to make use of orphaned activities. This is a little bit more involved and I’ll mention it in my Youtube video.

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!

[pulledquote]I announced a few weeks back that I would try and quantify the increase in engagement I have noticed when gamifying my Moodle courses. I have just started teaching two similar groups, and one has been exposed to the regular course, and the other to a gamified version of it.[/pulledquote]

I will post my findings every week, and will draw a summary at the end of the experiment. This post retraces what has happened in the first week of the experiment.


Note: Don’t expect a huge study, this is an experiment involving 2 groups of just over 23 students, aged 12 to 13 years old, over an 11 week period. Please keep this in mind when reading my interpretation of the results, and I would recommend you to think twice before quoting it in an essay 😉


  • Course was duplicated twice
  • One course per teaching group
  • One group is exposed to the gamified course, the other is exposed to the regular course
  • The resources/activities are exactly the same, are presented in the same order and are available at the same time on both courses
  • The look & feel of both courses is exactly the same
  • In short, both courses are the same but one course is gamified (i.e. students can collect badges when completing activities), and the other isn’t
Gamified courseRegular course
Gamified Moodle courseRegular Moodle course
Full size imageFull size image

Course on the left has badges for students to unlock, course on the right doesn’t


The two teaching groups are relatively similar in terms of gender, age, and academic achievement distribution. I currently work at a non-selective/DSS secondary school in Hong Kong, where most of the 720 students’ first language is not English. All of the students concerned by this experiment have access to a computer at home, connected to high-speed Internet. The experiment is carried out on Form 1 students, which equate to Year 7 in the UK system, or 7th grade in the US system.

Group 1 – Gamified courseGroup 2 – Regular course

23 students (14 boys, 9 girls)

24 students (14 boys, 10 girls)

Findings from week 1 

I am trying to record as much information as possible and, although I have a pretty good idea of what I want to find out, the list of metrics I am analysing is growing organically.  Here are some questions I have asked myself so far, some with early answers.

Do some students cheat?

The age old question! In order to unlock badges, students need to complete activities and view resources. Some of those activities/resources are marked as complete automatically (e.g. when a student views a webpage, a tick is automatically placed next to that resource), or the student needs to mark it as complete themselves. Students can then cheat, ticking an activity as ‘complete’ even though they didn’t even open the activity/resource in question.

Answer: In the first week, 5 students from each group marked activities done, even though they had not even visited the said activities/resources. So yes, some students cheat, whether the course is gamified or not. 

TODO: I need to have a look at the length of time between each click. This leads to a question for the future –> do some students go on a ‘clicking spree’ to mark as many activities complete as possible?

Are some students forgetful?

If some students mark an activity as complete, even though they haven’t completed it, then the reverse must be true. I queried the logs to find out.

Answer:  in group 1, 18 students viewed at least 1 resource and did not mark it as complete. In group 2, 20 students viewed at least 1 resource and did not mark it as complete. This is a lot more than I thought, and again there seems to be little difference as to whether a course is gamified or not.

TODO: I clearly explained to my students that marking an activity as done implies that not only they have viewed it, but also understood it. I need to find out whether students did not mark it done as one of those criteria wasn’t met, or if they simply forgot to tick it as done.

Do students spend more time on the gamified course?

I love statistics so there will be a detailed analysis at the end of the 11 weeks, along with the whole data set in case you want to perform your own analysis. For now, here is a quick breakdown of what happened in week 1, using the ‘Course dedication‘ block.

Time spent on site (hh:mm)Group 1Group 2
Total54:33  44:15

Answer: as you can see, students who have been exposed to the gamified course have spent longer on the Moodle course than the students exposed to the regular course (+23% on average). It will be interesting to see how this evolves over time.

TODO: I want to have a better overview of what the students are actually doing on the site. Time to find a way to analyse the logs in a meaningful way. 

Do students click on more resources/activities on the gamified course?

In light of the previous answer, the answer to this one might sound obvious but I went to check anyway. I simply looked at the Moodle logs and counted the number of clicks in the course, minus my own and ensured the timeframe was correct.

Number of clicksGroup 1Group 2
Average per student74.956.2

Answer: yes they do, quite a bit more in fact. On average, a student exposed to the gamified course performed 33% more clicks than their counterparts exposed to the regular course.

TODO: again, it would be quite interesting to see what students are doing, more in depth. Also, I’d like to see if this levels off over the next few weeks.  

There is probably a lot more to look at, so please write a comment below if there is anything you’d like to find out before this experiment is over, for example any specific data analysis. If you have any questions for my students, I am happy to ask. 

In Moodle, scales are used as a way to evaluate students’ performance. Students and teachers can use scales in forums, databases & workshops as well as assignments. Aside from the out-of-the-box standard scales, you have the ability to create your own scales, and few teachers I speak to realise that those scales don’t have to be made up of words. In this short post I share HTML symbols to make your Moodle scales look better. Whatever you decide to use, always design your scales in an increasing order of value.

Why bother?

Sometimes using images, pictogram or symbols is a more efficient way to convey an idea than words or even sentences. This is especially true when working with young students or with students with ESL. Symbols are also useful as they use less space on a screen than their wordy counterparts, useful for mobile devices. 


Symbols★, ★★, ★★★, ★★★★, ★★★★★
Words1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars, 4 stars, 5 stars

Custom scales

Click here to find out how to create custom Moodle scales. Note that, unless you have special privileges, you will only be able to access your scales within the same course you created it in. You should ask your Moodle administrator to make your scale ‘standard’ so that it is accessible throughout your entire Moodle site.

Some useful symbols

You can simply copy and paste those HTML symbols to create scales for your subject. This is by no means an exhaustive list and you can find lots more HTML symbols using your favourite search engine. Note that you can also use those symbols anywhere else on Moodle, including activity/resource names.

Warning: some of the symbols are letters/words from languages other than English and thus have a meaning. Some symbols might not work on all platforms and older browsers.

All subjects ☹☻ ㋡ 
Maths∞ ¼ ½¾ ⅔    
Science☢ ☠ ☣ ♂ ♀    
English & MFL✎ ✐ ✏ ✍     
Geography✈ ⌚ ☼ ☁ ❅ ♒ ϟ ☃ 
History♔ ♘  ♛ ♜♚ 
Music♬ ♫ ♪ ♩ ♮ ♭ ♯  
Visual arts✂ ✄ ✎      
Economics© ® £ Ұ   
ICT⌘ ✉       
RE✡ ☪ † ☨ ✞ ☯ ♁  

 Do you use HTML symbols in Moodle? How? Please share using the comments section at the bottom of this post.