Gaming Lessons

Computer Science

Aaron’s first-year computer science courses are early in the morning and are almost 2/3 non-program students.  In 2015 he was looking for a way to increase engagement and improve academic success in these key foundational courses. Being familiar with video games and gamified apps such as Fitbit, he did a bit of digging around and found some examples of badging in primary and high schools and decided to create a custom badge website for use in his courses.  The original site includes:

  • badges
  • points (tied to badges)
  • a leaderboard (optional)
Aaron's Badges
Aaron’s Badges

Badges are tied to tasks that are designed to promote positive academic and social habits.  Each badge has a name, a description, a colour and a points value. Colours are used to group badges into categories.  Points are used to determine rankings on the leaderboard. In order to protect students’ privacy, they are able to use a nickname or opt out of the leaderboard entirely.  This is important as some people find competition to be de-motivational. Some example badges are shown below.

Aaron's Assignments
Aaron’s Assignments
Aaron’s Kahoot and Reflection Badges
Aaron’s Kahoot and Reflection Badges
Aaron’s Lab Badges
Aaron’s Lab Badges

Badges marked with ???? were “mystery” badges where the description and title were withheld from a student until they completed the task required (presumably by accident or by hearing from another student).  These were implemented based on a game design principle that people like surprises.

Aaron’s Miscellaneous badges
Aaron’s Miscellaneous badges
Aaron’s Social Badges
Aaron’s Social Badges
Aaron’s Tests
Aaron’s Tests


Currently, badges are awarded manually by the course instructor or a designated TA. This is not ideal and is discussed more here.


In both 2016 and 2017, an exit survey was conducted to gauge student interest and reaction to the badges system.  In both years, more than 3/4 of students surveyed said they enjoyed the system, felt that it motivated them to work harder on assignments and labs, and study harder for tests. In the 2016 survey students felt that the mystery badges were their least favourite feature.  As a result, the number of mystery badges was significantly reduced in 2017.


The gamification system will be released in 2019 or 2020 as a cost-free and open source software that can be used or modified by anyone.




Laura has been using badges for almost two years in her classroom along with a colleague teaching the same group of students. In Laura’s classes, badges and associated rewards for them were negotiated with students. As above there were different types of badges that are connected to course learning outcomes. However, completion of badges is voluntary. Students are able to see what badges are available and what the associated rewards are both inside Moodle and in the documents below. These badges are all programmed inside the learning management system – some are automatically awarded.

First Year Chronic Health

The list below shows what activities students had to complete in order to achieve badges. These activities were relatively simple and are being adapted for next term into quests (discussed here).

The rules and rewards document below was quite helpful for communicating expectations to students.


Rules and rewards in each class are collaboratively determined with students to promote agency. For details about the badges used in other classes please visit this website. Here are some of the key lessons we learned about badging in Nursing courses:

  • Simpler systems are better
  • Gamification maps are helpful
  • Point values on badges help
  • Set due dates for badge redemption
  • Have fun and seek support

For more information about the lessons learnt last year please visit this site.



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