Hibernia College (Ireland) provides blended learning teacher training programmes, which commence in April and September each year.
The College creates support systems for students underpinned by the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). The COI guides the creation of a collaborative constructivist learning experience through a focus on three interrelated elements – social, cognitive and teaching presence. When making their presence felt in online learning environments, students can foster a sense of community, a key element for successful blended courses. For students, an online learning community provides “opportunities for exchange of personal information, reduces their feelings of social isolation and allows them to form individualised perceptions of each other” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).
We use our Moodle VLE to connect students with one another so that they can forge relationships. They can draw on these relationships for support and for peer learning throughout their two-year programme and beyond, into their professional practice as qualified teachers.
To enable this, students undertake a two-week online orientation, which introduces students to the programme, VLE and to one another. It includes tasks such as videos, presentations, forum discussions, blogs, quizzes, and more. Students complete a post-orientation survey that has continually shown good engagement with instructional content but lower engagement with activities that facilitate interpersonal connectivity.
In September 2018, in order to improve engagement and enhance the online community, we decided to introduce gamification. Gamification in education is described as the use of “game, game-like activities or game elements” to enhance learning, motivate students and increase engagement (Brigham, 2015).
We deployed ‘Level Up!’ (a Moodle gamification plugin), within which students earn experience or ‘XP’ points and move through levels after performing certain actions. It was configured to award points to students for performing actions in the activities in which they interact with one another.
Its impact was evaluated using VLE log data and survey responses. Log data for 685 students indicated increased engagement in comparison to previous orientations. 421 survey respondents expressed ‘motivation’ as their main sentiment; they would not normally participate in interactive activities (such as contributing to discussion forums) but this gamification tool encouraged them to do so.
For the April 2019 orientation, Hibernia College has deployed the tool once more and anticipates that it will sustain the increased level of activity engagement. Its impact will be evaluated again in the same manner, as well as through focus groups with students, to try to determine why gamification motivated them.
This session will explore the background to this intervention and how and why we chose to do it. We will outline how we deployed the Moodle Level Up plugin and the challenges encountered and explore what attendees might wish to consider if applying the tool themselves. We will reflect on its impact so far and how we plan to develop it further. We hope that attendees will develop a greater understanding of gamification and its application in higher education and may be inspired to utilise it in their own contexts.
Brigham, T. J. (2015). An Introduction to Gamification: Adding Game Elements for Engagement. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 34(4), 471-480. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02763869.2015.1082385
Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Retrieved November 01, 2018, from http://cde.athabascau.ca/coi_site/documents/Garrison_Anderson_Archer_Critical_Inquiry_model.pdf