Going With Gamification or Giving Up?

We experimented with gamification here at the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community – though not too successfully.

It was great to learn about Credly and how to integrate it into our Community. We identified a system for providing and delivering badges to members for participation. Where we mostly failed was in having too weak a vision or strategy for how gamification would motivate community participation and be of benefit to those attending events.

It’s one thing to award badges, but it’s another to gamify it and to turn it into a meaningful experience so that there is an intrinsic motivation to earning the badge.

There’s no dearth of gaming and gamification experimentation in higher education. At my institution, since we already use Parchment for transcription services, we are taking a closer look at their badging system. The initial thought is to offer badges as a better way for students to curate their learning experiences, beyond what shows up on a transcript. Not only might it provide incentive for students to attend instruction beyond the classroom, but it could give them a way to capture those experiences. Could it be gamified? Probably.

But is gamifying it the right direction to take? Does gamification provide the intended learning  motivation and impact on learning retention?

According to a recent conference panel of gaming researchers it may be tool early to determine if gaming has real educational value. At a Wharton Conference “Gameful Approaches to Motivation and Engagement” experts discussed what we know and don’t know about gamification, how it works, and what kind of effect it really has on job performance.

Although  the emphasis was on gaming as a workplace motivator (e.g., can it motivate more sales), there are some takeaways for Blended Librarians who still aren’t sure if gamification is worth pursuing.

  • Gaming generally doesn’t work if it’s forced on people; something they have to participate in to obtain an objective or certification. Commercial gaming is successful because people want to play the games.
  • Leaderboards are a positive addition to gamification initiatives as they encourage participants to return to the game; participants are more likely to strive for a top position.
  • When pseudonyms are used participants perform better than when real names are used, though the use of one’s real name would lead to a greater expectation of accountability.

The type and structure of gamification, how it is set up and the reward system all play a part of the challenging nature of games. Despite the uncertainty about gaming and gamification I am still interested in exploring how it could be used in a library instructional setting, particularly if it did lead to the generation of new learning experiences that could be captured and curated by the library.

A while back I attended a TLT Group interactive online presentation on using Kahoot. Though I saw how it could work well in a semester-length course, I would need to think through how to incorporate it into a one-shot session. Or might there be broader applications for this type of game in a library setting – perhaps for online learning and competing with other students towards badges and certifications.

We’re still early in the game and trying to figure this all out. That’s one thing on which the experts and I agree.

3 thoughts on “Going With Gamification or Giving Up?

  1. Going on! the normal thing is that 80% of gamification proyects fail at the beganing. I’am investigating about gamification and looking for experiences (not too much in academic libraries). I hope keep listening to your vision.

  2. Very thoughtful and helpful article, as usual. My big takeaway here is that if the gamification is a gimmick rather than an inspiring, integral part of the (learning) experience, we’re wasting our learners’ (and our) time. Glad you posted this; I’m reading it at a time when I was considering adding an element of gamification to a project I’m helping develop–and this makes me at least think about whether gamification in that context would add anything significant to what we will be doing and fostering.

  3. Thanks for your comment Paul. I don’t expect to see higher ed moving away from gamification any time soon, but perhaps there will be more questioning and assessment of how effective it is at motivating students to be engaged with the course content – and if so – does it lead to students achieving learning outcomes. I continue to be interested in how we might use digital badges (and leaderboards related to earning them) to not only motivate, but as a way to curate student library learning experiences.

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