OPERATION: Gamification

News, ideas, tips, and information on gamifying learning.

1. Build the Missions in Modules

Build your Missions (lessons) in Modules. Pick a consistent naming convention so that it is easy to assemble lessons later.


Each lesson should have at least the following components:


  • Resources for students - websites, pdf’s, videos,
  • An assignment that shows some mastery.
  • An optional challenge.


Module 1 (Mission 1, Adventure 1, etc) could follow the following structure:


  • Page: M1 01 Mission Objective
  • Assignment: M1 02a Maneuver OR
  • Quiz: M1 02b Maneuver
  • Page: M1 03 Challenge or Debrief
  • Assignment: M1 04a Challenge
  • Quiz: M1 04b Challenge
  • Page: M1 05 Debrief

2. Add Covert Operations

Covert Operations are just additional assignments you can provide that are not part of your main lessons. These can be any lessons you don’t have time to cover in class but you would like to provide to students. These are optional for students and are worth additional eXperience Points. (XP)


Consider finding assignments that reach multiple learning styles such as having students create a song, make a video, write a poem, make an infographic, etc.

3. Designate Ranks & Levels

Ranks and Levels can add another dimension to your gamified course. While this is a standard game element, earning the points that help students level up gives them a sense of completion that they have done something hard.


Make sure your lessons and Covert Operations are built in a way that students master a skill or an objective as opposed to just doing something. Give them choice and freedom as they earn their eXperience Points (XP).


You want the course and its gamified elements to be something students want to complete and lead to intrinsic motivation. While you can add rewards to each level, they can demotivate and crowd out the intrinsic motivation that was already there.

4. Create Badges and Use Badgr

Badges can also give participants a sense of accomplishment. Badgr is the best application to award badges in Canvas. Each badge is awarded based on module completion. Since each lesson is housed in a module, participants can see their progress as they complete each mission.


The criteria you set for a badge in Badgr is portable data for the participants in your course. You can also provide a link back to the content mastered for future reference. These badges aren't just digital stickers anymore. They are stored in the student's backpack and can be referenced well after they leave your course.

5. Make a Cool Home Page Using Thinglink

Well-designed lessons following sound curriculum trumps all in a gamified course. However, having a cool home page doesn't hurt. When participants log in to your course, you want it to be aesthetically pleasing. Well, you want it to look cool.


Thinglink gives you the ability to take a picture and add links, videos, hotspots, and more to it. This way, you can draw student's in by providing a more game-like feel to the course.

Big picture

Add Hooks to Your Gamified Course

Each unit of study should capture the student's attention with a hook, an interesting introduction. If you are using a military theme, consider some of these:


  • You must escape from somewhere.
  • You need to win a battle.
  • You need to take possession of something.
  • You have to rescue fellow soldiers.
  • You need to traverse through though terrain to get somewhere.



Once you have the hook, you can insert some obstacles as the unit of study progresses.

1. Pacman

Instead of a challenge or a regular required task, have your students type "Play Pacman" in the Google search bar, snip their high score, and send back to you in an assignment. Adding some variability to the course or small "surprises" makes the course more engaging.

2. Fun Facts

Type Fun Facts in your Google search bar and see what happens. Have students do this and post their favorites on a Canvas discussion board.

3. Song Maker

Have students go to this link: https://tinyurl.com/y8lzcarn Once they have composed a masterpiece, they can share the link. You try it and tweet it to the Twitterverse!

4. Atari Breakout

This is definitely one of my favorites. Click the Images search in Google and type Atari Breakout. All of the images become the blocks for Breakout and you can play like it's 1976. Like, Pacman, you can substitute a required, online homework with a fun 'Easter Egg' surprise and have them snip their score for extra XP.

5. Arts & Culture

Send students on a scavenger hunt in a museum using Google's Arts & Culture site. Go through and find an artifact or a painting of interest. Snip it and have students search for it. Once they find it, have them snip it, initial it, and submit it back to you in a message.

6. AutoDraw

AutoDraw is a new kind of drawing tool that pairs the magic of machine learning with drawings from talented artists to help everyone create anything visual, fast. Have students create their own masterpiece and submit it back to you for XP.

7. T-Rex Mini Game

The T-Rex Mini Game runs when you aren't connected to the internet. When you see him on the screen, hit the space bar to play. Students can turn off their wifi connection and play. Have them snip their high score and submit it back to you.

8. Smarty Pins

Smarty Pins is an online game combining Google Maps with historical trivia questions. The questions come from broad categories like science, history, current events and entertainment, and it's possible to narrow your questions to just one of the categories. Use this as a group game and award top teams with XP.

9. Emoji Scavenger Hunt

Emoji Scavenger Hunt is a browser-based game built with machine learning that uses your phone's camera and a neural network to try and guess what it's seeing. Send kids on a hunt and award XP for high scores.

10. Zerg Rush

In gaming terms, a "Zerg rush" is when a player is swarmed by a huge number of weak opponents. ... It came from "Starcraft," a 1998 real-time strategy game in which a player could choose to play as "Zergs," an alien race. Type Zerg Rush in your google search bar and play!