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Sept 23 2015

23 Sep 2015

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Let the Games Begin:
Adding Game-Style Elements to Your Moodle Course –
Part One

Tennis racquet and ballDid you know that the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child has guaranteed children the right to play? Prior to the passage of that document, there was a worldwide movement to press the issue. In fact, groups continue to lobby to promote play for children. Why all the fuss? Part of the reason stems from the role of play in learning and development. If you’ve ever observed a child (or a young animal) for any length of time when it wasn’t sleeping, you probably saw the child engaged in some form of play.

Certainly, our choice of games evolves as we mature and the urgency to take part in play diminishes, but it is clearly part of our innate nature to welcome a little bit of frivolity now and then. If you don’t believe me, just point your browser to www.thefuntheory.com and see how designers are leveraging the human funny-bone to cause people to change their behavior.

Instructors can also use our fascination with play to help motivate students, by adding game-style elements to the course — sometimes referred to as “gamification.” In this article I’ll demonstrate how to add scaffolding events to your course, and in Part 2 I’ll discuss one or two additional ways to use built-in elements of Moodle to add game-like aspects to the course.

Reveal Items Upon Completion of Other Items

Just like in a video game in which you must complete certain tasks in order to move to a new level, you can organize your Moodle course in a similar fashion using the built-in completion tracking feature. It’s best if you first add all of your resources and activities to the Moodle site, and that you also have an idea of what must be completed in order to access subsequent material.

For example, you might require that students receive a passing score (whatever score you determine that to be) on an end-of-topic quiz, before they are given access to the next topic section. That’s just one simple example. There are many different ways you can implement this feature. Here are the nuts-and-bolts of setting up this kind of conditional release.

  1. First you need to turn on “Completion Tracking” for the course. From your course home page, look in the Administration block and click on Edit Settings.
  2. Enable completion tracking option in course settingsLook in the Completion Tracking section and change Enable Completion Tracking to “Yes” and save your changes.
  3. I’ll be using the example I gave previously, with the quiz score determining when a student can move to the next topic section, to demonstrate how to set this up. Once back on the course home page, click the Turn editing on button.
  4. Edit summary buttonFind the topic section that will be unavailable until students pass the quiz, and click on the Edit summary button below the title of that section.
  5. Restrict access buttonIn the Restrict Access section, click the Add restriction… button.
  6. In the Add restriction pop-up window that opens, click on the Grade button.
  7. In the Grade drop-down menu select the quiz that they must pass.
  8. Grade criteria settingsCheck the box to the left of must be ≥, then enter the lowest score you will accept in the following box (notice it will be a percentage score).
  9. If you don’t want your students to see the topic-section name and the restriction settings, then click on the eye that is just to the left of Grade.
  10. student view of restricted sectionOtherwise, if you don’t click the eye to hide it, students will see the title of the section along with a brief description of the restriction criteria, like in this picture.
  11. When you’re ready click the Save changes button.

And now you’ve set up a scaffolding scenario in which students must meet a minimum score on a quiz in order to “level up” to the next section, making it very similar to a video game that requires players to meet certain criteria in order to “level-up.” Although the example scenario uses a quiz score as the conditional criteria, you can use just about any other Moodle activity or resource and set it to be the gatekeeper. Feel free to talk to me about how you can set up conditional activities like this on your Moodle site.


Dicheva, Darina, et al. "Gamification in Education: A Systematic Mapping Study." Journal of Educational Technology & Society 18, no. 3 (July 2015): 75-88. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 21, 2015).

Ejsing-Duun, S., et al. "Gamification of a higher education course: What's the fun in that?" Paper presented at the European Conference on Game Based Learning, (2014). ProQuest (accessed September 21, 2015).

"Gamification in Education and Libraries." Library Technology Reports 51, no. 2 (February 2015): 20. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 21, 2015).

Gregoire, Carolyn, “What Playful Animals Can Teach Us About the Biology of Fun.” Huffington Post. January 9, 2015. (accessed September 21, 2015). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/the-biology-of-why-play_n_6424248.html.

Kapp, Karl M. 2012. "GAMES, GAMIFICATION, AND THE QUEST FOR LEARNER ENGAGEMENT." T+D 66, no. 6: 64. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 21, 2015).

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