The puzzle: It’s not about the pieces but how they work together

The puzzle: It’s not about the pieces but how they work together



The Trade College is invited to promote understanding, motivate, reward and engage students on the journey to completing their QCE, gaining and completing an apprenticeship and developing the employability skills required to be successful, through the design and implementation of a gamified course. Gamification is the use of game elements and principles in non-game situations to motivate and engage players and build skills. Gameful design encourages students to excel and to keep advancing.

Consider this Extra Credit overview of how gamification benefits education.


Retrieved from


The Trade College is invited to improve outcomes for students and support them in meeting the expectations of our mission to become “the best apprentices”. Using the Learning Management System (LMS) currently in use, good game design principles could be used to build a course into which students’ performance and progress in education, in the workplace and in their RTO training are all reflected. This course will give students a clear understanding of where they are in their journey, reward them for successes and promote further advancement.



The Trade College offers a senior program where students are simultaneously engaged in completing their Queensland Certificate of Education (Years 11&12), working towards and achieving an apprenticeship/traineeship and apprenticeship training at TAFE or with an external RTO. All aspects of the journey are facilitated through the college, however each component is delivered in isolation, in separate venues and contexts. Each component is treated as an isolated or standalone strand despite the fact that each contributes to achieving the college mission, “To produce the finest apprentice…” In a 1:1 laptop school, the students have consistent access to an LMS which delivers the education courses and administers their industry experience.


Concerns with current situation

All of the separate parts of their journey at the Trade College are never drawn together. What happens at college and at TAFE and at work are all interwoven and integral to the students’ success but each part of their course operates in isolation and the students struggle to see the big picture, in terms of where they are headed and their progress. Students can be overwhelmed by the complexity of this environment, having moved out of main stream schooling which is much simpler. They perceive the challenge of achieving an apprenticeship, working, completing their RTO/TAFE training and completing their QCE as insurmountable or at very least confusing and confronting. Students can lack the motivation to work on all the components of their journey or they can favour one component to the detriment of the others. They do not see the connections between the components and how they will combine to help them reach their goal. Stakeholders involved in the process including education staff, trainers and employers are unaware of a student’s progress in the components of the course which they are not involved in. An awareness of the bigger picture could benefit all involved and enable them to better support the young person towards success.


Why use a gamified approach?

The principles of good game design can be applied to the learning environment to engage students and encourage behaviours. “The goal is to use game psychology and game design to change behaviour” (Harbart, 2014). The educator can use the mechanics of games to create a strong narrative, an adapted version of the real world context, as a means of bringing the experiences of the students at work, school or TAFE, into one location. Providing a story for their journey, “makes the tasks more fun, creates a context for student learning, and makes the students active players in their own learning.” (Keeler, 2015). Synthesising this information will allow students to visualise and track their overall progress on the journey to employment and success.  A gamified approach will provide students with feedback about their progress, thus engaging them in the process.

Good game design can build on achievements not as a score but as a trajectory towards mastery. They provide the opportunity to set the standards that are indigenous to the unique context. (Gee, 2003). A gamified experience motivates action, drives behavioural change and encourages innovation. Points, badges, levels and leader boards can “drive strong behavioural change” (Panday, 2015). A survey by Talent LMS showed how effectively students are motivated by the inclusion of game strategies (Pappas, 2015). *9% of students responded positively to a point system,82% were in favour of levels and 62% were motivated by a leaderboard.


Lee Sheldon (2012) refers to the concept of fiero, an Italian word meaning pride. Games inherently provoke fiero through the many reward systems which recognise efforts, participation and success. Gaming elements like gaining points and levelling up are in complete contrast with the traditionally punitive system in education, and have been shown to be more motivating. The “reward system” is the fundamental base for all motivation management. (Ghozland, 2016). Gamification can help build knowledge and character through increased focus, social interactions and by producing positive emotional responses.


Implementation Plan


In order to ensure success of this project, if the leadership accept this invitation, the college need to invest in the planning and implementation stages. Resources need to be allocated to staff with expertise to establish clear project goals, develop gamified course for inclusion on the current LMS, train and engage staff and students

Firstly, a group of stakeholders and experts need to collaborate to establish a clear project goal. “The important thing in game design is to know your audience.” (Sheldon, 2012. p 190). Having clarified the context, the audience and the goal, stakeholders will need to communicate and establish the parameters of the project, establish policies and procedures, and provide content and requirement to course designers.

Course designers will need to design the structure of the gamified course and develop the resources for implementation on the college LMS. Course designers will have to work in conjunction with Administration and IT. The support of administration will be required to provide student details regarding education, industry and RTO involvement. IT will be required to set up groups, allocate courses and administration rights and facilitate 3rd party program integration.

Staff will need to be introduced to the project, familiarised with the concept, the approach and even the language. They will need opportunities and time to absorb and accept the gamified course. In order to be successful the project needs to become integrated into the common culture so that all staff and stakeholders are referring to the project at every opportunity for it to gain impetus and credibility. The linking of information should be automated. Not everyone should have to think in terms of gamification, they just need to feed the data and the gamified system should interpret it.

Last but not least, stakeholders need to be trained in the how the course will run and why gamified approach has been adopted. To gain the full benefit from the gamified process we need to be influenced by the  position presented by authors such as Bigum and Kenway (1998) of  “teacher’s first” i.e.  the belief that if we are to introduce any new game based activity, in a way that generates maximum benefits for learners, we must recognise the need to make teachers’ professional learning a priority.


Course design and development

Some initial but definitely not exhaustive, suggestions for possible game elements to be incorporated into course design are offered.

Selecting the right type of game is important. Lee Sheldon, in his book The multiplayer classroom, for across curricula gamification suggests, using an Alternate Reality Game, which is, “ a type of game that uses the real world as a platform…to tell a story that may affect participants ideas or actions” (p. xviii) In creating this ARG program developers need to begin by clarifying the “journey narrative to be used as a theme throughout the course to tie together 4 components for student’s journey, i.e. Education, employability, industry experience and RTO/TAFE training.

Then the key “tasks” from each component of the journey need to be compiled into a series of crafts (writing tasks), quests (tests) and bosses (milestones). Each task can have XP (Experience points) allocated. Students start at 0 and gather XP in order to level up. The more difficult the task, the more XP is awarded.

Table 1: Gaining XP

Table 1: An example of possible tasks and XP points


Levels can be assigned which align with the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework. This framework, which is an explicit part of our curriculum, uses a developmental approach to “describe the core non-technical skills that have been identified by Australian employers as important for successful participation in work”. (Australian Government. Department of Education and Training, 2016). The framework encapsulates employability skills and is a familiar and recognisable scaffold for the students, which reflects increasing competence.

The 5 stages include:

  • Stage 1: A Novice performer
  • Stage 2: An Advanced Beginner
  • Stage 3: A Capable performer
  • Stage 4: A Proficient performer
  • Stage 5: An Expert performer


Table 2: XP Required

Table 2: Example of levels and XP required


Badges can be created within the LMS and awarded for leveling up.

Badges created on Schoology to match levels

Badges created on Schoology to match levels


Students could be assigned to guilds formed around the key trade areas i.e electricians, plumbers, construction and hospitality. Guilds could be used to develop communities around trade interests and facilitate communication between staff and students with common interests. Guilds can be created in the groups section of the LMS, allowing members and staff to post updates, participate in discussions, and share resources. John Seely Brown (2010) discusses the value of the knowledge economy, how a guild structure yields vast amounts of new ideas and knowledge and it helps people to process information. Leader boards updated through group notifications could reflect guild average scores (since numbers are likely to be uneven) to create an element of competition.

Guilds (groups) created in Schoology

Guilds (groups) created in Schoology


Potential improvements

Gamification has been shown “to engage and encourage participation in an educational activity”(Kapp 2012)  increase a sense of agency and control with a real sense of ownership  (Gee, 2003) and motivate participation in order to achieve desired outcomes. Hamari, Koivisto, and Sarsa (2014) note that gamified activities can be understood to have three main benefits: the motivational ‘affordances’ (the opportunities the actual activities give the subject or the mechanics of the game), the psychological outcome (the resultant change in feeling about an activity during and after the activity) and the behavioural outcome (the change in behaviour following the gamified activity).

In his research into gamification, David Grimes showed that levels and XP gave students a clearer picture of where they were in the course and where they would like to be; a clearer sense of progression. (Sheldon,2012). Gamifying the college journey should give students a clearer understanding of the goal of the program and where they are in the journey, towards achieving that goal. By bringing together the tasks and milestones to be achieved in the different components of the program, into one central LMS location, students will have a visual representation of their progress. “The more the players get to do, the more they become a part of the experience” (Sheldon, 2012. p 229). Since this course would have “core intrinsic value that users desire, then weaving gamification into it can deepen their engagement and desire to participate.” (Deterding, 2012. p 17) Students will be motivated to work towards the “winning scenario” of completing Year 12, achieving an apprenticeship and successfully completing the relevant RTO training. Guilds, levels, leader boards, badges and XP should engage students in the process and motivate them to work towards the next milestone. The students will enjoy “fiero”, they will feel proud of their achievements, gaining a sense of satisfaction when being awarded XP, badges or leveling up. These extrinsic rewards will motivate behaviour change and students will actively work towards the next milestone.


Potential challenges

Implementation of this project offers huge potential to improve the students’ chances of success, however some obstacles need to be considered in order to pre-empt issues which are likely to arise. To be successful, the course must include game design, not just game components. Games are not a replacement for thoughtful experience and interaction design; they are an alternate lens for framing that process (Deterding, 2012). Communication between the various stakeholders in the process will need to be improved. College administration will need to be better informed and track student progress in RTO training, education and at work to facilitate effective participation in this project. Students are likely to embrace the idea of gamification since games are part of the modern discourse but staff may be resistant to the notion of games based on the commonly held misconception that they are frivolous and a waste of time. Significant professional development and training will be required to facilitate a culture shift and to build staff confidence in the approach and in the use of the technology.  “The way in which teachers work with games has a direct impact upon the success or failures of game based initiatives.” (Beavis et al, 2014). Course administration will add to the work load of stakeholders, so systems need to be as streamlined and efficient as possible to encourage participation. LMS in use has significant features which can be customised to meet the needs of a gamified course but it has some limitations which will require creative solutions.



The Trade College is urged to consider the deficits in the current program, recognise the need to synthesise the student’s journey at the college and realise the positive potential of a gamified approach to motivate, engage and reward students for their participation in the program. If the mission of the college is to produce the best apprentice, accept this invitation to apply game design elements to the overall student experience will address some of the concerns with the current system. Gamification will produce students who have a clear understanding of how the various components of their journey contribute to achieving their goal and who are motivated to continually make progress towards being the best apprentice.




A study of the use of games and gamification to enhance student engagement, experience and achievement on a theory-based course of an undergraduate media degree. (2015). Journal of Media Practice, 16(2), 155–170.

Australian Government. Department of Education and training. (2016). Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework. Retrieved from

Beavis, C., Rowan, L., Dezuanni, M., McGillivray, C., O’Mara, J., Prestridge, S., Stiehler-Hunt, C.,Thompson, R., Zagami, J. (2014). Teachers’ beliefs about the possibilities and limitations of digital games in classrooms. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(6), 569–581. doi:10.2304/elea.2014.11.6.569

Deterding, S. (2012). Gamification: Designing for motivation. Interactions, 19.4. pp 14-17. doi: 10.1145/2212877.2212883

Extra Credits. (2012, May13). Gamifying Education [Video File]. Retrieved from

Gee,J.P. (2003) What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave/Mcmillan

Ghozland, D. (2016) Gamasutra. The art and business of making games. Retrieved from

Hamari, Juho, Jonna Koivisto, and Harri Sarsa. 2014. “Does Gamification Work? – A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification.” Paper presented at the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 6–9.

Harbert, T. (2014). Giving gamification a go. Computerworld, 48.1, pp 12-17. Retrieved from

Kapp, Karl M. 2012. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. New York: Wiley

Keeler, A. (2015). Edutopia. Retrieved from

Panday, A. (2015). eLearning Industry. Retrieved from

Pappas, C. (2015). eLearning Industry. Retrieved from

Sheldon, L. (2012). The multiplayer classroom: designing Coursework as a game. USA: Course Technology PTR

Stanford ecorner.(2010, Decemeber 9). John Seely Brown: The knowledge Economy of World of Warcraft. [Video file]. Retrieved from



Part 3: Invitation

Part 3: Invitation

Inviting organisations, systems or workplaces to meet, respond & adopt the challenge of game-based learning.

In this section:

Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) developed by the
School of Information StudiesCharles Sturt University, 2016.
Charles Sturt University