I am experimenting with a game mechanism in my course in which students can progress through 4 core competencies, A, B, C, and D. Each competency has 3 levels, 1, 2, and 3. The game component is optional. The idea is that each level of each competency will be linked to a few homework activities that, once completed, achieves the level. When all levels are achieved for a given competency, the competency itself is achieved.

In my department, homework assignments are not graded (projects and so forth are, but I can't assign a few questions for grading). As a result, I want to ensure that my students are actually going to do the homework I've assigned. I can give bonus marks.

I'd like to give rewards for completing these competencies, but I don't want the course so overloaded with bonus marks that students can too easily get 100% without doing well on the final/midterm/projects. So far, the ideas I have are:

  1. Complete level 1 for any competency - earn 1 grace day for handing in an assignment late without penalty
  2. Complete level 1 for all competencies - earn 5 grace days, in addition to the 1 you gain for doing the above
  3. Complete all levels for any competency - bonus quizzes now worth 7% (originally they were worth 5%)
  4. Complete all competencies - 2% course bonus

I'm not a big fan of all of this bonus, but other than bonus marks and late days I'm not sure what other options I have. Any ideas?

  • You should probably check whether distinguishing students on the basis of bonuses is permitted by your institute. – user2768 Apr 6 '17 at 16:02
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    Yes, bonus marks are allowed. – Michael Stachowsky Apr 6 '17 at 16:03

One idea is to include some problems/tasks in the final exam related to those competencies. This might not be possible.

A student who achieved the highest level in that competency automatically gets full grade on that question, and doesn't have to solve it (thus getting extra time for the rest of the exam).

For levels 1 and 2 you can award free part marks, and the student gets either the free marks or his grade on the problem (whichever which is larger).


Depending on how long/short it needs to be, something like below might work (or could be terrible):


Part A (short questions testing the competency parts)

Question 1 (competency A): bla bla bla

Question 2 (competency B): bla bla bla

Question 3 (competency C): bla bla bla

Question 4 (competency D): bla bla bla

Part B Actual exam, Questions 5- ...

  • 1
    I was thinking that. What might it look like? For instance, I should identify which competency relates to which exam question, I suppose? – Michael Stachowsky Apr 6 '17 at 16:31
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    @MichaelStachowsky See the addon. A student solving all competencies would only need to solve part B, while one not doing anything would need to solve both parts. – Nick S Apr 6 '17 at 16:40
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    If the school has said that homework can not be graded then it is in reality optional. lets say the 4 competencies areas take 20 mins on the exam. You are giving an extra 20 mins on the exam for people who did the optional homework. You should really look into this before trying this one. I can almost guarantee a student will complain about this when they have to do those questions and others do not, and the administration may have some rule that everyone has to get the same exam. – lPlant Apr 6 '17 at 18:43
  • I'm not sure it is really gamified if they have to wait for the reward. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 19 '20 at 5:48

My answer is based on the following points:

  1. In theory, if a student has achieved a competency at a certain skill they should be able to repeatedly demonstrate said skill.
  2. Students at the same proficiency levels should received the same grade.
  3. Your gamification approach exists to help them achieve mastery in competencies A, B, C and D. It is not the only way of doing so and it shouldn't matter how they get there, as long as they do get there.
  4. Your extra activities are well thought and helpful for students to achieve mastery in competencies A, B, C and D.
  5. Students can see value in achieving the course's competencies.

Given these assumptions, an alternative idea is to not give bonus marks at all, but instead make the exam (or other high stakes assessment activities) an opportunity for students to demonstrate their mastery of competencies A, B, C and D. The questions posed should relate to all the optional activities and you can even make some a little more complicated to gauge proficiency in higher skills levels.

For those who have joined the gamified part of the course the exam should look like just another activity they have already completed. We expect their performance to match their level of skill obtained in the gamified part and students should be able to self-assess their performance with reasonable precision.

For those who do not join the gamified part of the course the exam might be their first opportunity to demonstrate the competencies. They may or may not do well, as they might not have prepared themselves for the exam. It is their risk in doing so, as joining the gamified part would have made the exam much easier (or at least much more predictable).

Note that points 3 and 4 are essential for this to work. If achieving the course's competencies is not seen by students as interesting/challenging/useful then the gamified part risks becoming just pointless homework. The same goes for the actual tasks done during homework: if they are not properly contextualized and connected with the course's competencies they might also become pointless homework.


I suggest a food reward.

A badge or star is another option - physical or virtual.

  • I think that food rewards would work better for rewarding in-class participation than things like homework - e.g. bringing a box of prepackaged little chocolates to your lectures and tossing one to anyone who asks a good question, or answers a question you pose to the class (right or wrong). – nick012000 Feb 20 '20 at 4:54

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