Netting Participation (Part II)

A guest post by Theresa Kenney on gamification in #engl205. This post is one of three from Theresa’s mini-series about designing and delivering badges


As previously posted, our award-system of #engl205 had four main gears that allowed for our award-system to work:

  1. The Course Outline and its Learning Outcomes
  2. The creation of the Badges and recommended activities
  3. Creating and maintaining nets for capturing activity
  4. Record keeping

This post will cover the latter gears to describe the nitty-gritty of fishing for student participation, checking what was in the netting, and awarding students.


III: Creating the Course Blog and Other Nets for Capturing Activity

To capture student activities and award badges a few online platforms were used. These netting sites (to further the nautical theme) were the online spaces where participation floated. Eventually this participation was caught and captured, then assessed for Badges (see below).

The hub of participation was created through UCalgaryBlogs. It’s a handy WordPress-hosted blog for University of Calgary students, staff, and faculty. But, what made it a great choice for #engl205, is that students could become users on the course blog, post as themselves (rather than on individual blogs – which takes upkeep), and engage with their classmates. This was the place where all other nets for capturing participation could be found. Students posted their youtube videos, soundcloud performances, tumblr. links, and creative writing/visuals.

Soundcloud was the suggested spot for storing recordings of texts. Ultimately, it became a place to begin the Sonnet Project and where students uploaded podcasts. Students engaged with the texts and earned points based on their creativity, participation, and skills.

Youtube or video social media allowed students to create various kind of series through vlogging. These series typically were of analytical discussions, but some were performances, like this one based on music sheets found in her textbook.

Lastly, scanners and cellphone pictures captured the annotation of textbook pages and the talented visual art created. Most of these visuals were uploaded to the blog with an accompanying blurb about the tools used, ideas captured, and how it related to the course.

Desire2Learn‘s (D2L) discussion board allowed students to start new threads, engage with course content, hear their contributions in lecture, and interact with one another. Students answered weekly thought-provoking questions, asked their own questions, and received points for their contributions.

Twitter was the home for links, live commentary (about class or the King Lear performances students attended) and surprisingly excellent MLA citations. Students used the hashtag #engl205, which was tracked using the archiver #TAGS. This ensured that every tweet was caught for points. Students earned points based on tweeting, the content of the tweets, and their engagement with others. And I think #engl205 proved that 140-characters is more than enough to make intellectual commentary.

For students who didn’t feel like sharing their work publicly, a Google Form (as a submission sheet) was set up to record student engagement. With this, students still earned regular badges, but didn’t have to share vlogs or blogs that used analysis based on their intimate subjectivity.

Wide nets were cast out so that students could participate on or surrounding the Course Blog. All were addressed weekly, Teaching Assistants worked to engage students, and topics from the digital world were brought into the classroom. Also, shoutout to D’Arcy Norman for helping set up the plugins that would help this hub grow into a community of Badge-lovin’ Shakespearean scholars.

IV: Record Keeping

To record activities, points were tallied for each student weekly. Students did not have to directly submit assignments – unless it was through the submission sheet (for activities they did on different platforms than those explained above). Instead markers entered the territory of the blooming community. This meant sitting down and counting – which has its pros and cons (which I’m sure you can imagine).

My process, in brief, is as follows:

  1. Head out to those nets to see what was caught.
  2. List students on a log spreadsheet.
  3. Process each post by every student since the week before.
    To do this, activities were split in our Spreadsheet to be applicable to certain Badges. For example, a sonnet would first be considered for Writing Badge points. Depending on its content, it could also be considered for Genre and Modes Badge Points, Arguments Badge Points, etc.
    This was completed by looking at the content of the activity, then basing a given number of points off of our suggested points on the Spreadsheet
    If they had earned 15+ points in a category, they would be nominated through BadgeOS and approved to receive a Badge. This badge would be displayed on the blog and sent via email.
  4. Weekly Stats infographics (made on Piktochart) were posted and tweeted for students to see where they stood in the course during a given week compared to their peers – anonymously and with the hope to show their online presence through blog views and the total number of hashtagged tweets.
  5. At the end of the semester this gradebook was moved D2L, where Bonus Badge was added to their final score.

Based on the numbers on our spreadsheet, activities were assessed based on simply participating and then based on quality – subjective I know. Quality for records sake was based on engagement with the course and the literary criticism provided.

After each week’s tally, the new point totals were added to each student’s overall Badge totals in the gradebook. If they had earned 15+ points in a category, they would also be awarded an award online – which meant a Badge was awarded on the blog and sent via email.

As all items were kept in the gradebook, they migrated over D2L, where points and badges were awarded officially for the semester’s totals. Those who earned the Bonus Badge (that easy-to-grasp extra 3%) found this Badge in their final totals at the end of the year.



After reading about these four gears, you may be asking:

Did this system work? And how well?

That we will be discussing in future blog posts and at the 2015 University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching on Tuesday May 12th 2015. To read more and find out these answers, try:

  • Reading the final blog post of this mini-series *coming soon* on my expectations and the outcomes of implementation.
  • Reading more about this series on gamifying #engl205.
  • Checking the live-tweet spree by #ticonf2015 at 11am MST on Tuesday May 12th 2015.
  • Catch up on the Badge progress happening on the University of Calgary Campus with UCalgary Badges.

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