Feedback and Gamification: How They Can Be Applied to An Online Course

by Jacob Guerra-Martinez

In my first post on gamification, I talked about the difference between gamification and game-based learning. In the second, I gave some tips on how you can get more familiar with the idea of gamification. Now I would like to talk about the different kinds of concepts involved in gamification, and how they can be applied to your online course, starting with feedback.


One of the most important aspects of most games is that a system exists that gives instant feedback to let the player know how they did. This wonderful blog post from 2013 gives a great example using Angry Birds. After a player launches a bird towards the pigs, they automatically know if they succeeded in meeting their goal. If not, they can use the line path that is provided to find a better path. The same concept of using immediate feedback can also be applied to an online course using assessments, modules, and badges.


Most Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as Canvas, allow students to see whether or not they passed, and if the teacher chooses, to see what questions they got wrong. While that is a form of feedback, there is more that can be done. For example, an LMS will also allow for teachers to give feedback in regards to right and wrong answers. So, not only does the student have the ability to see which questions they got wrong, they are provided with a path (such as in Angry Birds) to correct it if future attempts are allowed.


Most online courses have modules that contain the work that students must do to be successful in the course. However, modules can also be very helpful in providing in providing instant feedback that lets the student know if they mastered a skill and are now allowed to move on. This is done through locking each module until a task is completed in the previous one. The criteria can vary from module to module, but usually includes getting a certain score on an assessment or completing all the tasks in a certain order. Once that task is completed successfully, the next module unlocks and allows the student to move forward.

A great gaming example of this is Candy Crush, which does not allow players to move on until they have cleared the previous level.


Badges are another great way to give instant feedback to your students. The basic idea is that a student will start a certain task, and once it is completed successfully, a badge will appear in the course that reflects their newfound skill. As this second blog post states, badges do come with some pros and cons. One pro is that gives students a way to articulate a new skill that they have learned from the course. A con it is possible to take the value of the badges away by placing too many needless ones in the course. I plan to talk about badges in a future post.

Feedback is important, especially when it comes to online courses. Luckily, using gamification concepts can help you deliver instant feedback that students can utilize to successfully understand the concepts you are trying to teach. In fact, you may come to find that you are already using some of these methods.

If you would like to know more about gamification or want to brainstorm some ideas, contact Learning Designer Jacob Guerra-Martinez.