Gaming the System – Part 2: “Leveling Up”

Welcome back to part two of Gaming the System! So you have your Canvas course showing student grades as points out of the course total. What next? One of the most popular game elements used to motivate players is “leveling up.” Players work their way through a game and at certain points along the way they complete a task that allows them to ascend to the next level. As I looked at designing game elements using Canvas I wanted to find an easy way to automatically signify when a student reached a new level in the course.

As I thought about the “leveling up” concept it occurred to me that I might be able to use a “grading scheme” to automatically assign a level to students when they attained a certain number of points in the course. With this in mind I started looking into what I could actually do with a grading scheme. I learned that setting things up can be a bit tricky if you are using choice as one of your gaming elements. Because students can pick and choose from a menu of optional assignments, the first thing I had to do was decide how many points out of the total possible would be required to get an A, or in the case of the University of Washington, a 4.0.

After deciding how many points is required to get the 4.0 I now had to convert all point scores into percentages so I could build a grading scheme that reflects the desired grades. The professor that I was working with set up the course so that the total points possible is 249. After a great deal of thought it was determined that in order for a student to attain a 4.0 they must receive a minimum of 140 points or 56% of the total possible. Based on this number I could now put together a grade scale. Because this course is a graduate level course, students get no credit below a 2.0 so I needed to put a scale together that goes from a 2.0 to a 4.0. The table below shows this scale as it sits at this point in the process:

Grade

Points

Percentage

2.0

47.5

19%

2.1

50

20%

2.2

53

21%

2.3

56

22%

2.4

59

24%

2.5

62

25%

2.6

65

26%

2.7

68

27%

2.8

71

29%

2.9

74

30%

3.0

77

31%

3.1

80

32%

3.2

83

33%

3.3

86

35%

3.4

89

36%

3.5

92

37%

3.6

95

38%

3.7

107

43%

3.8

120

48%

3.9

130

52%

4.0

140

56%

4.0

150

60%

4.0

160

64%

4.0

170

68%

You will notice that this scale has four 4.0 grades. The thinking here is related to the question regarding competition in the course. Will those students that are highly motivated through achievement type game elements, go above and beyond the first requirement for a 4.0 just to attain the highest level? Now I must be clear, I have not had a conversation with the faculty member about this kind of scenario and am just tossing it in here for the sake of discussion.

For those that haven’t played with grading schemes in Canvas, you can create and assign a grading scheme for the course and whatever you assign as the grade will show up in the gradebook after the total points or percentage accumulated, depending on which way you choose to show grades in the final grades column. So as an example, if Frank earns 95 points the total column in the gradebook would show “95 3.6” indicating that he received 95 points which equates to a 3.6 grade on a 4.0 grading scale. Read more about grading schemes on the Canvas Community site at: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-2922.

Now for the fun part! When creating a grading scheme in Canvas you don’t have to just use numbers in the grade column. You can also add text to this field too! This opens up the door to the use of word based levels within your course. So you could use level names from your favorite game or create level names appropriate to your course. Taking the example of Frank from above, Frank’s grade could now show up as “95 3.6 | Titan” or could just show up as “Titan”. You can use whatever format you like but if you just put the text based grade you will want a page that lists the numerical or letter grade equivalents. An example of a level based grading scheme can be seen in the figure 9.

figure09

You can see an example of what the teacher will see in the gradebook in figure 10 and an example of what a student will see in figure 11.

figure10

figure11

In figure 10 you will notice that the final grade column doesn’t display correctly when using longer grade names. As far as I know this is a bug in Canvas and I have submitted a bug report to get it fixed.

There are lots of variations in the way you could configure the grade scheme. You could use fewer levels and only create a text based level every third or fourth row in the chart, leaving only the number or letter grade on the other rows. It’s only limited by your creativity.

To end this post, I should say that if you are interested in using badges in your course you can install the Canvabadges LTI integration and create badges that will align with your levels or create badges for specific accomplishments. If you do decide you want to use Canvabadges and have those badges show up on student profile pages you will have to have your institution’s Canvas administrator add some javascript to your main account’s javascript file.

Hopefully you found this post helpful.

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