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Gamification in Blackboard Learn session at BbWorld17IMG_9163.PNG

Wed 11:30am room 276


Download the “MyGame” mobile app (App Store, Google Play, or Amazon Underground).  Play the game before, during, and after the session to understand how to gamify course activities and Blackboard Learn course.  Complete the missions, including Amazon Alexa fun, and win a free Amazon Tap.


What can you expect at the session?


1. Introduction to Gamification.

Gamification can be defined as “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” (Burke, 2014).  The session will elaborate on gamification frameworks by You-Kai Chou and Andrzej Marczewski.

More at the session and in Course Gamification Tools for Blackboard Learn.


2. Identify the Engagement Problem

Engagement suffers in classrooms leading to problems in many academic fields.  For example, in STEM 48% for bachelor’s candidates and 69% for associate degree candidates left field of study or left college all together (Chen & Soldner, 2013).  Disengagement of knowledge workers at the office is also a problem.  Customer loyalty programs need polishing.  Harvard Business Review warns that 50% of women currently in STEM jobs will leave the industry.


3. Why Gamification and Why Now?

The idea of gamification is not new,  however specific conditions in the environment that promote gameful thinking growth are now present:


  1. Theory. Positive psychology is "the scientific study of what makes life most worth living”.  1998.

    Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 9.28.02 AM.png

  2. Business popular science. ”Good to Great” James Collins. 2001. “Reality Is Broken“ Jane McGonigal. 2008. The Drive” Daniel Pink. 2009. “Where Good Ideas Come From” Steven Johnson. 2010
  3. Tools. ClassDojo. 2011.  Mozilla Open Badges. 2011.  ClassCraft. 2013. GradeCraft. 2013.
  4. People. Atari. 1972. “The Well-Played Game”. Bernard De Koven. 1978


4. How to use Gamification Principles in Blackboard Learn

  1. Quiz Tournaments
  2. Course Reports Games
  3. Adaptive Release
  4. Achievements/Badges
  5. XP Ledger
  6. ECP Program as a Requirements for Gamification Projects


5. A case study of a course that applied gamification in Blackboard Learn

In depth review of peer-reviewed literature, motivational theories, gamification methods, quantitative content analysis of student feedback.

A second case study in Germanic Studies Dept of University of Illinois at Chicago: The “UIC German” Game App for the Enhancement of Foreign Language Learning Case Study | International Journal of E…


  1. 1002 course review comments
  2. 182 entries
  3. activity data collected from the custom gamification system
  4. Cengage (SAM) system,, and


Qualitative Content Analysis:

331 extracts grouped based on emerging themes and patterns.  The categories were adjusted in a cycle of revisions following the patterns found in the data.








Csikszentmihalyi, M., (1991). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper

Cunningham, C., Zichermann, G., (2011). Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA.

Deterding, S., (2012). Gamification: designing for motivation. Interactions 19, 14–17.

Entertainment Software Association. (2016). 2016 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry. Retrieved from 2016.pdf

Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. E. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66–78. doi:10.1037/a0034857

Machajewski, S. (2017).  Application of Gamification in College STEM Introductory Course: A Case Study (Doctoral dissertation).  Retrieved from

McGonigal, J., (2011). Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Penguin Books, New York, NY.

Ryder, R., & Machajewski, S. (2017). The “UIC German” Game App for the Enhancement of Foreign Language Learning Case Study. International Journal Of Educational Technology (ISSN 2476-0730), 4(1), 1-10. Retrieved from

Learning analytics looks at proxies for learning, and it can be tempting to mistake correlations for causation.

robotics-research-review.jpgPredicting the future is an enticing idea to academic leaders. Programmers have their "Design Patterns", which are methods to solve problems in the code, before such problems become evident. However, we have seen some unfortunate stories connected with analytics and Big Data in education. Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland “drown the bunnies” is a good example. Even students are calling out to have permission to fail. I think we should welcome failure and use it as a tool for teaching.


Quantitative research in education dealing with student success is often not objective. Studies funded by textbook publishers find that students who read the textbook often get better grades. LMS companies report that students who check their grades often are more successful. May there be a causation versus correlation issue here?


Recently Blackboard posted an interesting article about analytics. There was a paragraph on "downsides". I appreciated this thread of concerns being voiced in a published report.


"Learning analytics looks at proxies for learning, and it can be tempting to mistake correlations for causation. Learning analytics requires close cooperation between campus departments that traditionally have worked independently (e.g., IT, academic affairs, student affairs, and faculty). Data required for learning analytics can be distributed across campus and difficult to integrate, particularly if technology vendors format data in proprietary ways. Available data may not be suitable for analytics models. Using student data for analytics raises ethical issues surrounding data privacy and institutional obligations to act on analytics findings, including by providing resources to assist those learners. Analytics algorithms may include biases and may mislead the very students they are intended to help, perhaps prioritizing efficiency toward a credential over a learner’s passions. Misapprehensions about analytics among university administrators can result in unrealistic expectations for results, and some faculty resist analytics, arguing that it focuses on behavior rather than on learning." Read the article by J. Allen, T. Cavanagh, M. Gunkel, and John Whitmer : 7 Things You Should Know About Developments in Learning Analytics


The software project Course Gamification Tools represents a form of protest against the misuse of Big Data in Education.

The project: Course Gamification Tools for Blackboard Learn


The story: Course Gamification Tools for Blackboard Learn – The Rest of the Story | Gamification and Play :: Experience Design for …


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History of Digital Assistants

Computers with audio interfaces are not new.  They even entertained us for some time.  Sci-Fi stories about a voice in the room, like Hal 9000, or about a voice in a suit, like Jarvis from Iron Man, seemed plausible and very useful.  However, in practice, earlier implementation of such technologies seemed to say: “I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.”



The history of robotic helpers takes us back to automatons and Al-Jazari, who designed a prototype that would play music or serve drinks.  At the start of the 13th century this was an amazing undertaking. The book “Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World”, by Steven Johnson, covers the modern era of automatons, as well as other major inventions.  It demonstrates the role of playful thinking in innovation and technology.


IBM-Shoebox-front.jpgIn 1952 Bell Laboratories introduced Audrey as a speech-recognition system.  Later it was followed by a chatbot Eliza from MIT, and in 1997 by Jeeves a natural language search engine.  Siri was introduced in 2011.  It was founded by a DARPA project for military artificial intelligence (AI). Since then, we see Amazon Alexa service with Echo devices, Microsoft Kortana, Google Assistant, and many others.



From CLI, through GUI, to AI


The command line interface (CLI) was a very productive way to type in commands in the day of Unix and it is still used by many technologists.  However, the graphical user interface (GUI) took over the end-user world with Apple and Microsoft operating systems.  The GUI was of course developed by Xerox.  Just as GUI never completely replaced CLI the audio interfaces likely will not replace the command line or the GUI, but they fit a niche area, which likely promises a long and successful future






Audio interfaces are very useful in connection with tasks traditionally fulfilled by radio devices. Playing music, listening to news, and other basic audio services can be accomplished on a PC, but the quality of speakers and availability of a PC in various locations is unreliable. Therefore, a market opened up for specialized, low power device like the Amazon Echo.  The Echo uses WIFI and can play music, deliver news, and perform many other functions.


The emergence of powerful devices with audio interfaces require AI, because there is no time during a conversation to explain what can be said and how.  The user can ask Alexa to “turn off the light”, or “turn the light off”. The AI is able to figure out what you meant, even though you didn’t use exact, expected statements.  The AI market is very competitive with IBM Watson and other major AI systems in play.  Likely as digital assistant systems compete, the quality of AI will determine their success.


Want to learn how to develop an Amazon Alexa skill? Or would you like to see how you can check Blackboard Learn grades with Alexa? Visit the Innovation Center in the Exhibit Hall on Wed at 4pm.



More about Alexa:

Free Amazon Echo at BbWorld.  Get yours and start sweet talking the AI.

From Automatons to Amazon Alexa – the History of Digital Assistants .

Amazon Alexa game for BbWorld New Orleans

Amazon Alexa for Blackboard Learn - BbWorld17 Teaser for Innovation Corner

Digital audio assistants in teaching and learning - Blackboard Blog