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Stories from CanvasCon: How Hogeschool Utrecht is Getting Gamification Right

At last month’s CanvasCon, we were lucky enough to be joined by Dr Martijn Koops from Hogeschool Utrecht, an applied sciences university in the Netherlands. Martijn is a specialist in gamification and author of a book on game Gamedidactiek - and his experiences were welcomed by the many educators who joined us from around the world.

In an instructive session on how to introduce elements of gamification into course design, Martijn told us that students often share the same feelings towards their learning. His research shows that many lack self-confidence and struggle to structure their approach to their courses.

The error, Martijn says, is that courses today are designed based on what is already known, testing recall and concentrating firmly on rote-learning. This needs to change. Only by building courses where students are encouraged to explore and experiment will they be able to fully engage with their studies, and gain the self-confidence they require.

Martijn told the audience that he set out to encourage his students to shift their focus towards exploration by introducing game-play in his courses. Funded by a Dutch Comenius Grant, Hogeschool Utrecht created a gamified course for educational product development to provide students with a structured learning environment to guide the product design process.

For Hogeschool Utrecht, Canvas is a critical component in helping students to interact with the course structure in novel, game-inspired, ways. The learning platform helps to provide students with frequent and timely feedback, mastery-paths, and conditional modules through quizzes to help students learn to the highest possible standard at their own pace.

Martijn also talked about the importance of a “motivating structure” in gamified courses. Games use common drivers to motivate participants - such as empowerment, social influence, accomplishments - and Hogeschool too introduces these elements into its course design.

For example, in Canvas, students are involved in planning activities (empowerment), are presented with an overview of forms and scores to be achieved (accomplishment), and have the ability to share ideas and feedback with peers (social influence).

Martijn’s innovative approach has yielded positive results - with student efficiency increased by nearly ten per cent in the first year after the course was introduced. It wasn’t only students who benefitted, however. Teachers welcomed the new approach too, with many finding that their teaching evolved “from a peak of summative feedback in exam season to valuable formative feedback, spread over the whole period”.

For more tips and ideas from Martijn, check out his book Gamediadactiek here and find out how Canvas can help introduce gamified elements to your own courses here.