I recently completed my Level 1 Gamification Apprentice certification from Sententia, a world-renown consulting agency for training program gamification.

What is Gamification?

Think about all the fun we have playing board or card games with family and friends. Now think about those occasional training sessions where we struggled to keep our participants energized throughout the course. Imagine if we could combine our training tactics with entertaining game components to create a fun, engaging learning experience. That’s gamification!

Gamification takes the psychological and behavioral sciences surrounding game design (video, card, board games, etc.) and implements those ideas in training programs to enhance active learning. The main idea here is that we want to make learning more fun and engaging in the same way that rolling dice, drawing cards, or jumping over Donkey Kong’s barrels enthralls gamers.


The Plan

My goal with this certification was to apply these advanced motivational tools and strategies to my undergraduate Employee Benefits courses that I teach at Oakland University. Each course has 30 enrolled students, but only 13-15 of them are engaged in each class session. I want to use gamification mechanics like story-telling, risks/rewards, and choice to increase active participation in each class and the course as a whole.

Let’s face it, the vast majority of folks find employee benefits to be quite boring. No matter how much this stuff excites me, most of my students are suddenly ready for a nap when they see that course topic. This means that I’m already in the negative when it comes to motivation.

I believe that I can reach more students and make my classes much more memorable by weaving a superhero story throughout the course – Benefit Bill to the rescue! Class activities will center around Benefit Bill’s heroic feats to stop Bad Idea Bob (the names are still up for discussion) from corrupting the townsfolk with bad employee benefit decisions.

  • Watch as Benefit Bill saves everyone’s retirement plans by identifying the differences between a 401(k) and a pension!
  • Help Benefit Bill eliminate Bad Idea Bob’s unfit health insurance policies by knowing how deductibles, copays, and out of pocket maximums affect coverage and premiums!
  • Stop Bad Idea Bob from creating bad benefit programs that violate discrimination laws!

I know what you’re thinking – this is some major cheese. But that’s the point – cheesiness and fun can be motivating, and the classroom doesn’t have to be so serious when talking about serious stuff.

The Proposal

In order to receive the certification, I submitted a macro-view plan of how I will gamify my academic efforts. It outlines the context of my gamification strategy and lays out the general approach I will be taking for motivating my students to be more active learners.

Below are images of that proposal.


I’ve already started working on this for my fall course, and I will post updates as I trudge through the process of revolutionizing my classroom. Sure, a massive change like this is risky, but it’s worth rolling the dice if it means more student learning and engagement.