ETOM Meet-Up Focuses on Gamification and Badges

On November 15, Szymon Machajewski, CIS affiliate instructor, Matt Roberts, instructional designer, and Eric Kunnen, associate director of elearning and emerging technologies, participated in an Educational Technology Organization of Michigan (ETOM) webinar Meet-Up.

ETOM Meet-Ups are an opportunity for members to meet up virtually and discuss topics relevant to Distance Learning and Instructional Technology. This very informal, 45 minute session allows participates to share what they are doing at their school and seek advice from others. Meet-Ups will be held the 3rd Thursday of every other month from 12pm-12:45pm.

In this session, a variety of topics and resources were shared, including:

  • Accessibility has been a focus at our institutions, complying with the law while also supporting and encouraging faculty to adopt principles of universal design for learning. GVSU has recently adopted Blackboard Ally to support the university’s work in inclusive education.
  • Badges, why are they important?
    • Szymon indicated that for students there is an interest, for 3 years, CIS 150 (1800 students and 36 sections) courses have used badges through Blackboard’s achievements tool. If you pass an exam at 95% you are issued a badge, you can export into Mozilla Backpack. Pearson also has badges. We want students to have additional benefits of taking the class, and badges provide this.
    • GVSU is using faculty badges as an initiative to provide faculty with new ways of capturing and promoting their professional development activities.
    • The goal for badges is often to increase student engagement and retention.
  • Gamification in CIS 150
    • Szymon is developing a theory about what it means to run a game in a classroom. Short game – activities and lectures and long game – grades. He has a website: which is an educational game.
    • The app tracks progress through missions for students, read this chapter, answer a question, etc. reveals a code (text or QR). Students can gain experience points and displayed through a ledger. See Szymon’s post on the Blackboard Blog: The Short & Long Game Theory for Academic Courses.
    • Students can purchase “items” such as a late assignment and “Piece of Mind Points”.
    • Do students like it? Are badges silly? Well, in Jane McGonigal book “Realities Broken” she talks about negative view that games sometimes have. Sometimes we struggle with this concept in academic and “rigor”. However, in a Teaching Professor blog the illusions of rigor in higher education, a lot of learning is sometimes inflated. On the other hand, games are well designed work. Not a trivial thing, but one of behaviors.
    • In the world, there are more 2.6 billion gamers. What would it look like if we tapped into the gamful learning principles to make education this exciting There is joy in playing games, can we make learning in our classes motivating and joyful? Games and interactive play stimulate the brain vs those that have passive exposure.
    • Voluntary games as optional, a choice. Games provide autonomy, personalization, mastery, and purpose.  Matt talked about one of the reasons gamification is successful because of the underlying concepts. He uses a system of grading called the Specifications Grading model. Changing the way grades are assigned to allow mastery, and flexibility of assessment paths.
    • Enter the “Heros Journey”. Szymon presented in a Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series webinar in a session entitled: “Finding the Heros Journey in Course Design and Engagementbitshero
    • Szymon suggests using Kahoot games in class, for learning and for fun. “Students love it!” – and meanwhile it creates teachable moments through allowing students to connect their responses to the concepts and to create achievement loops. Socialization in class, also allows students to be their best self in the competition.
    • Failure is part of success. We need to stop turning mistakes into negative points, and using failure as an opportunity for student to practice and learning. Szymon has written an article here on the topic of failure entitled:  “Getting Comfortable with Failure and Vulnerability to Facilitate Learning and Innovation in the Game of School

What makes life fun? Instead of saying NO PHONES let them take advantage of Kahoot and Quizlet for quiz and exam reviews.

– Dr. Szymon Machajewski, GVSU



Learn and Earn a Badge

The eLearning team at GVSU encourages you to come to a seminar, learn a new skill, and then earn a badge!

Officially, the badges initiative at GVSU began in the Fall 2017. This initiative is a collaborative partnership of the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, University Libraries, and eLearning and Emerging Technologies. The first badge awarded at GVSU was the “#EDTECH Summer Teaching Institute” badge that was offered in the summer of 2017.

Digital badges capture and communicate an accomplishment or achievement. Badges also provide a framework in which to document knowledge, skills, and competencies gained through various learning and professional development opportunities.

To reflect the range of faculty professional development programs at Grand Valley, the FacultyBadges@GVSU program issues three unique levels of badges:

  • Bronze for basic achievements wherein faculty become familiar with the essentials of a topic and submit a written reflection
  • Silver for development of proficiencies wherein faculty participate in more extensive learning and submit evidence of implementation
  • Gold for more advanced and integrative activities wherein faculty continue to refine implementation, disseminate findings or exhibit campus leadership around a topic.

Currently, eLearning offers 7 badges that are available to be earned by faculty at GVSU:


#EDTECH Summer Teaching Institute BadgeeLearning - Foundations BadgeeLearning - Blackboard Essentials BadgeeLearning - Blackboard Grade Center + Assignments

eLearning - Blackboard Tests, Quizzes, and SurveyseLearning - Blackboard CollaborateeLearning - Digital Video: Introduction to Ensemble Video and TechSmith Relay

Learn more about badges on the Faculty Badges web site at GVSU!