GC101: Intro to GradeCraft

Welcome to the shiny new GradeCraft blog! While GradeCraft has been alive for two and a half years, we are just beginning to share our work more broadly with the community. We hope to use this space to document our experiences, development, and share what we discover about gameful learning and educational technology along the way.

GradeCraft is a learning management system (LMS) designed specifically to support game-inspired courses. In reality, all classes are a sort of “game,” with rules (the course design), a challenge (the coursework), and a score (the grade). We claim that most courses resemble a bad game, with structures that foster poor engagement and afford little opportunity for personalized pathways toward mastery. We believe that designing courses using good games as a model offers a new and inspiring way to think about how to create an engaging learning experience. Like any adventure, we’ve learned that the tools that you use are key to creating a good experience. Specifically, we hope to GradeCraft to augment student motivation, enhance their sense of belongingness in the classroom, and help increase their feelings of competence as a learner.

We began with the simple idea of building a progress tracker that would keep students informed of their course progress, and a grade prediction tool that would allow students to test different strategies of engaging with their course work. In order to power these tools, we realized complete information was needed regarding the course structure and all of the data about how students have performed on their coursework (grades). To get this information we either needed a pipeline that could connect the data that exists in the course LMS to our displays, or we needed to take on the role of being the primary LMS (we could have asked the instructors to enter the data twice – but that is something we try very, very hard not to do). Given the technical limitations around pulling the data from our core LMS, we decided our best option was to build a more robust tool that could truly act as the center of the course experience, and thus the GradeCraft LMS was born.

Each semester, in conjunction with the instructors’ whose classrooms we support, we’ve added new features, which now include:

  • an assignment weighting system that allows students to establish unique grading schemes
  • interactive rubrics and quick grading features
  • a badging system that encourages the recognition of student achievement in a way that can be shared amongst students
  • opt-in leaderboards
  • custom levelling system
  • analytics displays to help students and instructors track and understand progress

Where to next? We always have a long wish list :)

Interface-wise, we’re looking forward to improving our mobile experience, as well as honing our overall user experience. Game-wise, our next implementation targets are unlocks and power-ups, which will require students to complete certain sets of work and in-system tasks before they’re allowed to access others, and having students earn tokens that they can use strategically for different purposes. Even more complex, we want to allow instructors to add a rich narrative to their games, but we’ll talk more about that in a later post…

Check out this video to hear a little bit more about how we think about gameful course design:

Would you consider making changes to your course to turn it into a better game? What holds you back? What elements would you want to include? What features haven’t we thought of that you would love to have available? We’d love to hear from you!

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