Thursday, November 11
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
Room 2

Designing a Course-based Game in an LMS: How to get your students "addicted" to your online classes

Workshop (Live Presentation) ID: 59110
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    Janna Kellinger
    University of Massachusetts Boston

Abstract: Do you want to immerse your students in deeper learning? Do you want your course evaluations to include words like "hooked" and "addicted"? Find out how by learning to create a game story, develop interesting characters, design challenging quests, and cap it off with an epic boss battle all in your learning management system (LMS). This workshop will lead participants through the game-design process and teach them some tips and tricks of leveraging the features of various LMS's to create a high-quality course-based game. Participants will begin by creating an exciting game story that derives from the content of their course. Then, they will identify leverage points in their game story where they will embed quests. We will then discuss how to use an LMS to create an intrinsic reward structure. Various ways to troubleshoot common problems will be explored through discussions of pacing and navigation. The workshop will conclude with an epic boss battle where participants race to save a student trapped in an online course.


The objective of this workshop is for participants to begin to think about how to create their own course-based games in an LMS. This will include brainstorming ideas for a content-based game story and learning how to leverage features of LMSs to create a game. In particular, participants will try out different archetypes for game stories, explore common non-playable character types, and investigate different types of quests. Participants will learn different ways to avoid common pitfalls by using adjustable pacing; using navigational techniques such as breadcrumbs, signposts, and progress bars; embedding choice; employing a rivers-and-lakes/string of pearls structure; and using “delayed gradification.” Participants will learn common ways LMSs allow them to do all these techniques. Controversial aspects of game design such as badging and leaderboards will be discussed. The epic boss battle at the end will allow participants to put into practice these different game design techniques in the LMS that they use. Participants will come away with a sense of what constitutes superficial gamification versus creating a course-based game that invites students to experience the curriculum as well as the tools to do so.

Topical Outline

Topical Outline Introduction Background Definitions Course-based Game versus Gamification/Edutainment Developing a Game story Plot Archetypes Setting Characters Protagonist(s) Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) Quests Mini-games Simulations Stealth Assessments Feedback Cycle Pacing Choose Your Own Adventure Rivers and Lakes/String of Pearls Parallel Paths Delayed Gradification Navigation Chronological Order vs. Reverse Chronological Order Breadcrumbs Signposts Progress Bars Treasure Badges & Leaderboards Leveling Up Phasing, Resources, and PowerUps Final Reward Summary Epic Boss Battle

Experience Level



Dr. Janna Jackson Kellinger is an associate professor in the Curriculum and Instruction department at University of Massachusetts Boston. After being a high school English teacher where she played one-shot games with her students she earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at Boston College. At UMass Boston, Dr. Kellinger has designed six course-based games and has been the recipient of both the Innovation in Face-to-Face Teaching Award and the Innovation in Online Teaching Award. She has written several book chapters and journal articles on game-based teaching as well as the book, A Guide to Designing Curricular Games: How to "Game" the System.


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