Gamification in education involves the use of game-like mechanics in educational contexts, often using points, badges and leaderboards (Points, Badges and Leaderboards) to leverage students natural competitiveness and to motivate greater engagement. I have been looking at gamification a lot recently, and at ways in which it can be included in Blackboard modules in The Business School. Both points and badges already exist within Blackboard (points can be represented by marks for assignments and badges by Achievements), but leaderboards don’t exist by default as a tool within Blackboard’s toolset. The addition of leaderboards would offer all the main gamification/PBL tools for instructors to create new forms of engaging instruction for their modules.

Gamegogy Leaderboard for BlackboardLeaderboards can be an interesting way to add a visual level of competitiveness to an assignment, where students’ results for a particular assignment can be displayed in the context of their peers’ achievements. Showing results in this way could work well for an ongoing project assignment, perhaps with interim results, with a student’s position on the board acting as formative feedback. It could also work well where a business simulation, class competition, or class game is in progress, for example where students are competing on a virtual stock exchange. Low stakes, game-like and competitive experiences could be enhanced with the formative feedback of a leaderboard. Up until now instructors who have used leaderboards have had to use external systems, outside Blackboard, without integration between leaderboard position and assignment score or student records, this is something we would like to fix.

Recently the Business eLearning team have been looking at a Blackboard plugin called Gameogogy, created by Dr Dave Thornton and provided free by OSCELOT (Open Source Community for Educational Learning Objects and Tools). It allows you to add a leaderboard to your modules on Blackboard and to be displayed for students on the module page as a widget. The widget allows instructors to apply a leaderboard to a column in GradeCenter, and visualise the results for instructors and students. Where student results are collected outside the Blackboard LMS, scores exported to Excel can be imported to appear on the Leaderboard, so in this way business simulations can be integrated with the LMS.

Some care is required with leaderboards, especially for students who are towards the end of the board, they might find their relatively low position on the board to be counter-motivational, though some research has refuted this. This is why while instructors can see each student’s name and board position, the student only sees their own name and board position, all other students remain anonymous — you can see how you have done, but not how other students have done.

This leaderboard displays two different views, depending on your course role. An instructor will see the students' names displayed, while students will only see an anonymized rank. It has been tested on Blackboard Learn 9.1, SP 14.


This leaderboard displays two different views, depending on your course role. An instructor will see the students' names displayed, while students will only see an anonymized rank. Image via Ocelot.

With the support of the UCD ITServices Blackboard team, we were able to get the plugin added to the UCD live Blackboard instance — so the leaderboard is now available to use in your module! Have a look at the video to see how to use the leaderboard in your module, to add it to a column in GradeCenter, and how to customise it for your needs. And have a look at the Achievements tool too, which allows you to award badges for achievements within your module, further gamifying learning for your students!

Business eLearning are continually looking for ways to improve the LMS and to support your use of it. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help!

Niall Flaherty, October 2016