Gamification has the potential to increase student motivation and engagement in a course. Katherine and I have been exploring ways to make it better over the course of several terms. One of the ways, which is explored in this post, is setting up an accurate gradebook for calculating student points. Last year it was not possible – now it is (Thanks Rob!). If you are from Cambrian but not sure how to create badges please reach out to Rob or OJ in the Hub. If you are from elsewhere please reach out to your teaching and learning support team. I will also be talking about different aspects, lessons and concerns around gamification at CNIE, in the Hub, and at STLHE.

Gradebook for Badges

This past term we discovered a setting that allows us to have a gradebook over 100 points. Excellent. The reason this works well for me is because my gamification is in a separate course shell. If yours is not in a separate course shell you may need to adapt these instructions.

A block in the main course that links to the gamification options in the course.

Because there are a lot of options in my course it became necessary to have a way for students to quickly add up their points. Last year they needed to do it manually and keep track of what they had cashed them in for. I ended up doing it for them after the due date for earning badges and used a mail merge to communicate how many points they had left to spend and what rewards they earned. Now, it is possible for me to set up the gradebook to show them at a glance how many points they earned and how many they have used. In addition, I can easily download the gradebook and analyze the data in Excel. I am so excited about this innovative problem-solving.

Gradebook Categories

I cannot have negative grades in the gradebook, so I have created two categories in my gradebook: Cashing In Points and Earning Points. Simply put, the Cashing-in Points balance will not be permitted to exceed the Earning Points balance. Under Earning Points I also have sub-categories for different badge types that match my gamification map. To see the course shell live in action you can self-enroll in this course. If you are not a member of the Cambrian community simply go to and the login information below:

Username: Explore

Password: CNIE2019

Then, navigate to the “grades” section of the course in the “navigation” block.

Screenshot pointing to “grades” on the right hand side of Moodle where you go to find the gradebook.

In order to make this gradebook work, there are some things that need to be remembered for each badge. Remember, you can do badges without a gradebook if you do not assign points or make students manually add up their points (which means you need to add them up too at some point).

Once inside please look at the “How This Game Works” section as that is where I keep my gamification rules and map.

No Manual Badges

Badges can be awarded based on activity completion or manually. Badges cannot be directly added to a gradebook. However, the same activities that trigger badges can be graded. Those grades can go into a gradebook. If you set any manual badges to have an assignment area you can easily track and award manual badges. I find it easier to have an assignment drop box that students may not use as a place to track and award badges. For example, with the APA Master badge, a student would be awarded the badge without uploading any work to that dropbox. Having a dropbox is just as easy as awarding a manual badge in my opinion.

To award the badge I simply enter 25 under the grade and click on save all quick grading changes.
The message the student receives for positive reinforcement of their awesomeness.

Activity Completion

Activity completion is used to award badges automatically. It is very important that you set this up accurately. If you forget students can just check boxes to get badges. I set assignments to students must receive a passing grade. I avoid requiring a submission because I sometimes need to award a badge for work submitted via email. I find that fewer settings gives me more flexibility. Once students start earning badges it is harder to update the settings.

Screenshot showing the activity completion setting to “Show activity as complete when conditions are met.”


Use activities that can be assigned a grade to award badges. Assignments, quizzes, games, and forums are the most popular ones I use. They can all be assigned point values. Some have the settings you need to award points under the “grade” area while others have it under the “ratings” area as well.

Grade settings for the APA Master badge (Assignment).
Grade settings for the Community Builder badge (Discussion Forum).

For badges that require a list of activities to be completed before a badge is awarded it does not make sense to assign a point value to each activity because you do not want students to get points until all the activities are completed. In this case it makes sense to create a quiz that opens once all the activities are completed. For example, the APA Keener badge requires that students complete six interactive videos. Once all six are complete the APA Keener quiz opens.

Screenshot showing the restrictions on the APA Keener quiz.
Screenshot showing the settings for the APA Keener badge.

It is the quiz that triggers both the badge and gradebook. The quiz consists of one question. The same quiz question can be used for all badges that require a series of activities. Simply change the maximum grade on the quiz to match the point value of the badge. I set the passing grade to 50/50 because I want to make sure the marks get properly added to the gradebook.

The quiz has one question asking the student if they accept the badge.
Screenshot showing where to set the point value of the badge in a quiz.

Badge Naming

I name badges as cleverly as I can. In addition, I also put the point value of the badges in the name of the activity (in brackets), on the badge image, and in the gamification map. Placing the point value in the name of the activity that feeds to the gradebook allows me to quickly skim to make sure the point values are all set correctly. Placing them on the image helps students see the value easily as they earn them. Including them in the gamification map helps students get a sense for where points can be earned.

Screenshot showing how putting the point value in the activity name that gets graded helps to verify that the gradebook is properly set up.

Gradebook Setup

I have a category for Cashing-in Points, Earning Points, and Points that are not accurate (ignore these points). I am naming the folders in a way that I hope will be super obvious for students. Inside the Earning Points category, I also want to show them what type of badge they have earned. These categories correspond to the ones shown in my gamification map and rules and rewards document.

When setting up the categories the aggregation should be set to natural, meaning that points are simply added up. For the Points that are not accurate (ignore these points) category I set the aggregation to lowest grade, hoping that it will show as 0 most of the time.

Screenshot showing the settings for the mystery badge category.

Gradebook Settings

This was the most frustrating part of my experiment. I finally figured out how to get the gradebook exactly how I wanted it. Using the help of Google I was able to accomplish what others thought was impossible. It was actually a simple setting change. These are the instructions I used (see “Are Category Totals or the Course Total Visible?”).

A screenshot showing where to find “course grade settings?”

The only thing in the report that makes any sense to show students is the points they earned. Thankfully I was able to figure out how to make that happen using the settings below.

A screenshot showing that only the grades (which are set to the actual point values) are showing.

The Result

This is just beautiful. At a glance I can see how many points I have earned in each category. I can also see how many points I have used.

A screenshot showing that I have earned 1225 points.
A screenshot showing how many points I have used. I will need to update these once the class decides what rewards they want next year.

I have not yet figured out if I can make Moodle give me a subtract points cashed in from points earned. I have been told it is not possible but plan to figure it out anyway … later. To be continued …

Laura Killam

While you are here … The Badge Ladder

This block was custom built for Cambrian and can be added to your course. It runs a report that shows you the number of badges issued, number of badges each person has earned, and a breakdown of the badges each user has earned. Just reach out to Rob or OJ to have it added.

Screenshot of the badge ladder block that can be added.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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