Gamification in Higher Ed – Jumping In!


I’ve been teaching the big, survey course called “Intro to Mass Media” for about fifteen years. It’s a wonderful class to teach because it exposes students to parts of the media they haven’t really noticed: the history, the context, the money, the ownership, the methods, the framing and the format.  Since the media changes daily, it’s a fun challenge to update it each class period.

I flipped this particular course a couple of years ago and put all my lectures online. Ideally, the students watch the lectures the night before class which frees up class time for us to do meaningful, fun activities.

But I’m kind of bored now.  It’s time to stir things up.

Which is why, thanks to inspiration from friends like Mike Matera , Tisha Richmond  Andrew Easton and  Josh Fishburn I am going to



This course might be listed as MEDC 1010 in the catalog, but this semester I am calling it “ESCAPE THE MEDIA JUNGLE”.  I’m starting out relatively simple – just changing the names of a few things…

The class will be separated into tribes. The tribes will come up with a name, a logo, a scribe and a chief. Each class period will consist of “tribal challenges” where the winning tribe will receive a traveling trophy (tiki torch?). The exams are no longer exams, they will be “quests”.

One of the first (and easiest) things to do when gamifying is to simply change the names of things.  They’re not groups, they’re tribes. They’re not activities, they’re tribal challenges.  They’re not exams, they’re quests.


I have no doubt I will have students who roll their eyes at this approach and view this as a big gimmick. I’m also concerned that my colleagues will think that this is somehow “dumbing down” the content.  I need to set these concerns free and concentrate on the fact that I am willing to try something new in a university environment where cell phones are still seen as the enemy and e-mail use is seen as “high-tech”.  (Yeah, I went there.  You K12 people are where it’s at…TRUST ME.)


Perhaps many of you have gamified your class and have had great success. So I’m asking YOU…what advice do you have for me?  What are some jungle-related concepts that I can include?  Bug spray as extra credit?

I will be in an active-learning classroom where each tribe will have its own pod with a large screen, and I can send each tribe’s screen to the large screen in the front at any time.

And perhaps most importantly – what should our hashtag be?  #mediajungle ?


This should be fun…….

6 thoughts on “Gamification in Higher Ed – Jumping In!

  1. I love this idea! It’s ripe for a storyline of the different tribes escaping the jungle. Rewards for completing quests or challenges can be all kinds of cool jungle stuff that make their tribe stronger/better – tents/mosquito netting so they get a good night sleep and can start earlier, maps with extra hints, flashlights/batteries, bug spray, etc so they can work longer. Or, you can make the chief more powerful through accomplishments (then they can “trick out their avatar”). I think about Survivor when they win challenges to get a leg up – and all members have to participate and pull their weight. There are lots of opportunities for quests where they must bring back artifacts (history), show understanding (context), or other key points. Good luck!!

    1. Sharon – thank you so much for these great ideas!!! I’m overwhelmed!! Will keep you posted – thanks so much for reading & responding!

  2. Julie,
    What are the group roles you use for each tribe? I sat in on one of your conference sessions at ICE and I’m gamifying my classroom this week!

    Thank you for the great ideas!

    1. HI Christy! The only roles I have (currently) are Chief and Scribe. The Chief is like the tribe spokesperson and the scribe is the one who writes anything down if a tribal challenge is written. I guess the scribe is like the tribal secretary. I’m so excited you are gamifying too, please let me know how it goes and if you have any other ideas for my tribal positions!! =)

  3. How did this turn out? I am a High School Government teacher -queue the groan from the kids.. I heard you speak about this at Fort Zumwalt PD training and I was thinking about how I could use this in my government classes. Maybe on Fridays throughout the year having them compete as tribes establishing their own government as we study each chapter or something- looking for your input.
    thanks in advance

    1. HI Cheryl!
      Yikes – clearly I need to check this site more often – sorry for the delayed response. My first semester of gamifying ended up with increased attendance, increased engagement and a 10 point increase in their final scores. I was AMAZED. Students were saying things like “I wish this was MWF and not just MW” and one tribe even had a themesong they played when they walked into the room. It was a riot. BUT – get this – I submitted this to a higher ed conference to talk about updated teaching styles and my proposal got rejected, claiming it was “racist”. Ugh.

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