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How Badges Can Motivate Students Online Learning

Sonja M Van Praag19 August 2013

Authors: Magdalena Krön (Teaching Assistant & Project Manager) and Liem Phan (UCL Student)

Jane Burns, Senior Teaching Fellow in Marketing, is leading an e-learning pilot for the module ‘Introduction to Marketing’ within the Management Science & Innovation Department at UCL. The project, which has been developed over the summer, adopts innovative new tools to aid the online learning experience. This post will provide some background to the project and discuss how to motivate students online engagement through the implementation of Mozilla Badges and a leader board.


With growing student numbers and expectation from students to have learning materials accessible, the pilot project has been developed to explore new ways in which teaching can be delivered within UCL.

The pilot implements new sophisticated features within Moodle as well as it includes access to Pearson Education’s e-learning platform, MyMarketing Lab. Within MyMarketing Lab the core text book will be provided as an e-text, eliminating the physical need for the book.

How to Encourage Online Learning

With the decision to flip the teaching to an online environment the learning process are facing certain challenges. Delivering lectures and assessments online requires specific methods to motivate and encourage engagement from students. It is therefore essential to implement triggers to promote specific behaviour, e.g. motivation to go through readings, into the learning material.

During this summer, five UCL students has supported the planning and production of online material for the “new” marketing module. Tools to encourage online engagement has been implemented, including Mozilla Badges and a supporting leader board.

Badges and the Leader board

Mozilla Badges is built on the same behavioural concept used by the scouts. Learning and development of new skills are rewarded and recognised through receiving a badge.

Badges provide feedback to identify and encourage positive behaviours that benefits the individual and the overall community. They are great in showcasing the individual feat of accomplishments, however they lack the scope and exposure to the people with the same objectives.This is where a leader board comes in to unite these participants within the community. Leader boards highlight the individual accomplishments in addition to offering visual motivation.

An online leader board, built by Liem Phan a student from the Management Science & Innovation Department, are looking to add motivation and act as a trigger supporting students learning.


The concept of the leader board is simple. To motivate students to explore the online learning material, the badges are hidden in readings and exercises and are collected through a treasure hunt. Badges earn you points and the person with more points gets ranked higher. If the points are equal, the person who earned it first gets the advantage. The simple notion of being a leader of something or being ahead of others can be a powerful motivating tool in itself.


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Examples of the Badges that student can collect

However, there is a danger that the feeling of supremacy can stagnate and actually discourage participation if there is little fluctuation in the rankings. To prevent this and influence positive behaviour a few basic components are added such as rank change indicator and weekly views.

The rank change indicator can be an effective call-to-action for the user. If they see that red downwards arrow next to their name, it tells them that they have been slacking and lost their rank. The green up arrow adds to the sense of accomplishment, letting them know that their effort to earn the badges has been recognised by moving up in the ranks.

How This Will Change the Learning Process

The collection of badges and the use of the leader board will have a direct impact on the students learning process and the feedback teaching staff will have access to.

Weekly views make it possible to dissect all the information at hand and to reflect from it. This provides more insight towards students consistency of performance, level of engagement, and room for improvement. There is a lot of power in understanding how active and engaged students are, how they are progressing and then take action accordingly.

The badges and the leader board will be implemented in the ‘Introduction to Marketing‘ module starting January 2014 and the feedback received through this pilot will help to improve online learning at UCL further.