Playing and learning go hand in hand from the moment we are born. Here in Educaplay we know that and that is why we made this our life purpose.
A game doesn’t have to be an oasis of fun to disconnect in the middle of a tedious online class. It can be a vehicle to keep your students engaged while learning.
Keeping your students focused and active in a face-to-face class is difficult. In an online classroom set it is even more difficult.
In this context, well-designed games can be a great ally in your online teaching.
Here you have 10 tips to create successful online classroom games like Crosswords Puzzles, Map Quizzes, Memory Games or any of the ones in or out of Educaplay.
#1 Be clear about what you want to do and how
When you create an online learning game, the most important part of your job is to be 100% clear about what you want to do.
An icebreaker, a review session before an exam, introducing a content in a visual and interactive way, make students apply their knowledge in an abstract situation, letting them work together to solve a problem...
Playing just for the sake of playing isn’t bad at all, but the experience will be much better for you and for your students if you designed the game with a learning goal in your mind.
Now that you know the why, next step is the how. Here is where your creativity comes into play.
Simple is better. That is why in Educaplay we offer you 16 different types of games for online classes (and many more to come!) that will adapt to your many needs, ready to be customized with your content.
Don’t try to create the perfect game, but one that is effective for what you want to do.
You also have a lot of resources to create and edit your own images, infographics, videos or audios, starting with something as simple as the Snipping Tool.
Choose your favorite to work: online or to download, with more or less functions, harder or easier…
If you want the finished product, check out these libraries of professional pictures and videos ready to use for free.
#2 Give a personal touch to your content
In a digital world where it is easy to feel like you are a number, your students will value a personal touch in the materials that you create for them.
My Literature profesor’s last name was Domínguez and he would sign his materials printing “Sundayez me fecit” in a corner. It was silly but we found this pun with his last name using English (domingo – Sunday) and latin (me fecit – made me) so funny and twenty years later we still laugh about it with my friends.
Your games for online classes will be more attractive and fun for your students if you enrich them with references to the region, to the school, to yourself and/or the students, to inside jokes, to funny current events, to icons of your students’ generation, or things like that.
Of course, you should do that respecting everyone (especially the students!), and without forcing it. You will have many natural ways to do it, like for example thinking about silly incorrect answers in a multiple choice question.
Human relationships are one of the most important elements of learning. In distance learning activities people are far away, but your materials can create an emotional closeness.
#3 Simple mechanics, clear instructions
Creators tend to be so immersed and familiarized with the game that it is difficult to remember that the rest of the world is not in our head.
That is why it can happen that something that is common sense to you, it really isn’t if you didn’t create the game and so it needs to be explained to be played successfully.
It is really frustrating to spend time creating something useful only to lose this usefulness just because the instructions to get the most of it where not provided correctly or not at all.
This is especially relevant for online classrooms, where body language and feedback are limited (and therefore also the ability to explain and correct someone if they are not playing as they should).
In this context, it is often true that less is more. If we make the game too complicated it will be easier for your players to get confused. Try to simplify everything you can and you will save yourself trouble.
On the other hand, don't skimp on explanations. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who sees your game for the first time. If you doubt whether something is going to be understood correctly, it is most likely that it will not be understood. Make the changes you need to and prepare the best possible instructions.
#4 Better too easy than too hard
If while you are creating the game you have doubts whether the content will be too difficult, it probably is.
Hitting the target with the right difficulty level for the vast majority of students is as desirable as challenging.
If the game is too easy, the motivation of the players will be lower. But if it is too difficult, players will crash, the game will not progress and cease to be fun, and you will face silences that are even more uncomfortable in a virtual classroom than in a face-to-face one.
Making it too hard is more harmful than making it too easy. Therefore, when in doubt, take the decision that agrees with the latter.
It is difficult to correct the situation when an online classroom game is too difficult. On the other hand, if it is too easy, you can always do other things on the fly to increase motivation such as encouraging them to do it in a shorter time or to do it without making any mistakes.
Also, don’t rush it. If you think the game has to go fast because you are wasting learning time, that means it is not the appropriate game.
#5 Test them before you start
A test is often the best explanation you can give your players.
In Educaplay this is easy, since you can search for a customized example among the more than 4 million activities that you have in the repository. For example, before a Memory game on the rivers of the world, you can share your screen and show any other Memory game.
You can also duplicate the game you already have made and change the content, or simply play the first phase of the game together.
The goal is that when students start they do not have to worry about understanding the dynamics of the game and can just focus on the content.
#6 Give your students (virtual) rewards
People get motivated by the prospect of winning a game, but if there is a prize that certifies it, things get even more interesting.
You don't need to spend any money on the reward. For example, a virtual badge designed by you is enough. You can do it easily with tools like Badge Design.
Another possible reward is relieving students from tasks they have to do at home that day (winners will have already shown that they learned the content).
Offering extra points is another classic that never gets old.
As you can see, imagination is more important than money in this case.
If you still want to spend something, there are original ideas that are also opportunities to teach moral values, such as making a small donation on their behalf to an NGO chosen by the student.
#7 Grades are for out-of-class games
Giving extra grade to win is a great idea to increase their motivation. However, if you set a specific grade for a game during a virtual lesson, it will be perceived more as an exam or a test than as a game.
Therefore, our advice is that you set grades for assignments that students do outside of class, and not for of online classroom games.
Of course you want to evaluate students’ knowledge and the way in which they apply it. However, we believe that the best time for this is not in a game during a virtual class.
Instead of this, you can set participation grades for the overall session, and not for the specific game.
However, in Educaplay you can check your players’ score if they play a Challenge or if they identify themselves before playing.
#8 Let students be game creators
Every time we teach someone something we learn something. Therefore, it is a good idea to try to reverse the roles and involve the students also in the creation of the activities.
There are many ways of doing it. If you work with a group, you can start by sharing your screen and having each student contribute with a question and answer for a crossword puzzle (for example) while you create the game.
Once you have created one together, you can have each student create their own, and share it with their classmates so that each one plays each other’s activities.
Educaplay lets you create a challenge grouping all the games they have done, so that they play it at the same time and results are updated live. This is an ideal way to end this dynamic.
#9 Play in group
Better together. Have them join forces to complete a game and you will see how their attention level rises up.
If you have several classes in the same course, add an element of competition by telling them you are going to compare their score with other classes, rewarding the best one.
Share your screen with the activity and ask them to give you the answers.
If you have few students in the virtual classroom, they can do it with their voice, but if there are many, the situation may become very chaotic. In this case, you can take advantage of the chat function so that they write you the answers.
If you have prepared more than one game at the same time, you can give the control to students and make them share the screen while asking help from their classmates.
Your role in this case will be to encourage them and to make sure that everything goes smoothly, give feedback, or correct the situation when blocked.
#10 Wrap up
It is good that your players give you feedback on the game after finishing it, and that you give them feedback on how they have done it and on the doubts that have not been resolved.
"Did you like it?" is a question that adds little value. Whether yes or no, you will notice it with their attitude and in any case probably no one will answer "I did not like it" in the course of a virtual class.
Depending on the class dynamics, the comments will emerge on their own. In that case you just have to listen to them, give them time to comment on it without haste to proceed with the class, and intervene if you need them to specify or clarify something they have said.
If this does not happen, tell them what has positively surprised you and explain what your expectations were when something did not happen as you expected. If the game consisted of multiple choice questions, you can write down the wrong ones and give them another chance at the end.
The bond between students and teachers is one of the most important things in education. If the game has served to deepen it, it will have been a success.
You don’t need to get rid of the learning time to play a game in distance learning. You don’t even need to prioritize one over the other. When done right, your students will be having fun and learning without even realizing about it.
Experiment and let them experiment, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel and always keep a learning goal in mind.
Spend your time and creativity thinking about the content. That is, thinking about how the game will grow and test your students’ knowledge and experience. Let us education technology platforms care about the game mechanics for you.
Students will be more wowed by details in the game that speak directly and personally to them than by the quality of the design.
Follow these tips or just follow your gut and do it your way, but anyway please go ahead, dive into it and have fun with your students!