In the marketing and strategic communication world, many of us are familiar with the idea of gamification — the incorporation of game-like elements into other communication strategies and goals.
While I can see the appeal, especially for younger audiences, I have normally found the idea forced. Companies may try to use an orientation scavenger hunt to break the ice, but it often comes across as cheesy and awkward rather than entertaining and informative.
However, as I work in a college setting and constantly have to compete with other engaging content, I thought I would give it a chance and put gamification to the test.
My foray into gamification started with a Halloween Scavenger Hunt for our language students. I designed four separate scavenger hunt lists, one for each of our three major language offerings (French, Spanish, and German) and one with a mix of the three languages that was less difficult.
The Scavenger Hunt contained a list of several words for common Halloween objects in the target language the students were learning. The students were asked to follow a few steps:
- Translate the words
- Find the objects in the community (either on or off campus)
- Take pictures with these objects
- Post their photos on Instagram using #WLACHalloween
I posted information about the scavenger hunt on our department website, on social media, and on our TV monitors in the department. I also encouraged professors to offer extra credit to students who completed the scavenger hunt and offered candy rewards to students who turned in their answers.
The activity was designed to accomplish a few goals:
- Increase engagement with the department
- Encourage students to follow our social media accounts
- Boost department visibility across campus
- Foster community among language students
My first gamification attempt was moderately successful. We had about 15 students complete the scavenger hunt — not bad for a first-run activity, but not as many as I would have liked to see. However, the students who did complete it said they really enjoyed it and would participate again. An employee in the International Center saw our scavenger hunt and asked to give a copy to a local middle school where she and a student were giving a presentation. I heard it was a big hit at the school.
I learned a few things throughout the process that I can implement into next year’s hunt, but I was excited to see a number of our students participating.
This week, I started my second attempt at gamification. I was inspired by an article posted by Visix, the company Winthrop uses to manage our TV monitor content. They offered several ideas to incorporate the screens into gamification. Many of these were impossible for us to implement due to technology restrictions, but I tried one of their suggestions on a small scale.
I designed a series of slides to work as a mini quiz about interesting department facts. The quiz was designed to accomplish a few tasks:
- Get students thinking about the department
- Serve as a mini-assessment of student awareness
- Drive traffic to our website for more information
- Spark interest in our new ASL class offering
- Boost awareness of our language program offerings
- Generate awareness of our social media accounts
- Share information about the language lab services
The slides are new, so I do not yet have much data on their impact, but I have heard several compliments and positive comments from faculty who took a moment to stop and take the quiz.
This experience has shown me that gamification does not need to be a complex long-term initiative that transforms your marketing strategy. Instead, it can be a small element that you occasionally implement to shake things up and keep your audience engaged.
In the future, I plan to continue assessing the impact of gamification and exploring new ways our department can use game elements to capture the often-diverted attention of college students. My job calls for creativity and I plan to use it to make a difference in my department.