Reflections on Gamification, Badging and Scaffolding

Gamification and Scaffolding

At work, we want to start using BadgeOS with LearnDash in WordPress to gamify modules in a co-curricular career development course. The idea is to allow students get earn and collect badges once modules are complete.

The reasoning and research behind this is that gamification “provides visible milestones of the student’s mastery of content in real time” (Kapp 2014). Visible signs of mastery of a specific content can help students see broadly what they’ve accomplished or which content they have already gone through and completed. Gamification can also provide continual, instant feedback to learners on their progress. It serves to “orient the learner to where they are in the instructional process, where they are going, and how much further they have to go until the end” (ibid.)

So students need to “see” their progress, and they need to progress through a series of increasingly more challenging or difficult levels. So the badges that display whenever they pass a specific module add up to display a certain level of competency a student has achieved.

Kapp’s article, “Show the Learner Visible Signs of Their Learning” goes on to talk about scaffolding, the process of “controlling the task elements that initially are beyond the learner’s capacity, so that the student can concentrate on and complete elements within his or her immediate capability” (Kapp 2014). Scaffolding relates to gamification in that the movement a student makes from one level to another with increasing difficulty, requiring them to apply more skill to master that new level is very much like the approach to scaffolding (ibid.).

Putting it in context

The students: First to fourth year undergraduate students at a major university

The program: A career development co-curricular program

The learning technology platform:  WordPress using LearDash and BadgeOS plugins

Duration: 4 years to complete the co-curricular program 

Levels of Mastery: 4 levels, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Masters, each level with 5-9 modules per level.

Gamification could be applied in this context to giving students badges in the different levels and modules. Specifically we would give students one badge per module. We would distinguish the badges visually from each other using logos related to the subjects of each module. Users would have a profile panel in which to see their progress in the course and the badges they have accumulated.

Reflections on applying Gamification to this program

It seems that for the career development program, there is definitely a series of steps students need to accomplish to achieve greater mastery of specific skills. In that way gamification could be applied to provide those visible milestones of student progress over progressively harder material. Scaffolding is used in the sense that the beginning levels are much simpler and basic than the higher levels and so students should be able to accomplish most of level 1 on their own initiative.

What this article (Kapp 2014) has brought up for me is the concept of Zone of Proximal development, which is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Kapp 2014 quoting Vygotsky, 1978). It would be an interesting exercise to see which activities students can do independently and which activities would need, in this case, career development professionals to monitor and guide the student in a more hands on way.


Kapp, Karl. (2014). Show the Learner Visible Signs of Their Learning. Available at:

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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