Gamification to improve awareness of library services #theta2015

Evolving customer engagement: Using mobile technology and gamification to improve awareness of and access to library services (abstract)
David Honeyman and Daniel Walker

[I’m reflexively sceptical of gamification. Maybe because it’s a buzzword and sometimes implemented as such without much thought about whether people want to play these games, and/or whether these games will actually help solve the problem? But certainly I’ve also seen cases where it’s been done really well.]

Acknowledge that it takes time to build a game.

Session includes a game:

Idea is adding game elements to less engaging activities to increase fun/engagement. Can increase motivation and improve learning outcomes. Many businesses even involving it – especially to get customers more involved. In libraries: orientation, infolit, fighting plagiarism, using library resources/services

Mobile technologies makes this more possible. “Opportunities that arise when everyone’s carrying around a computer in their pocket”.

Gamifying orientation to move away from guided tour. Started with self-guided orientation to blend paper-based with SurveyMonkey. Prizes offered. Worked okay but limitations – no embedded videos/images/links and not mobile friendly.

The Research Game
Needed to be cheap, easy to make, desktop- and mobile-friendly, look good, let people save and resume, gather responses (ie a form tool).
Considered TextAdventures, Twitter, Blackboard, Facebook, Blogger. Went with Blogger because it was customisable – many other tools come with one look-and-feel. Embedded Google Forms. [Looks different on desktop than mobile but both work.]

Points were displayed on a leaderboard using Infogram – either compared to whole uni or to own faculty. Development took 200 hours, and a couple of hours each day to collate results and post updates. Second year they changed questions and tasks (so people who’d done it last year could do again) which took an extra 70 staff-hours.

The Bond Med Student Challenge” – students descend on library, get the URL, and go off to do the challenge. One staff to supervise and answer questions, but doesn’t need to do much. 100 staff hours to create tasks and questions but will be able to reuse this in future years.

The Law Library Challenge – could embed videos and image which improved look and performance. Being on Google Docs means it doesn’t look as good as Blogger but easier to create and quick to collate results.

Tried to blend tricky/serious with fun/lighthearted questions. 2-3 hours to update each semester for next students as just tweak questions.

Donated textbooks as prizes.

What worked:

  • Completion rates: paper-based system had some drop off from question to question; gamified system has more even response rate
  • 85% of players said they’d use a resource they weren’t previously aware of.
  • Reduced environmental impact – less printing!
  • Students can use own devices – most have their own. [What about the few who don’t?] Don’t need to download software with webapp.


  • Google Forms limits layout options so not as game-like as desirable.
  • Blogger more tailorable, but had its own downsides: required multiple Google Forms and takes time to collate these. [Seems solvable using some kind of data munging software.] Every time they complete a task they have to enter their ID to enable scoring, which isn’t ideal! Suggest looking for something with a good login system.

Q: Are you looking at orientation differently?
A: No, same content but more fun.

Q: Was there any resistance to this?
A: No. Supported by management.

Q: Any thoughts of integrating with LMS?
A: Hadn’t thought about it – too clunky and doesn’t look like a game. (Blackboard)
Q: Ours also very restrictive.

Q: Can people come back and refresh?
A: Done over 2 days. But can’t come back later as requires setup in the library.

Q: Percentage uptake?
A: 50% uptake for Law last semester, out of 100 students (helped because draw for iPad)

One thought on “Gamification to improve awareness of library services #theta2015

  1. Anton

    Or involving yourself in existing games, like Ingress – location aware gaming that can have themed events.


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