Website review by Melissa Powers, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2020

GradeCraft

Use a game-inspired classroom structure to offer some autonomy and flexibility

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Grades
9–12

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Pros: Thoughtfully designed LMS supports gameful learning with unique tools like flexible rubrics, badges, grade prediction, and leaderboards.

Cons: In addition to GradeCraft, you'll probably need to use another platform for assignment components like quizzes, presentations, and student-created work.

Bottom Line: GradeCraft has the potential to revolutionize your classroom by inspiring students to take control of their own learning.

GradeCraft is for teachers who are looking for a unique way to motivate and challenge students and don't mind a little extra prep work. If you're already using a flipped classroom model, GradeCraft would be an easy transition. First, you have to imagine your course as a video game. Students start at zero: For everything they learn, they earn points. Ideally, you create more assignments than you expect students to complete, and they choose which ones appeal most to them. For example, you assign all students two articles to read. Then students could choose to earn a maximum 50 points each for writing an article review or 100 maximum points for creating a newscast reporting on the two articles’ content. You might already create similar assignments, but this game-based framework flips the ownership onto the students. Instead of earning a grade that's a percentage of 100 (which is impossible for most students to achieve), they start at nothing and earn credit for their work.

Using GradeCraft, you can award badges for task completion or level achievement, so if there are learning objectives that are significant milestones, you can mark students' mastery beyond a letter grade. And don’t worry about students learning skills in the wrong order: You can set locks that require certain achievements before new learning opportunities unlock. For instance, you can require students to submit a thesis statement before they begin writing an essay. You can also set recommended achievement levels at specific intervals (reporting periods) to help guide students in setting and meeting their own goals. The Gameful Pedagogy website offers advice about translating game-based/project-based credit into the letter grade system required by your school. 

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GradeCraft is a learning management system (LMS) that supports game-based, or "gamefully designed," courses. Created by the University of Michigan to support their gameful learning pedagogy, GradeCraft gives teachers the tools to design courses that feel like gameplay. Think of your curriculum as a game and your learning objectives as achievements. Students start at zero points and earn their grade from the ground up as they accomplish tasks and meet learning goals. Teachers can make assignments optional, giving students flexibility and ownership of the curriculum. Teachers can choose their own grading scheme, create customized rubrics, award badges, offer individual and group assignments, and more.

GradeCraft is a stand-alone LMS, but it also connects with other systems (like Canvas, Blackboard, Google Classroom, etc.) using LTI integration. Though GradeCraft was designed for collegiate use, it is easily adaptable for the secondary classroom.

Like any learning system that depends on user-created content, GradeCraft is only as good as you make it. The tools are there. You can design an engaging, comprehensive course that empowers students to learn. GradeCraft is ideal for offering true differentiation. By making assignments optional, students can learn and demonstrate mastery in the way that works best for them. By using locks and levels, you ensure that students achieve mastery before advancing to new skills or content. Your dashboard will help you follow students' progress and know which students need some extra small-group or individual instruction.

Though game-based learning can work well in all subject areas, GradeCraft may be best suited for the humanities or for courses without rigid scaffolding. Start by reading about gameful learning pedagogy and checking out the sample syllabi. If it sounds like a good fit for your classroom, then start small with one semester or course section at a time. Plus, reach out to your students for advice and feedback. Chances are, they're experts at playing games!

Overall Rating

Engagement

Gameful learning puts students in the driver's seat, encouraging them to explore, learn, and even take risks as they accomplish their learning goals.

Pedagogy

Combining techniques from well-designed games with a student-centered learning approach, GradeCraft offers tons of tools to support a game-based curriculum.

Support

GradeCraft offers excellent resources on getting started with game-based learning, and the system is easy to use.


Common Sense reviewer
Melissa Powers Media specialist/librarian

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