I haven’t noticed very many people talking about using Blackboard’s Achievements tool (but everyone is certainly all abuzz about badges and gamification) so when my office upgraded our LMS and this option became available I wanted to give it a whirl. I ended up using it in a 2-week professional development setting for a class on Twitter as a PLN.

Essentially the achievements tool allows you to define “triggers” or actions that students must complete in their course in order to be awarded a badge of your design. Some of the common activities that can be used as “triggers” are:

  • Having students simply click the “Mark as Reviewed” button
  • Obtaining a specific grade on an assignment or test
  • Posting to the discussion board, a blog, wiki etc…

As the seminar I was teaching mainly involved the students completing tasks on their own Twitter accounts I ended up having to figure out a way to award achievements for items I had to review manually. To do this I set-up a number of specifically titled individual grade center columns and tied the score entered in the column to the awarding of an achievement. So, for example, if Jane successfully tweeted using the class hashtag I’d enter 100 in the grade center column titled “Hashtag” and Jane would receive a new accomplishment badge.


One aspect of the tool that I simply don’t understand at all is the lack of a leaderboard. As far as I can tell there’s no way to visually show all students where they stand regarding which badges or achievements they’ve completed. In my opinion one of the best parts about gamification is a little friendly competition. To bring that environment into the seminar I ended up creating a table that I manually updated daily as the students obtained their badges. They could then see how they were coming along in comparison to their peers. Admittedly this was a rather time consuming undertaking but for me it seemed like a necessity. Of course, I probably didn’t have to color in each completed task cell with a lavender background but I REALLY wanted to. I’ve attached the completed leaderboard so you can see what it ended up looking like with the students names removed (of course).

Some Icons I Used as Badges

The badges that come with Blackboard are pretty bland but you can create your own. Just keep the image dimensions to around 90 pixels in width or below and you should be all set.

Here’s a quick tour of the course shell from the student’s perspective and some of the activities one might arrange in order for achievements to automatically appear when a task is completed.

watchFrankly, I’m still deciding whether or not I found this tool useful beyond the fact that it amused me so I’ll write a bit more about that at a later time. I definitely think I need to have another opportunity to test it with students again before fully committing one way or another.

4 Comments on The True Story of Trying to Use the Blackboard Achievements Tool in an Online Class

  1. I’m so glad you tested this out! I am equally as perplexed about the lack of a leaderboard feature! I know that in education people are often very sensitive about comparing grades or even showing students comparative data. But all of the data is there, and there should be an option for displaying it in a leaderboard style. I encountered the same issue back when I designed my training game in Blackboard, and also ended up manually creating and updating a leaderboard – but it doesn’t have quite the same effect when it’s not instantaneous!

  2. Hi Kristen!

    I definitely agree with the sensitivity surrounding grades and course standing so I’m not sure if this tool actually makes a lot of sense to use in a traditional online class, but for PD (especially optional self-paced PD) — where it’s admittedly difficult to always get everyone to finish or hold their interest I think it definitely adds a bit of levity and more comradery among the participants. This is probably one of the most (if not the most) active online PD sample I’ve experienced but…I’d like to test it again. It could just be a fluke 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I really appreciate seeing your examples (from the student view) and seeing how there are different ways to have these automatically trigger. I read that there is now a building block for a leaderboard– I’ll have to keep sleuthing. Manually updating as you suggest could be a dealbreaker for faculty with large enrollments. Thanks for this post.

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