Rules of Caerusia

The
Caerusia
experience

Caerusia promo2

Experience Points

Most teachers give feedback to their students in various forms. For a good answer or some desirable activity, the students may gain plusses, smiling faces, or whatever affordances. These usually cumulate into good marks or notes, so as to motivate the class to be active.

Experience Points serve the same function. A well solved task, a quick answer, an appropriate question, some extra diligence can be rewarded with them. However, they don’t cumulate into marks, or any other traditional rewards. Instead, just like in a video game, they are the means for students to reach higher levels, and new levels unlock various skills. These include receiving +1% on a test, skipping a 5 minutes activity during the lesson, volunteering for oral tests, helping each other during the lesson etc.

The higher the level, the more powerful the skill. However, to reach these advanced perks, the students must be extra diligent throughout the semester – but if they are willing to put all this energy into their studies, why wouldn’t they deserve some extra reward?

Manna Angels

Keeping the class focused is not always a walk in the park. If it’s their final lesson of the week, or when the first snow is falling out there, or when their favourite sports team plays in the finals, or simply when they are under the weather, students can turn unruly. The symptoms vary from the lack of activity to total chaos in the classroom.

Manna Points are given to students for showing appropriate level of focus. At the beginning of the lesson, the benevolent Green Angel is guarding the class with a gentle smile on her face (projected to the wall or presented in a printed page). If she remains in the classroom until the bell goes off, all students receive points. However, the Angel is scared by misbehaviour, and abandons the classroom – giving the stage to the Yellow Angel, who doesn’t give Manna Points to anyone. If even she is scared away, the Red Angel arrives, and she’s a vindictive lady, better to be avoided. Nevertheless, the previous Angel can always come back to the classroom, in case everything turns better, and only the Angel at the end of the lesson has an effect on the students’ life.

Why do students need Manna Points? Because they can only use their special Skills if they have enough of them. Working hard is not enough to be successful in Caerusia – you also have to work nicely.

Clans, and the Quest for the Golden Metropolis

Many believe that the most engaging aspect of videogames is the instant feedback they provide. If you do something good, you get rewarded on the spot. If you do something bad, you fail right away. True, this element of videogames can be appealing to gamers, but on its own, it doesn’t do the trick. The most popular and engaging games, however, offer two other, and pretty crucial experiences – a sense of belonging or relatedness by providing a supportive (or challenging) social background, and a well-designed story line they can watch unfold. Both of these are present in Caerusia as well.

Since school, and especially the language classroom, provides ample opportunity for group work, the social aspect of videogames is super easy to incorporate. In Caerusia, the students form groups of 4 or 5 in the beginning of the semester, and they will work together for quite some time. There are tasks (inside or outside the classroom) that are only available for these groups – but let’s call them Clans, because it sounds better. Clan mates help each other, discuss issues together, prepare projects and presentations as a team etc. If they function well as a group, they get rewarded as such too, because not only students, but Clans can reach higher Levels as well, providing all kinds of bonuses for each member.

These bonuses include exploring the continent of Caerusia, which provides a narrative to the game. Students are shown a boardgame-like map, on which they can move forward. Treasures of different kinds are hidden in each location, and it’s the clan’s decision where to wander around (which can do magic to their sense of competence as well, by the way). How do they do that? Whenever a Clan member receives a mark, they can step forward in the map. The better the mark, the more the Clan can move. Also, this way the Clan gets a visual representation of their progress, and if some of them decide to compete with each other (they don’t have to), they have the opportunity to do that as well.

Duels and Clan Wars

Vocabulary extension is an inherent part of learning a language. Whatever level of students you teach, whatever topic you wish to introduce, vocab knowledge is essential. But how to make learning it a bit more exciting?

You might have seen at least one Harry Potter movie. Remember the “Defence against the Dark Arts” lesson, where two students stepped up and started casting magic attacks at each other? They did that by saying the appropriate offence spells, until one of them failed to block properly.

Duels work like that in Caerusia too. Two students walk out to the whiteboard, decide who will start by flipping a coin, and then the battle begins. They both were given a set of vocabulary with definitions (or the native translation, however the teacher finds it suitable). The attacking student utters the definition (that’s the attack spell), and the other will try to block it by saying the target vocab item. If they succeed to block, they can counter, and this goes on either until one of them fails to block, or the time runs out, making the duel a tie. Of course, winners are handsomely rewarded, and a brave opponent doesn’t leave the stage empty handed either.

Clan wars are pretty similar, but in this case, not individual students but whole groups of students (Clans) face each other on the battlefield. While Duels only last for about a minute, Clan Wars take a bit more time to unfold, but it gives opportunity for more students to prove their knowledge. Also – it’s a lot of fun.

Rampage of the Beast

Grammar. Some students like it, some are freaked out by it. However, while the importance of grammar knowledge has decreased in the past years as language skills have found their proper rank in language tuition (thank Heavens), it would be unwise to say that teaching grammar is not an essential part of learning a language. Quite useful– but definitely less amusing, most of the time.

Grammar may be a beast for many, but beasts can be slain in videogames, right? Well, they can be defeated in Caerusia too. Rampage of the Beast is a gamified form of grammar testing. After the issue is properly discussed in the lesson, and the students seem to have mastered what they had to master (or should have), the Beast will attack the class – that is, the teacher puts a series of quick grammar questions (orally). The Beast will try to smash the students, but if they know the grammar issue inside out (and especially if they can protect themselves using Shields and Fortresses), the Beast will stand no chance. What’s more, the students can arm themselves with Weapons, and defeat that nasty creature too. And like in any proper videogame, a slain dragon has rich treasures for students to loot.

Call to Arms

Creativity is among the most crucial 21st century skills. Automation makes it possible for more and more functions to be taken over by programs, but creativity is something that machines aren’t going to develop in the near future. Therefore, as long as you’re creative, you’re difficult to replace.  Thus, fostering creativity is one of the most fundamental missions of all teachers, English teachers included. Since creative activities are becoming more dominant in English lessons, Caerusia gives you a method to gamify those creative tasks as well.

Call to Arms is an event where Clans have to create something – may it be a billboard, a video or voice recording, a comic, a story, or anything the teacher sees appropriate. Storywise, the students are standing in front of a crowd in their city, and are trying to recruit people to their army, using the product of their creativity as advertisement. The Clans work together, then show their masterpieces to the whole class. Students can then vote (not to their own Clan’s work, of course), and everyone is rewarded based on the results. Of course, heroes with shiny jewellery attract more attention, so the more Jewellery Enchantments the Clan has, the more votes (points) are added to them. In the end, the winning Clan’s Army level is increased, which makes them even more powerful during Rampages.

Capture the Goblin

English teaching is versatile. We have to do so many things, fulfil so many purposes that it’d be an impossible task for anyone to create a system that covers every little detail for each and every teacher. Vocab Duels are for vocabulary extension, Rampage of the Beast is a gamified way of dealing with grammar, but Capture the Goblin is a universal event that you can use with virtually anything.

In this Clan-event, the students are given a task where they have to provide solutions for a large number of problems. These can vary from short grammar tasks to vocabulary items, content based questions, skills development exercises, or whatever there’s a need for. Each good answer is a captured goblin thief, and the Clan that cleans the realm of the highest number of criminals wins. Of course, safety is first, so the more Armour Enchants there are in the Clan, the more goblins they can capture.

Enchantments

Being active during the lesson is golden, but it’s pretty obvious that working at home is also totally necessary for students to master a language. Of course, we can give compulsory homework and the students will most probably do it too, but it’s a rarity that they are enthusiastic about it. What’s even less probable is that they’ll do language tasks in their free time, for fun.

But not in Caerusia. Of course, a honeytrap is incorporated in the business, but that’s (partly) what gamification is about. The students are offered various, skills development (reading, listening, writing, speaking) and grammar task sheets, which they are free to do whenever they want. If they decide to be diligent, they can gather different Materials that they can use to Enchant their Equipment (Armour, Jewellery, Shield, Weapon), which provide different bonuses. For example, an Armour enchant boosts the Experience Points they get, while a Shield and Weapon can be used in Duels and Rampages. Speaking of Rampages, students can build Fortresses and recruit Armies for offence and defence against the Beast.

Of course, students may decide to neglect gathering these Materials, but they tend to quickly realize that Enchantments and Fortresses make their life significantly easier. As a consequence, they sit down from time to time and work on their language skills and grammar at home, without any (directly) extrinsic incentives. They do it for Enchantments, but what they get is language practice. Pretty neat side-effect from their education’s point of view.

Gold Coins,

Magic Items

If they work hard and achieve their goals, people appreciate a tap on the back. Caerusia offers this in the form of Gold Coins – whenever the students achieve something, like getting a good mark or being victorious in a Duel, they are given a number of Gold Coins.

And what do people do with money? They spend it, of course. In Caerusia, Gold Coin is the currency for Magic Items, all of which make the life of the students easier. For example, they can get away with not writing homework once in a while, or they can turn invisible for a few minutes during the lesson, perform better at Rampages, block attacks in Duels etc. However, the only way to gain these perks is to work hard and get good marks. Just like in real life, or in videogames of that matter, nothing comes for free, but if we’re willing to put effort into something, we can enjoy the benefits.

Curse Points

Gamification is all about positive feedback, rewarding effort and success in fancy and relatable ways. However, life is not always a walk in the park, and classroom reality is that regardless of all our teacherly benevolence and positive vibes, students tend to err sometimes. Because of this, most teachers who give red plusses as positive reinforcement will also give black minuses, or something like that, as negative feedback. If only there wasn’t need for such things, but, unfortunately, is can have a positive impact on student behaviour.

In Caerusia, this the fuction of Curse Points. Nevertheless, while traiditonal black minuses cumulate into a bad mark, this isn’t the case with Curse Points. They aren’t a bed of roses, though. If the student receives too many of these points, they’ll lose all their Manna Points, the result of which is that they can’t use their magic Skills, and 10% of their current Experience Points. In the beginning of the semester this may not seem a disaster – if the student has 100 Experience Points, they only lose 10. However, at the end of the semester, when they have 3800 Experience Points, the loss is quite painful. Nevertheless, this is one of the ways to keep the students diligent in the long run, and keeping them on the right track the whole semester through.

Classes

People are not the same. We are driven by different motivations, chase different goals, value different perks. Of course, the ultimate goal of a student in an English lesson is to learn the language, but that road is long and bumpy, and they may not want to take the same route or pace as the others. This is where differentiation comes to the picture.

Differentiation, appealing to different needs, isn’t only an issue in teaching, but in videogames as well. Most games provide different character options – some gamers will try going against the dragon using the brute force of swords and axes, others prefer summoning magic for the same goals, while some will move from shadow to shadow and assassinate their enemies. Different gaming styles, different characters.

Similarly, different learner types, different Classes in Caerusia. At the beginning of the semester, students can pick one of five different types of heroes. Each of these provide different perks, and intend to serve the different needs of different students.

Wizard

For some students, tests are everything. They will do anything to get good grades, and take pride in showing their results to their friends and family. For them, becoming a Wizard is the obvious choice. Wizards have special Skills to make sure they ace those tests. They can get +1%, double the points they receive to a task, apply for voluntary oral tests to show off their knowledge, or, at a vey high level, snap their fingers and receive a good mark. At a very… high level, of course, one they can only reach by working extra hard for a very long time. (Do they really need that good mark after all that work? Well, who knows.)

Adventurer

There are students who don’t always like being in the centre of attention during lessons. The reasons may vary from being shy to being exhausted or undermotivated. What can we do with them? One option is to nag them out from their passivity, another is to ride the waves of their desire to being left alone. The latter is the idea behind the class of Adventurers in Caerusia. If Adventurers work hard for a while, they can gain Skills that enable them to be left alone – like the Skill to skip a 5 minutes activity during the lesson. This way their desire to have a rest can be fulfilled, but only in the expense of being active first. Thus, students who tend to be passive all the time will (ironically) have to be more active to reach their goals.

Warrior

Certain students are restless during lessons. They’re always the ones to put their hands up when there’s a question, who finish their tasks faster than their peers, who are enthusiastic and diligent. Such heavenly behaviour is sometimes difficult to handle, because teachers may quickly find themselves without novel means to provide positive feedback. Telling them for the hundredth time that they are smart, or giving them yet another good mark may become repetitive over time, inflating the value of the feedback. But if these students are Warriors in Caerusia, they ways of praising them multiply in an instant. Warriors have Skills that enable them to become genuine Duel champions, to develop with the speed of light if they’re active, to exploit their diligence to the extreme.

Bard

School can be the most important venue of social interactions for students. This is where they make friends, form bounds, help each other, learn to solve problems together. This aspect is of crucial importance for many, so it’d be a crime to neglect it. In Caerusia, the Class of Bards was introduced to foster peer interactions. Those kind-hearted students who become Bards are given Skills that can help their peers if they are in trouble during the lesson, who need that extra 1% on the test to get a better mark, or who struggle working on their own. Bards tend to be the most appreciated members of their communities, and they are really pleased to see the gratitude they deserve and receive.

Warsmith

We all have our favourite spots to do things. Reading a book feels best in that comfy armchair by the window, taking a walk is the most refreshing in the park near our home, and workout is twice as effective in our beloved gym. Similarly, there’s no place like home for some students when it comes to studying. They find their peace, and learn at their own pace. For them, becoming a Warsmith is the obvious choice. They are rewarded for the extra effort they put in their studies at home, which means they are the kings and queens of the Enchantment system in Caerusia. By carrying out Quests, they are twice as effective at gathering Materials, thereby can get better Equipment, which makes their life easier at school too. This way, their “invisible” diligence is appreciated during the lessons as well.