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By Amanda Dodge • September 28, 2022

How to Make Classroom Online Games a Collaborative Experience

Students of all ages love playing online games. They are used to borrowing the smartphones of their parents or playing on gaming devices of their own. Educators also enjoy teaching through gamification. However, they don’t always want a class full of kids playing games and learning on their own without any peer interaction. 

Fortunately, there are ways to make classroom online games more collaborative. You can lead different teams or the entire class through various competitions and challenges. You can use these online games to build social skills, teamwork, and a variety of other soft skills that are essential for social-emotional learning. 

Here are a few ways to make online games a more collaborative experience in ways your students will love. 

Students playing eSpark together

Mix and Match Small Groups

One of the first ways to make classroom online games more collaborative is to break them into group activities. Instead of students completing challenges on their own, they team up with their peers to explore online games and try to finish the tasks. If you want to bring a competitive element to your classroom, let different groups work to achieve the highest score possible or go against other teams to see who reigns supreme. You can even make these games tournament-style, where different groups get eliminated until one final team is left standing.  

You can bring group work into the classroom at any part of the year, but some teachers recommend forming these mix-and-match groups early in the fall. Collaborative gaming allows students to break down barriers to working together.

“Playing games, especially cooperative ones, provides lighthearted interaction between people,” says Melissa Pilakowski, Teacher of the Year for high school language arts. “Through side talk, students get to slowly learn about each other. It’s a far more natural feel than concocted icebreaker games.” Some of your students might form long-term friendships because of these games. 

Unite The Class to Solve a Single Problem

Something amazing happens when a room full of people watches the same movie, show, or YouTube clip. Their emotions sync up as the footage plays out. Researchers have done MRI scans on people watching the same movie and noticed how their brains all reacted in the same way during dramatic moments, sad scenes, and happy endings. You can bring this experience to your students.  

Consider leading your students through a classwide game where they try to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. For example, the game could require the class to rescue a lost puppy or protect whales in the oceans. During this experience, students work together to complete the game but also get the same emotional experiences on a unified front. All of your students will feel bad about the problem and will enjoy the rush of solving it. 

Managing a class-wide game can be challenging if you have a large group of students. Try to find ways for different students to shine. Even though the whole class is working toward a goal, a few students at a time could be called on to solve problems or overcome challenges. 

Create a Team Goal

Every student has unique learning goals for the year. They read at specific reading levels and need to hit certain math milestones. One way to make classroom online games more collaborative is to set a classroom goal for all students to contribute to. Even if students are playing online games on their own, they are helping their peers reach the goals you set. 

Make sure your goals are equitable for all of the students in your classroom. For example, it’s unfair to expect all students to be at the same reading level at the end of the year. That will overwhelm some students while preventing other readers from challenging themselves. Instead, let your students acknowledge where they are in their learning journey and work toward growth. 

In an online gaming environment, growth might mean completing a certain number of segments or quests by the end of the system. It could mean earning a certain number of completion badges, which highlights their hard work and mastery of concepts. 

Tie each classroom goal to a prize or celebration for your students if they hit it. For example, if each student completes a certain number of challenges by the end of the semester, there will be a pizza party. Students will work together and encourage their peers to achieve their goals.

Let Students Support Their Peers

Another way to make classroom online games more collaborative is with peer tutoring and assistance. There are countless benefits of peer tutoring to your students. Advanced students can reinforce materials they are already familiar with and learn them better by explaining them to peers. Students who need extra help can have a fresh source to explain how various concepts and how they work. 

If you decide to let students work in pairs so they can solve problems together, make sure you change up the pairs frequently. An advanced student in one pairing might become the less confident learner when they work with another student. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. 

This method also has the added bonus of two students working together toward a common goal. Advanced students can become more invested in the education of their peers because they want to succeed as a pairing in the online games you introduce. Outside of the classroom, your students might feel more comfortable asking their peers for help, especially if some of your advanced learners enjoy explaining concepts and working with their peers patiently. 

Classroom Online Games Can be a Collaborative Experience

Gamification isn’t limited to solo work. There are multiple ways to pair students together and form teams where they can complete online games and virtual challenges. Your students can help each other out when they get stuck and build their social skills by communicating and working as a team.  

As you explore different EdTech systems, look for opportunities to make learning collaborative. Consider how you could use a game to lead the whole class through a lesson or break them into randomized groups. When you search for EdTech systems with collaboration in mind, you can find games and activities that meet your lesson plan needs. 


Amanda Dodge is a copywriter for eSpark with a decade of content marketing experience. She has been writing and researching in the EdTech niche since 2018 and marvels at how teachers continue to do more with less in order to help their students. Amanda lives in St. Petersburg, Florida where she sits on the board of the local literary non-profit Wordier Than Thou.


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