Gamification and how it can help students learn

Published: April 8, 2015

One of the biggest topics in e-learning at the moment is “gamification”, but there are a few misconceptions about what exactly this is, how you can implement it and how it can help students to learn. We’ll be covering these below, but in its essence, it’s taking concepts from video games and applying them to learning.

What gamification isn’t

Some educators see the word “game” in the title and baulk, having memories of substandard and outdated education software with more focus on entertainment than teaching. Likewise pupils might be sceptical of approaches to insert educational concepts into what’s traditionally seen as a “hometime” activity. This isn’t gamification though. While there’s certainly merit to a synergy of education and entertainment, gamification instead refers to methods of incentivising more traditional approaches, turning tasks into “games”.

What gamification is

Video games generally work on ideas of work/reward relationships – by putting in the work, you get a reward, for example defeating an opponent leads to the player gaining a piece of treasure, or completing a level and receiving an achievement. These can then be compared with others’ results, adding in elements of competition. This contrasts with learning environments, where aside from the long-term educational benefits, students generally have relatively little to gain in the short-term. By introducing achievement points & light-hearted competition, you let students track their own progress.

How you can implement it

The easiest and most efficient way to apply game-based principles to your teaching is through use of a VLE or other online environment. An open-source VLE has the ability to award badges which can display achievements and track progress. These can then be shared and compared with others, with rewards (both digital and physical) given to high achievers.
By a similar token, our own Merits system (free to School Jotter users) uses the concept of Merits as a currency for students, which can be spent either on customising their avatar or purchasing physical goods. This applies the rewards concept to learning and behaviour.

What this means for you

Gamification means more engaged students, who spend less time passively learning and more time actively discovering new information, for a proper flipped classroom experience. By incentivising hard work we appeal not just to students’ desires to better themselves but to show that they’ve bettered themselves. Engage your students, reward hard work and improve your results – gamified learning is a fantastic way to teach.