Gamification in education: Why, What and How

There is no doubt that gamification is a concept that has quite penetrated the education industry. In this article, you will read why, what and how about gamification in education and some fundamental concepts.

Mohita Jaiswal

Imagine yourself in a classroom learning about ecosystems. 

You are playing a digital game planning out with your partner to explore a new biome. You both are brainstorming around what kind of biomes to select and choices to make to populate this biome. Your tasks and goals in this game include determining and creating:

  • What animals and plants could best be accommodated in this biome? 
  • What are the 2 food chains which can be incorporated in your biome?
  • What 4 energy transfers can happen within your biome?

And as you and your partner progress on these decisions, you create and visualize your live ecosystem live at play.

Did you remember you were learning something? Ecosystems? Well, you collaborated to create one!

This is the power of what gamification can bring to the educational experience today and this is what is enabling greater adoption and appreciation of gamification from educators worldwide. ‘Gamification’ was a word coined in 2003 which means designing game-like experience for typically non-gaming activities to engage and motivate users to achieve goals.

With the Edtech industry growing in size with its spend to reach US$252bn by 2020, gamification is bound to gain and accredit to some of those brownie points.


Why gamify educational technologies and experiences?

Meeting of learner’s goals and ensuring ease of technology used for the teachers and learners are two critical factors for an Edtech product to succeed. Gamification aids in meeting goals through its multiple facets and philosophy.

1. Engagement as a KPI

For any business increasing usage is the key. With education for which engaged and improved learning is a key objective, gamification scores points as it allows the necessary hooks to attract and keep user attention while providing immersive learning experiences. Research suggests that we learn best by a combination of doing, and not just reading or listening, which makes the learning experience more active.

2. Increases stickiness of the product

Children these days are among the most tech-savvy people precisely because they have been playing games on a range of devices for nearly their entire lives. Introducing them to gamified learning will be a natural hook to ensure their engagement, keeping their high expectations of digital stimulation intact. Users desire to achieve and the experience celebrates user progress.

3. Increases motivation to learn

We all want to win, so why not provide a structure that allows students to learn valuable skills while they play? Education is competitive and gamers use that creators use that ideology. Gamification can be around competing with others and also to level your own self up. Tangible and intangible rewards and methods of keeping score can aid that.

4. Allows for deeper learning experiences

Students can work at their own level and pace. learning on the go in gamified learning. Think about MOOC platforms like Eudemy, Coursera which also are simulating this need along with providing prompt self-peer assessment opportunities.


Key UX ideas to create better gamification models for education

Applications like Law Dojo, Doctor Games and Apps are examples of how gamification can make something as difficult as studying law or medicine more understandable and even exciting. The UX journey of the gamifying experience can truly make or break the deal!

1. Understand user goals

Develop an understanding of milestones to be crossed and understand the goals of your users. Exploring the different personas a child can take based on his motivations like socializing, achieving, exploring can also help in gamifying the application such that it becomes a rewarding and engaging experience for users.

2. Build holistic gaming

Offline reminders can be synced with online engagement: successful recognition of the model can be when the learning can be enhanced through collaborations offline, partnering with schools and community, creating holistic learning experiences. Pokemone go allowed for such a simulation by bringing closer the online and offline together.

3. Integrate Real-Time Feedback

Psychologically, real-time feedback is one of the most powerful ways to reinforce desired behavior. Embedding formative assessments and tracking and indicating progress also aids to reinforce behavior. Tools like Gradecraft, 3D GameLab, Classcraft and Virtual Locker can streamline management, game set-up, and assessment  and can provide teachers with a simple way to determine which students are ready for the next step, and those which require a little bit of extra attention.

4. Track user progress

It is very important to show progress bars wherever possible. Called as Zeigarnik Effect, this works the best, when users are constantly shown their unfinished tasks which they inherently have a tendency to complete. This is called the Invest in a design to allow customization: Personalisation of certain modules, rules for points systems, levels, badges, bonuses and score tables gives great flexibility to teachers to plan and meet their teaching goals.

5. Rethink Rewarding

Find the top 5 actions user must take on your website or app to maximize revenue generation and reward the users for those actions. There are different stages a player goes through while playing a game/using a product. Keep this in mind when designing reward systems. What’s lucrative to a novice may not appeal to the master. Unexpected delights, appreciation by others, leaderboards are another ways to optimize and gain through rewarding.


Are there cons to gamification?

Although gamification offers students a more customized approach to learn, and to maximize their potential a question to ask is whether the knowledge acquired is concrete learning?

  • Is the knowledge converted to applicable learning, retained in memory or does gamification just add on another milestone to achieve in a fun manner?
  • What about different learning experiences which require different skills? Like pottery vs learning alphabet vs understanding gravity? Can gamification work for all?
  • Can it be a knowledge retention and engagement be a KPI to measure the gamifying experience? 
Citizenship and learning should extend beyond virtual and digital ecosystems and need to be applicable to real life scenarios. Any form of digital learning which addresses to embed deeper behaviors of collaboration, creative and critical thinking and embodied learning will mark the future of the 21st century. Then we could say that gamification can truly be embraced by children and educators alike for its potential.
Mohita Jaiswal

Mohita Jaiswal

Research, Strategy and Content consultant. With a master's from IIT Delhi, Mohita has diverse experience across domains of technical research, big data, leadership development and arts in education. Having a keen interest in the science of human behavior, she looks at enabling holistic learning experiences, working at the intersection of technology, design, and human psychology.


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