Gamification of Learning – What, How And Why?

Dhwani Shah
June 20, 2023
4 min read

What is Gamification? 

Gamification is basically the use of game design elements and techniques and game principles in non gaming spheres. Gamification is not a novel concept. It's been used to engage us since years. A very simple example of gamification in everyday life is a rewards credit card. Every time you spend on the credit card, the bank rewards you with points, which can be collected and redeemed later for gift vouchers, air miles, merchandise and more. 

Gamification of Learning

The gamification of learning is the application of addictive gaming elements, like design, rewards and leaderboards, to studying. Have you noticed how fast time passes when you're immersed into a video game, moving on level after level, earning coins and claiming rewards? You can play for hours at an end and still not get enough. Applying this theory to instruction, gamification sets out to make the learning experience more engaging and gratifying.

How Gamification Works

Gamification works by tapping into human emotions, like happiness, excitement, intrigue, that drive positive experiences. Every time you do something pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine - the pleasure hormone - which triggers feelings of euphoria, bliss and increased motivation.

Leveling up or earning points in games makes our dopamine levels spike, which is why playing is so attractive and addictive; you want to keep on coming back for the dopamine rush.

Moreover, humans are competitive by nature. Gaming apps capitalize on this characteristic by showing you your previous records or displaying leaderboards when you compete with your friends to tell you who's come out on top. We want to beat personal bests and also prove that we’re better than others, so we keep returning to try again. 

Besides, who doesn't love rewards? Everytime you earn a tangible reward for accomplishing a goal, you feel a sense of achievement which will drive you to accomplish more. Thus, gamification works by cleverly tapping into our natural instincts.

Why Gamify your Classroom?

  • Increased Student Engagement

The gamification of learning can drive student engagement by making the process of learning fun and interactive. A whopping 97% of kids play computer and video games, making gamification a smart way to keep students engaged in the classroom.  Game elements like leaderboards and scorekeeping may also motivate them to compete with and outperform themselves and others, thus pushing them to give their best. 

  • Instant Feedback

Most games offer instant feedback in the form of leaderboards or dashboards at the end of each round or task. Introducing gamification in learning offers students real time feedback about their performance as opposed to annual tests and performance reviews.

  • Normalizes failure

Failing is an important part of the learning process. Yet, most students are afraid and embarrassed of failure. games have the power to change this. Most of us replay a failed video game level over and over again till we actually make it through. If executed well in learning, gamification can encourage students to reattempt tasks comfortably and confidently. 

However, critics of gamification argue that fast paced learning and instant feedback lead to a decrease in attention span. Gamifying learning can also be quite costly and logistically tedious.

How Can You Gamify Your Classroom?

1. Incorporate old school games 

Old school games like Risk, Scrabble, Fletter, scavenger hunts and flashcards, when suited to classroom use, can go a long way in making learning fun. Flashcards can be used to introduce and memorize new vocabulary words, while Scrabble can be used to spell out answers to classroom quizzes. Pen and paper tests can be switched to something engaging like a Risk setting, where students are divided into teams, and can capture or lose territory by answering questions correctly or incorrectly respectively.

2. Use a points based reward system

Everybody wants to see their names at the top of a leaderboard. Setting up a visual classroom scoreboard wherein students are rewarded points for on-time completion of tasks, classroom participation, acing tests and following class rules will motivate students to perform better and promote healthy competition among the classroom. 

3. Design Quests

Treasure hunts can be super engrossing and entertaining! Turning the syllabus into a quest or a treasure hunt is a sure shot way of making the learning experience immersive. Each chapter can be a quest, where students are awarded badges or stickers for completion and mastery. Students may receive badges for doing well on a quiz or helping a classmate with their doubts.

4. Digital games

Who doesn't enjoy trivia night? With the onset of digital learning, Kahoot!, Quizlet and Gimkit are earning popularity among students and teachers both. These simple and fun applications allow teachers to create multiple choice questions that students answer on their own devices. Scores are displayed on the screen after each question, thus motivating students to surpass classmates. Moreover, quizzes are a form of retrieval practice, a powerful strategy to help remember and cement learning. Educational videos are a great alternative to reading paragraphs from a textbook. 

5. Introduce a narrative

Video games keep us hooked onto them by providing us with a compelling narrative - an interesting storyline and fascinating characters or avatars. Students can try taking on different characters while learning, say, about the American Civil War and portray the event. 

Estimated to reach a global market value of  USD 38.42 million by 2026, gamification has become a pervasive part of learning over the last few years.

Gamification is about transforming traditional learning into something creative and enjoyable and can metamorphose the learning environment for both students and teachers if employed suitably. 

Dhwani Shah

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