The Gamification in Education

Gamification [n]: the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. It is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users.

Gabe Zichermann is an entrepreneur, author, highly rated public speaker and gamification thought leader. He is the chair of the Gamification Summit and Workshops, and is co-author of the book “Game-Based Marketing, where he makes a compelling case for the use of games and game mechanics in everyday life, the web and business.

When I used to work at the Internet Cafe back in High School, I was always wondering why there are so many young adults would play video/online games for endless hours. I am not a gamer personally but surrounded by dozen of heavy gamer friends. With my Instructional Design (ID) work, I often asked my gamer friends for their ideas of having “FUN” before starting UI and UX design for the eLearning modules. I can see a number of game elements have been implemented in my previous ID portfolio, such as freedom to choose a path to follow to complete the class successfully specific rules you need to follow for each path different badges for different achievements along with a statement of achievement a system that rewards you with even more than a badges if you score in the top of the class.

I guess this is all done with the sole purpose of making it more entertaining and motivational to participate in the class. Games allow the player multiple chances to experiment and try various routes to reach the same goal.This ultimately will lead the player to a discovery of what works and what doesn’t. We see this in the game Angry Birds, which at its core is just a game about experimenting until you find the solution, yet it somehow keeps us coming back for more. This freedom to experiment encourages us to make our own decisions and determine what steps they will take to accomplish a larger task. As we accomplish small, manageable sub-tasks we feel a more immediate reward for our actions, thus leading us to a greater appreciation of what the benefits of our long term goals are.

Games don’t permanently punish an individual’s failure, but instead treat it as a learning process. Anyone who has played a game before understands the idea that in order to learn how to accomplish a task best, one first must try various things out of which many will fail. The reason we don’t throw down our controllers and turn off our consoles forever when we fail in-game is that we are given multiple chances to succeed and we don’t risk all that much with each failure. The polar opposite is true in a school setting, especially in college, where a student is given only a few chances to succeed (midterms and finals) and if they fail, the consequences are very dire (failing a class). This is an obvious example of where gamification would benefit the educational system by putting failure in a new light as a necessary aspect of learning and creating a system in which effort, instead of mastery, is rewarded.

Games encourage the individual to be different people than they are in reality. The problems a game presents challenges players to take on different roles and make decisions from new points of view than they normally would. In a similar way gamification would encourage people, even those who feel like “school isn’t for them”, to approach being a student as a new role to fill and encourage them to get involved in learning as a means to success. People would begin developing a scholarly identity which would only serve to connect them with other students and engage them with their learning.

I also think some of this gamification strategy unfortunately is backfiring: For example the quizzes are trickier than they should because if they are too easy then all learners would be in the top of the class with perfect score thus making a mockery of the rewarding system. So instead they are too hard and therefore demotivational for many learners, sometimes their answers also confused me. It is difficult to create meaningful assessments that can efficiently transferring new skills and knowledge for each individual learner through gaming environment. Hard to analyzing assessments results in the game-based learning, the larger the game, the more intricate the challenge and the harder to keep track of things.

Another example is that is rewarding system inspires too much competition. Unlike other training modules, the focus on modules attached with rewarding system is shift from education to competition for virtual badges and achievements.

So what do you think? How to measure the quality and effectiveness in game-based learning?


One thought on “The Gamification in Education

  1. Gamification in education is a new concept to me. It’s a very thought-provoking idea. It resonates with many of the concepts relating to the incorporation of motivational techniques in E-learning.

    Relevance of educational content to the learner can be a strong motivation for learning. If a learner perceives that the learning process will result in a tangible benefit, a new skill, for example, then she is more likely to be motivated to learn. When the learner can perceive no tangible benefit it is more difficult to establish motivation. J. Keller (1987) suggests that relevance can come from the way something is taught; it does not have to come from the content itself. He suggests that people high in a need for achievement, for example, will be motivated by the opportunity to set moderately challenging goals. Game elements incorporated in E-learning could potentially provide such motivation. The example of awarding achievement badges is consistent with this idea.

    In order to maintain learner motivation during the learning process a number of strategies can be used including; stimulation, learner participation, questions, humour, and varied presentation styles (Hodges, 2004). Gamification is certainly a way of introducing these elements into E-learning.

    The point regarding the demotivating effect of quizzes that are too difficult is a valid one. J. M. Keller (2008) makes the point that, according to expectancy-value theory, to establish and maintain motivation a learner must have a reasonable expectation of success. Difficult quizzes may be motivating for learners with a high need for achievement; however, for other learners they may be demotivating.


    Hodges, C. B. (2004). Designing to Motivate: Motivational Techniques to Incorporate in E-Learning Experiences. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 2(3), 1-7.
    Keller, J. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of instructional development, 10(3), 2-10. doi: 10.1007/BF02905780
    Keller, J. M. (2008). First principles of motivation to learn and e^sup 3^-learning. Distance Education, 29(2), 175-185.

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