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Gamification of learning

The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning.Gamification, broadly defined, is the process of defining the elements which comprise games that make those games fun and motivate players to continue playing, and using those same elements in a non-game context to influence behaviour. In educational contexts, examples of desired student behaviour which gamification can potentially influence include attending class, focusing on meaningful learning tasks, and taking initiative.

Distinguishable from game-based learning, gamification of learning does not involve students in designing and creating their own games, or in playing commercially produced video games. Within game-based learning initiatives, students might use Gamestar Mechanic or GameMaker to create their own video game, or play Minecraft, for example, where they explore and create 3D worlds. In these examples, along with games such as Surge for PlayStation and Angry Birds, the learning agenda is encompassed within the game itself.

Some authors contrast gamification of learning with game-based learning, claiming that gamification occurs only when learning happens in a non-game context, such as a school classroom, and when a series of game elements is arranged into a system or "game layer" which operates in coordination with the learning in that regular classroom. Others include games that are created to induce learning,

Some elements of games that may be used to motivate learners and facilitate learning include:

When a classroom incorporates the use of some of these elements, that environment can be considered "gamified". There is no distinction as to how many elements need to be included to officially constitute gamification, but a guiding principle is that gamification takes into consideration the complex system of reasons a person chooses to act, and not just one single factor. Progress mechanics, which need not make use of advanced technology, are often thought of as constituting a gamified system However, used in isolation, these points and opportunities to earn achievements are not necessarily effective motivators for learning. Engaging video games which can keep players playing for hours on end do not maintain players' interest by simply offering the ability to earn points and beat levels. Rather, the story that carries players along, the chances for players to connect and collaborate with others, the immediate feedback, the increasing challenges, and the powerful choices given to players about how to proceed throughout the game, are immensely significant factors in sustained engagement. Business initiatives designed to use gamification to retain and recruit customers, but do not incorporate a creative and balanced approach to combining game elements, may be destined to fail. Similarly, in learning contexts, the unique needs of each set of learners, along with the specific learning objectives relevant to that context must inform the combination of game elements to shape a compelling gamification system that has the potential to motivate learners.

  • Progress mechanics (points/badges/leaderboards, or PBL's)
  • Narrative
  • Player control
  • Immediate feedback
  • Opportunities for collaborative problem solving
  • Scaffolded learning with increasing challenges
  • Opportunities for mastery, and leveling up
  • Social connection
  • Fun
  • Challenges
  • Music
  • giving students ownership of their learning
  • opportunities for identity work through taking on alternate selves
  • freedom to fail and try again without negative repercussions
  • chances to increase fun and joy in the classroom
  • opportunities for differentiated instruction
  • making learning visible
  • providing a manageable set of subtasks and tasks
  • inspiring students to discover intrinsic motivators for learning
  • motivating students with dyslexia with low levels of motivation
  • Lee Sheldon, associate professor and co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shares an example of a course he taught as a game.
  • Quest to Learn is a public school in New York City for students in grades 6 through 12, designed by Katie Salen, which uses narrative, problem-solving, and the structure of game design systems to inform its pedagogy, school culture, and curriculum.
  • Lloyd Sommerer, middle/high school teacher, gamifies his programming class.
  • Paul Darvasi created "The Ward Game" for his high school English class for studying the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
  • Khan Academy, which began as an informal system featuring instructional videos which has grown into a gamified learning platform and been adapted in some formal learning contexts.
  • Bob De Schutter, game designer and professor at Miami University designed several game-based courses and published multiple design research papers on them.


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