August 03, 2022
August 03, 2022
Gamification is making massive headway in becoming one of the most effective and enjoyable ways of encouraging learning. It even expands into the workplace, offering fun incentives to employees to strive to be better at their job in the name of competition and reward. However, while it is gaining traction, not everyone fully understands it, nor how it started. They are thus, unfortunately, missing out on the enormous benefits. This short article will cover what gamification is, a bit of the history behind it, as well as the pros and cons to help you better understand the effect it can have on a learning environment.
Gamification is the idea that specific aspects of games, and gaming in general, can be applied to real-world situations to improve learning and the working experience. This isn’t a crazy concept; you’ve likely already experienced some gamification in your childhood. For example, did your parents give you rewards for chores? Did your teachers give you gold stars when you did well on a test? “Sweat to gain” is a concept wherein we try to equate how much effort we must give in return for a particular benefit. As adults, we do our jobs to get paid. Children, on the other hand, aren’t paid to learn. And, as much as you might wish this wasn’t so, learning is ostensibly not a reward for most children.
So, how can learning be molded to become a more rewarding and encouraging experience? By gamifying aspects to create a more enjoyable and favorable environment, such as point scoring, competitive comparisons between student performances, their own performances, and some benefit derived from that, Gamification is arguably best implemented when there is a progression system. A points table for students correctly answering questions is an excellent example. You may even go as far as to include “levels” and “bonuses” as a reward. While these rewards are not intrinsically worth anything, the idea of competition between students, their peers, or their own self, is enough of a reward.
Gamification heavily focuses on influencing why a student does something, not just the fact that they do it. Gamification relies on learners going out of their way to work harder, contribute more, or be more confident because the reward is enticing enough. Many students choose not to contribute to classroom discussions because there is nothing to gain from the effort. So why bother?
It’s hard to pinpoint when the first attempts to gamify learning occurred because learning has likely existed for just as long as there have been games, as these are both core human experiences. Even as far back as the 1700s, schools have used rewards and points systems in the classroom for completing projects and contributing to discussions. The 1900s brought a more scientific take on that core idea and began exploring “reward management systems,” which touch on the concept of sweat to gain in the classroom. Gamification in the modern sense is newer and comes alongside the advent of video games. It’s clear that the concepts of “leveling up” are derived from here.
As computers became far more commonplace and schools regularly gave students access to them, gamification transcended the space. It began to offer genuine games designed to encourage learning. An example is the website “Coolmath games”, which exploded with popularity in the early 2000s as a way of gamifying math problems. Quick responses to questions such as multiplication tables and rapid-fire addition and subtraction questions were a very successful way of improving math skills in a competitive and enjoyable nature.
There is a vast swath of great benefits of gamification in the learning environment. Whether it’s a student learning environment or employee education, here are some of the most important benefits of gamification of learning.
Interactivity can be very closely linked to how much information retention there is. Passive learning, while good for some, isn’t beneficial to most. There is an idea that people learn best in one of a few ways, either by watching, listening, or replicating. Therefore, it’s important to touch on all three experiences to encapsulate all students in the most effective learning process. Gamification allows you as an educator to increase learner interaction with fellow students and encourages interaction in the learning environment.
Getting feedback in real-time and offering positive reinforcement is hugely beneficial to the learning experience and enjoyment of the process. Imagine a game like “Coolmath games”, where you get points for every rapid-fire math question you respond to correctly. You get immediate feedback on whether you were right and get rewarded when applicable. It’s like a student getting a one-on-one session with their teacher; they learn more due to immediate feedback, praise or correction. Unfortunately, one-on-one learning isn’t practical throughout the day, so gamification can be an excellent substitute.
It’s important to be careful when using the word addiction, especially with children, as it can have unpleasant connotations. However, fostering a healthy addiction to gamified learning is positive. Children tend to be glued to games or their phones nowadays. But that pre-existing nature can be corrected to focus on the desire to play games and have those immediate feedback/reward experiences replaced with educational experiences.
Of course, fun needs to be included. You can delve into the science and psychology of it. You can explore the bigger picture of how and why it’s better from an educational perspective. But ultimately, it boils down to it being more enjoyable. Children respond well to things they find enjoyable. They react poorly to anything boring or dull. This applies just as much to adults as it does to children. We put off the less enjoyable tasks in favor of ones we may find more fun every day of our lives. But an education can’t and shouldn’t be avoided, so it may as well be made as enjoyable as possible. There is evidence that fun increases our cognitive neural networks and increases information retention, which feels almost obvious. We tend to remember good experiences and ignore the bad ones. We all remember the most fun days at school, but we likely hardly remember the days spent doing nothing but staring out the window and daydreaming.
It would be naive to assume that there aren’t any possible drawbacks to gamifying the learning experience. Of course, there are. However, they all tend to come from pushing the boundary between games and learning too far. The concept of learning must remain at the forefront always. If the game takes over, there is always a chance it simply becomes a distraction, which is not conducive to effective learning. Furthermore, the idea of points and rewards for well-performing students can be seen negatively by poorly performing students. It’s important to encourage competition between what a learner achieved today versus yesterday, not simply how they compare to their peers. The educator or facilitator of gamified learning is responsible for finding the right balance between game and learning to ensure maximum productivity with minimum distraction. We all know how easily children can become distracted.
Hopefully, this article has given you valuable insight into gamification and where it originated. It has enormous applications in many environments, from elementary school to college. And, of course, the workplace. While it does have the potential for problems if not executed correctly, gamification of learning has a considerable potential to be massively beneficial to any classroom environment. Even if it only plays a small part in the interactive learning a student partakes in during the day, it could be enough to encourage them to try harder, contribute more, help others, and constantly strive to be better than they were yesterday.
Gamification of learning sometimes gets a bad reputation and becomes synonymous with a teacher making no effort, but that is not the case. Experiment with gamification in the classroom and see just how positive the reaction it gets from the students is. Increasing desire to learn and fostering healthy competition are character traits beneficial to have in later life. Gamification truly is great and is an inclusive way of learning for any student of any age.
Co-Founder and CTO