What is Gamification?

by Rita-Marie Conrad, PhD

While the term gamification may bring to mind elaborate video games and simulation environments, in a 2014 interview by Sage Publications, innovative educator LaVaque-Manty defined gaming in an academic environment as having these main elements:

  • “multiple paths to achievement (not everybody has to do the same assignments),
  • safe failures (let’s allow students to practice the assignment instruments we impose on them before making them high stakes), and
  • “leveling up” instead of “getting points taken off.”

These strategies can be incorporated into your course without having programming expertise and needing to develop an elaborate game environment or app.

Why consider it?

In a gamified course students have more control over the learning experience which may be the reason behind some of the impacts that research indicates such as:

  • Higher performance on practical assignments (Domínguez, Saenz-de-Navarrete et. al., 2013) 
  • Enhances learning motivation (Domínguez, Saenz-de-Navarrete, et. al., 2013; Garris, Ahlers, & Driskell, 2002) 
  • Supports attitude change (Hays, 2005), behavior change (Schoech, Boyas, et. al., 2013) 
  • Encourages collaboration (Schafer et al., 2013) 
  • Promotes learner engagement (Giannetto, Chao, & Fontana, 2013; Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2005)

How to do it?

The thought of gamifying a course can be overwhelming.  How do you think about a course as “a game”?  Do you have to program?  How do you make learning motivating without trivializing the experience?  Consider the elements that LaVaque-Manty outlined above and start making these simple changes to your course:

1 - Provide multiple paths to the goal.

Whenever possible, allow learners to choose or define how they will demonstrate their knowledge.   Review what you want your students to be able to do or know at the end of the course and provide opportunities for learners to select an authentic and meaningful way for them to show what they have learned.  This could be along the lines of a paper, project, or digital artifact (which might be usable in future courses). 

2 – Allow “safe failure”.

Low-stakes quizzes, peer partner activities, writing papers in sections, allowing resubmittals of assignments, multiple attempts at a test, are just some of the ways you can provide a means for learners to practice or build their expertise before determining their final performance level. 

3 -  “Level up” instead of deducting points.

Aviles (2014) suggests starting learners at “0” and adding to their points with each assignment accomplished as opposed to starting them at “100” and deducting points as the course progresses.  “Leveling up” indicates how their experience is increasing and how they are moving toward the end goal, rather than how they are not “making the grade” and falling further down the scale. 

He also suggests renaming assessments and using larger point values to change the students’ perceptions and relationship to assessment.  By tying the assessment to the field and experiences in the field, you convey the rationale of the assessment as well.   

Want to Learn More?

There are several MOOC courses from Lynda.com, Coursera and Udemy on gamification if you are interested in learning more.

References:

Aviles, C. (2014). Gamify Your Class Level 1: XP Grading System.  Retrieve October 26, 2015 from http://www.techedupteacher.com/gamify-your-class-level-i-xp-grading-syst... .

Domínguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., de-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L., Pagés, C.,  and Martínez-Herráiz J. J.  (2013).  Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes.  Computers & Education 63 (380–392).

Garris, R., Ahlers, R., & Driskell, J. (2002). Games, motivation, and learning: A research and practice model simulation gaming. Simulation & Gaming, 33 , 441–467.

Giannetto, D., Chao, J., & Fontana, A. (2013). Gamification in a social learning environment. Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, 10 , 195–207.

Mitchell, A., & Savill-Smith, C. (2005). The use of computer and video games for learning.  A review of the literature . London, UK: Learning and Skills Development Agency.

Sage Publications (2014).  How Do You (Successfully) Gamify a Course.  An interview with Mika LaVaque-Manty.  Retrieved October 26, 2015 from http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2014/08/how-do-you-successfully-gamify-a-course/

Schafer, A., Holz, J., Leonhardt, T., Schroeder, U., Brauner, P., & Ziefle, M. (2013). From boring to scoring – A collaborative serious game for learning and practicing mathematical logic for computer science education. Computer Science Education, 23 (2), 87–111.

Schoech, D., Boyas, J. F., Black, B. M., & Elias-Lambert, N. (2013). Gamification for behavior change: Lessons from developing a social, multiuser, web-tablet based prevention game for youths. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 31 (3), 197–217