5 elements of a gamified approach to use in education

Gamification’ – the process of using elements of interactive game design in other applications – has become popular in education. This is for good reason. There are traits in the gamer personality that can be profitably developed in learners (traits such as perseverance and focus).

Here are 5 elements of a gamified approach and how to use them in education:

1. The gamer personality

Video gamers show great drive to improve their skills and ‘master’ games. Mastering learning materials becomes attractive when elements that drive gamers to persevere are used in educational materials.

One element of a gamified approach that helps to recreate this positive element of the gamer personality is ‘unlockable’ content. Learners only gain access to materials in educational apps once they have fulfilled certain requirements and reached a certain level. This fosters the will to continue and succeed.

Elements of gamification
Gamification is successfully used in education to motivate learners

2. Game mechanics

What are game mechanics? They’re the rules and actions allowed or required for gamers to interact with the game. Game mechanics, for example, include:

  • Taking turns
  • Scoring points
  • Elements of bartering (e.g. auctioning and bidding)
  • Dice-throwing
  • Moving playing pieces over virtual terrain
  • Tile-laying (laying down playing pieces)

Game mechanics are increasingly being used in education to incentivize learning, make lessons fun and convey information in a manner that appeals to tech-savvy millenials. Educational apps use elements of competition (such as competing with friends to score points) to foster learner commitment to mastering materials.

There are numerous advantages to using game mechanics in education. These include:

  • Non-linear goal progression – learners have multiple ways to chart a path to the end of a lesson, thus content feels engaging rather than dull
  • Rewarding effort and not only success (giving learners of all skill levels the incentive to persist)
  • Peer motivation: Learners encourage each other to reach learning goals (in a team-based, gamified learning environment)

3. Gamified engagement approaches

In the world of video games, game designers persuade gamers to return to meet and conquer new objectives by encouraging engagement. Features that can be used to raise engagement in the gamified classroom include:

  • Unlockable rewards
  • Social incentives (such as forming a league and rising through a leader board)
  • Perks and rewards tied to ‘levelling up’ (reaching a higher level of mastery)

You can incorporate these gamified engagement strategies in the classroom, creating social incentives via group work. You can also structure content so that the content with the highest entertainment value is released to learners as they reach specific tiers of progress.

4. Modifiable content

In the gaming industry, large communities have grown around original games, communities that produce their own spin-off content. This culture of ‘modding’ content can be incorporated in the class room as you give learners the opportunity to create their own interactive designs that turn the latest lesson concepts into games.

An example of this approach is the app Kahoot! Users can combine multipole choice questions and add videos, images and diagrams to amplify the engagement of players. You can either design your own challenge or (if you work with older learners) have learners collaborate in creating their own lessons using subjects currently under discussion.

5. Affirming progress-tracking

In traditional educational models, the onus falls on the teacher to track and report on student progress. Yet one of the great features of gamification is that gamers are able to track (and reinforce positive feelings about) their own progress. Goalbook is a collaborative progress-tracking tool. Teachers set students tasks and track their progress, while giving students access to the same resources. This streamlines student monitoring and reporting, while also incentivizing learning for the student.

These five elements of a gamified approach can transform your instructional methods. A gamified approach that encourages learners to collaborate, persevere and take pride in their progress will foster learner commitment which in turn helps to produce better student performance.

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