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What is Gamification in Education and Virtual Learning?

Do any apps on your phone encourage you to log in each day? Do you redeem Starbucks reward points for a free coffee? Have you ever made an extra purchase to reach the minimum spend for free shipping? If so, you’ve experienced gamification.

While gamification isn’t a new concept, it’s being used more and more in online education to increase learner engagement, improve the learning experience, and make learning fun.

What is gamification?

Gamification makes learning fun and interactive by applying games or elements of game playing to a nongame environment to encourage engagement with an assignment or task. 

Gamification uses gaming elements, such as points, levels, or awards can transform boring tasks, reduce procrastination, and get people engaged. Gamification does this by taking advantage of our human impulse for achievement, competition, attaining status, and our wish to take part in a larger community.

How does gamification work?

During the educational games, participants might be offered badges or points for completing assignments and tasks that result in increased rank or level.  

Gamification and game-based learning strategies encourage friendly competition among learners and peers. Many will decide that 10th or 3rd place isn’t good enough, and will then strive to get better and rise higher in the rankings. 

Four key components of gamification according to Brandon Hall:

  1. Challenges and goals that participants must accomplish to win
  2. Obstacles to overcome to achieve the goal
  3. Rewards that participants will receive
  4. Game rules

Gamification in education and virtual learning

We learn best when they have clear goals and greater purpose in mind – especially in a virtual learning environment where engagement can be a challenge. Applying gamification strategies in education and virtual learning provides learners with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to learn and apply their knowledge.

How do you apply gamification strategies in education and virtual classes?

Examples of how e-learning can use gamification techniques:

  • Computer science – earning badges for introductory coding
  • Foreign languages – being part of a team who learns the most new words in a week
  • Anatomy – playing games to identify of body parts
  • Military history – roleplaying as famous generals

1. Determine educational goals

 What’s the ultimate goal of the activities and assignments? Maybe you want learners to have a foundation of vocabulary and definitions before an exam or to fully understand various roles within an organization. Determine clear goals for each activity using game-based learning.

2. Decide what games will help them learn

There are endless games that can be applied to your virtual courses, so it’s important to narrow down which would be the most effective for learners. 

To learn new vocabulary terms, use:

  • Flashcard apps to test their knowledge and track their scores
  • Timers to rank their speed to completion
  • Crossword puzzle apps to test definition knowledge

To learn about roles within an organization, use:

  • Role-playing games for a subversive learning experience
  • Whiteboard apps allowing learners to draw organizational charts
  • Group activities to mimic employee meetings and assigning different roles for each learner
7 gamification strategies for online learning

3. Create a points system with rewards

Earning points encourages participation by rewarding learners for their efforts. Your points system and rewards should align with your course’s style and allow learners to track their progress. You can score specific games based on the level of difficulty or time to complete them. You can also assign points to help improve course efficiencies, such as completing a game-based learning activity by time of day. Whether it’s points for an activity or a badge for reaching a certain level, it provides a tangible reward for efforts.

Use intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for game-based learning

It’s also important for admins to use intrinsic in addition to extrinsic motivators (points, badges, etc.). This helps to avoid learners focusing on getting a reward rather than actually learning from the course activity. By aligning intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, course owners help engage and motivate learners to complete activities and assignments.

4. Start with subjects and assignments that learners typically don’t enjoy

Ultimately, gamification and game-based learning is a fun way to encourage learning and engagement with course content. It’s a great way to make course activities and tasks that learners usually don’t enjoy more fun and engaging. 

For example, if you assign a long reading assignment, you can:

  • Break it up into smaller chunks and provide 2-3 easy questions as a mini-quiz 
  • Time them, but provide short quiz questions that will test their knowledge to make sure they aren’t rushing through the reading
  • Use short-form quiz questions and ask learners to provide 2-3 sentences of what they found most interesting in that specific section of the reading assignment

5. Integrate team activities

It can be challenging to engage learners – especially in a virtual learning environment. One way to help engage them is to use team activities. Team activities create a sense of community, increase peer interaction, and encourage collaboration and communication. Most gamification principles for individuals can apply to teams as well. 

Additionally, with team activities, learners may be more incentivized to work harder and even motivate others to do the same. You can also allow them to share rewards and points within the group.

6. Make progress visible with leaderboards and scoreboards

Using a leaderboard and scoreboard helps learners track their progress and encourages friendly competition. Make sure they can always access these so they can see where they rank among their peers and how far they’ve come.

7. Get feedback

After they’ve completed a few game-based activities, ask for feedback about each one. Was it fun? Did they find it difficult? Would it be better suited for another topic? Use that feedback as you plan to implement gamification strategies and game-based learning in your online courses.

What technology is used for gamification in online education?

Countless apps and gamification solutions can be used, like flashcards, puzzles, role-play, timers, or pop quizzes.

You can also build gamification into your virtual course using the LMS. Whether it’s using standard LMS capabilities such as timed quizzes and forum responses or using third-party integrations with gamification software, or directly from a gamification app, the possibilities are endless. 

You can even use online proctoring software to make sure that learners completing the game-based learning activities on a level playing field. This is one of the advantages of using the principles of gamification in your LMS. Your learners would need to start the process from the LMS. Once they launch proctoring from there, they can navigate to any password-protected type of activity and it’ll be protected by our blend of AI technology and live human proctors. 

Online proctoring can help level the playfield in gamification in the following ways:

  • Video and audio recording to record and identify any potentially dishonest behavior
  • ID Verification to make sure that the person completing the assignment or online exam is the learner getting credit
  • Browser lock to make sure that learners aren’t using other websites or applications to complete the activity
  • Third-party software integration so that you can proctor third-party exams and activities with no academic dishonesty concerns
  • 24/7/365 US-based support in case they have any issues with technology being used
  • On-demand scheduling for exams and assignments

With online proctoring software, you can feel confident that gamification won’t negatively impact academic standards or increase the likelihood of learners “gaming the system.”

Where is gamification used?

Aside from online education, gamification strategies and game-based learning are being used in employee training, digital marketing, apps for health and physical activity, and even in online casinos.

Is gamification effective?

Gamification is effective in a virtual learning environment as well as corporate training. Game-based learning is effective because it gives learners control of their success and provides both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations which helps provide a sense of purpose for all.

Want to see how Honorlock can help you protect the academic integrity of gamification and game-based learning in your online courses?

Schedule time with us and we’ll show you how you can accomplish this.