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, more and more educational institutions and companies are implementing it to increase student 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 students 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. 

Fur 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 

Students learn best when they have clear goals and greater purpose in mind – especially in a virtual learning environment where student engagement can be a challenge. Applying gamification strategies in education and virtual learning will provide students 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 where students can earn badges for introductory coding
  • Foreign languages where they can be part of a team who learns the most new words in a week
  • Anatomy (a new twist on the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone)
  • Military history where they can imagine themselves in the shoes of famous generals
  • Accounting where students “learning accounts” grow as they master each facet of the material

1. Determine academic goals
What’s the ultimate goal of the activities and assignments? Maybe you want students 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 students learn
There are endless games that can be applied to your virtual classroom, so it’s important to narrow down which would be the most effective for your students. 

If students are learning new vocabulary terms, instructors can 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

If students are learning roles within an organization, use:

      • Role-playing games for a subversive learning experience
      • Whiteboard apps allowing students to draw organizational charts
      • Group activities to mimic employee meetings and assigning different roles for each student

3. Create a points system with rewards
Earning points encourages participation by rewarding students for their efforts. Your points system and rewards should align with your classroom style and allow students 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 classroom 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 instructors to use intrinsic in addition to extrinsic motivators (points, badges, etc.). This helps to avoid students focusing on getting a reward rather than actually learning from the course activity. By aligning intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, instructors help engage and motivate students to complete activities and assignments.

4. Start with subjects and assignments that students 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 students 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 the students but provide short quiz questions that will test their knowledge to make sure they aren’t rushing through the reading
      • Use a short-form quiz question and ask the student 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 students – especially in a virtual learning environment. One way to help engage students 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, students may be more incentivized to work harder and even motivate others to do the same. You can also allow students to share rewards and points within the group.

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

7. Get feedback from your students
After students have completed a few gamification activities, ask for their feedback about each one. Was it fun? Did they find it difficult? Would it be better suited for another topic? Ask your students and take their feedback into account as you plan to implement gamification strategies and game-based learning in your virtual classroom.

What technology is used for gamification in education?

Countless apps and gamification solutions can be used for gamification or game-based learning in a virtual class or traditional class. A few examples are flashcards, puzzles, role-play, timers, or pop quizzes. 

You can also build gamification into your virtual class 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 students completing the game-based learning activities are the students getting credit. This is one of the advantages of using the principles of gamification in your LMS. Your students 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 the student and identify any potentially dishonest behavior
  • ID Verification to make sure that the student completing the assignment or online exam is the student getting credit
  • Browser lock to make sure that students 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 students 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 students “gaming the system.”

Where is gamification used?

Aside from education and virtual learning, 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, which you might think couldn’t be any more focused on gaming than in the pre-digital era, but they’re actually gamifying their games.

Is gamification effective?

Gamification is effective in a virtual learning environment as well as corporate training. Game-based learning is effective because it gives students and employees 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 virtual classroom?

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