Skip to main content

Student Engagement Series: Part 2 – Gamification

As an educator, you have probably heard about the concept of gamification. It's a relatively new concept in the academic realm, but the general concept is easy to apply. In essence, turn everything into a game. This may sound juvenile or too simplistic, but it is a particularly effective method for teaching Generation Z.

There's a reason for this, especially with Gen. Z. who has grown up playing video games. Everything that they do is related to gaming, so they are very sensitive to this type of approach. If you turn something into a game, they automatically engage because it's what they know. This is not something that people who grew up before the era of video games are necessarily familiar with.

In reality, everything can be a game. I explain this to my students at the beginning of every semester. “What is the objective of a game?”, I ask. “It is to win, of course.” This is exactly what I say when I review my syllabus at the beginning of the semester. I show the point-value system that I use and then relate that to a game. What is winning in the classroom? It involves scoring as many points as possible. When you explain a course from this perspective, it begins to change the mindset of students from “Why am I here” to “I have to win in this scenario.”

You don’t have to apply my approach. There are many ways to apply the concept of gamification.

  • You can create in-class awards.
  • You can challenge students to compete against each other.
  • You can challenge students to be the first to complete an assignment.
  • You can challenge students to compete against a scenario. As an example, you can place a challenge and then tell students, “You have two weeks to conquer this situation.”
  • You can run a countdown clock that students have to compete against.  

There are many potential approaches to gamification. Think about gamification for your classroom. The great thing about the concept is that it is exceptionally malleable. If you try something one semester and it doesn’t work, then toss it out and try something else next semester. With gamification, the possibilities are limitless.

About the Author

Frank M. Sorokach is a leadership and management expert with both practical and academic experience. His general focus is on organizational improvement through the development of systems and personnel. He has almost thirty years of applied management experience in varied disciplines and has been a faculty member at Penn State University since 2012, where he is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Economics and Business. He has taught in resident instruction at the Scranton Campus, asynchronously at the World Campus, and delivers training to corporate clients. He has held leadership roles at the Penn State Scranton Campus and the Penn State World Campus. Frank’s primary expertise includes economics, technology, project management, business strategy, risk management, marketing, future trends, and personal efficiency topics. His research is specifically focused on the application of new concepts and systems to improve efficiency. This includes the integration of not only technology, but also new management theory. Additionally, he has been a leading digital faculty consultant for McGraw-Hill Education since 2017.

Profile Photo of Frank M. Sorokach