Understanding Gamification and Its Role in Learning

Published November 6, 2014

By School Solutions Team

When did “gamification” emerge and what does it really mean for educators?

Nick Pelling first coined the term gamification in 2002. Pelling was a game designer who dabbled in adapting the principles of video games for use in the design of user interfaces for automatic teller machines (ATM). His primary goal was to create interactions that were fun and effective. Since 2010, the concept of gamification has become popular in marketing and education.

Gamification is broadly defined as the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users to promote a desired behavior. It’s often confused with traditional games or serious games. Traditional games (i.e. Golf, Monopoly, Table Tennis, Call of Duty, etc.) always feature a closed formal system (rules) that resolve in unequal outcomes (winners vs. losers). Serious games are typically educational in nature and serve a purpose other than pure entertainment.

The proper implementation of gamification techniques can act as a solid framework for motivation and goal-setting. Marketers frequently use gamification to engage users by leveraging rewards systems (i.e. badges, coupons) in exchange for participation in tasks (i.e. surveys, link sharing). However, parents and teachers have been gamifying the learning experience for centuries. From rewarding a child for completing a task in timely manner, to monitoring the progress of a fundraiser to earn a class pizza party, gamification techniques have been and will always be a part of our lives.

If as an educator, you are planning to implement gamification techniques, you should take steps to ensure that focused feedback, achievement, and goal setting are part of every implementation. However, be wary of the pitfalls of reward systems. Learning should be about gaining understanding, and rewards should never be allowed to take precedence over subject matter. A properly gamified system should positively reinforce a student’s sense of self-worth by seizing every opportunity to promote a clear connection between their effort and their achievement.

Content for this post provided by Chuck Agin | User Experience Designer for McGraw-Hill, School

Links and websites referenced within this post are not endorsements.