Gamification refers to using online games as part of the learning experience of students and it also refers to using the principles and concepts behind gaming. It has become quite popular because it’s one of the best ways to keep the students interested and active during learning sessions, especially with online learning.

The teaching methods used in in-person classes is different from the methods for online classes. Unfortunately, some teachers struggle to grab and retain the attention of their students. Gamification works in both setups, but it’s especially beneficial to online sessions. A well-design lesson with gamification keeps students focused in class despite the distance and the distractions.

Related reading: How to Improve Your Study Skills With Mind Mapping?

Using Gamification Elements

Gamification in online learning is quite interesting because there is an entire world of games that teachers can explore when designing classes. Likewise, gaming principles can be incorporated into existing lessons.

Whereas choosing the appropriate online game to use in class is crucial—it’s one thing to capture students’ attention in the beginning, but this attention has to be sustained while making sure that the learning goals objectives are met. There is no shortage of educational websites that provide games. Depending on the content to be taught, it might be easier to take some gamification elements and incorporate it into a lesson. Here are some examples:

  • Competition –keep students on their toes by introducing some competition. It can be in individual or team setups.
  • Point system – for process-focused activities, teachers may want to explore awarding points as a student progresses. These points can be a mini reward for being able to stay focused.
  • Rewards – always make sure to give students a meaningful reward once the activity is over. Rewards can help motivate students to work harder and do better. However, be careful your choice of reward as students might focus too much on this extrinsic motivation to the extent that they will lose intrinsic motivation to work hard. Meaningful rewards can come in the form of handwritten notes, healthy snacks from the cafeteria or plaques or certificates.
  • Create a challenge – check the latest challenges on social media (i.e., TikTok) and see if you can adapt any of these into a new topic that you will discuss in class. Have them create 10-second videos related to the topic. These quick videos will test the creativity and skills of students when it comes to developing a concept, creating content and publishing. 
  • Setting time limits – set a timer on the screen to encourage students to work fast. It trains them to be efficient with their use of time while increasing productivity.

These days, games are no longer just made for leisure. Gaming can be utilized to increase student engagement in classes so that they can be as involved in classes as they would when they are playing games.

When planning for classes and learning sessions, It’s not just about finding online games and allowing students to play. Gamification can be as simple or as complex as the teacher sees fit—it depends on the goal of the teacher, and the type of tools that they will use to teach and encourage interaction in an online learning setup.

School administrators should look into investing in learning technology that can improve learning experiences of teachers and students. Like students, teachers have to continuously learn new skills, techniques and tools that can help them teach effectively. More importantly, students are the recipients of the product of the teachers’ commitment to continuous learning.

Best Practices

Incorporating gamification strategies in the online learning setup requires some planning and practice. Here are some of the best practices to implement when using gamification in online learning:  

  • Be process-focused. Part of the joy of using games and gamification is that it encourages students to pay attention to the process, methods and strategies. Teach through sample scenarios and case studies. Instead of explicitly stating facts for students to memorize, they learn to think in a broader sense.
  • Set clear learning objectives. To ensure that the class is able to make the most out of the learning session, teachers should set goals and objectives games and gaming principles make a learning experience interesting, but students should not lose track of the goal just because they are having fun.
  • Assess the learning and progress throughout the activities. Gamification elements should be used strategically. Find ways to assess the students’ performance as this will determine whether the game-based approach was appropriate. Assessment information may also provide insight into the students’ grasp of the topic and their preferences.
  • Make it enjoyable an engaging for everyone. Come up with a variety of activities and games that can pique the interest of the group. Understand that just because a games or gaming principles are used, that everyone will be engaged. However, even those who are not interested still have to participate. Have periodical check ins, check on their progress to make sure that everyone is on track.

Benefits of Gamification

The use of gamification is becoming more common. Gamification strategies and techniques have been gaining traction within the online learning community due to its ability to engage students while teaching them the concepts and content they need to learn. When schools shifted to online classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers had to become more creative with their teaching methods and strategies. Since then, many reported benefits have come to light.

Here are some examples:

  • Instant feedback. Students get immediate feedback when playing games and using gaming principles when learning. In this process, students are actively engaged but so are the teachers and facilitators. To make sure that the learning session stays on track, teachers also actively participate by facilitating and giving corrections and processing learning experiences.
  • It helps improve learning among students. Students have different learning styles, and one way to capture their attention in the online learning setup is by developing lessons that incorporate gamification. Gamification provides learning experiences that are engaging and enjoyable.
  • Active learning. Instead of passively receiving information from a teacher or lecturer, students are able to actively participate in the activities.
  • Increase information retention. Students remember concepts better when they are interested, engaged, and actively use their brain. All of these processes happen when students are engaged in games.
  • Continuous learning. If teachers design activities that have stages and phases, students can learn continuously while retaining information from the previous “stages”. As students play, teachers can guide, correct and process the learnings with students.
  • Assessment of mastery. Gamification is a good way to assess students’ mastery of topics. In lieu of quizzes, they can play games which test their knowledge and understanding.

Limitations of Gamification  

As promising as it is to integrate gamification in online learning, it does have a few limitations. Teachers have to be skilled at crafting games that cater to the needs and interests of the group.

For teachers who are used to the classroom setup or are not as tech savvy, this may require additional training. However, putting in the extra hours just to learn will be worth it as gamification unlocks many doors to teach students and to connect with them. Teachers also have to find a way to keep students engaged even if the activity is not appealing. Games and competition are fun, but students have their individual preferences.

Final Thoughts

Students are able to tap into skills through gamified learning in online learning. Teachers have had to learn new ways to each and keep students engaged in online classes because they tried and tested methods in face-to-face classes do not necessarily work in the online setting.

Teachers have to create learning experiences that are relevant to students. A well-designed lesson plan and activities can encourage students to think creatively. While learning from games is fun, it does have some limitations. Plan activities that will allow students to engage with the content. A good alternative to games is using case studies, having interactive lectures and reports can work for students.

Gamification also works in various types of learning settings—in schools and in companies. We have discussed the ways in which it works in the online classroom, but training teams in companies should not hesitate to incorporate gamification elements when training professionals.  

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Patricia Alfonso

Patricia Alfonso is an educator and researcher who earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Ateneo de Manila. She specializes in developing school counseling programs for schools.

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