By CB Arun Kumar
Is it possible for learning to be fun? Traditionally, fun and games are not associated with serious learning outcomes. However, this is changing in a big way. As more and more teachers face the problem with students of low attention spans, the use of gamification as a method of keeping learners engaged is gaining momentum. But what exactly is gamification and how do we use it effectively to deliver superior learning outcomes?
Gamification is the use of game elements in non-game environments, like workplaces or learning centres. In academic settings, gamification involves the application of game-like elements in the process of instruction without affecting academic outcomes. The idea here is to increase student engagement and motivation with an incentive driven approach that is often used effectively in successful games.
Gamification of a learning experience consists of creating a gamified framework of the curriculum. The idea here is that the students are all players in the ‘Learning Game’ and a win in the game constitutes the successful completion of a learning objective, and the points scored, or tokens collected or badges earned are all indicators of the student’s proficiency in the chosen field.
The process of Gamification usually begins by the teacher creating a storyline that guides the student through different levels of experience. This often involves changing commonly used education terms that carry negative connotations like quizzes, homework or class projects with a more gamified vocabulary. Homework could be missions, quizzes could be mortal combats and class projects could be team ventures etc.
The important thing to consider in gamification is to make the game doable for all those who attempt it, and yet build in enough easter-eggs to make it exciting for highly talented students. That way we can effectively engage players of diverse. Keep the game simple as complex storylines will detract from the experience and hinder successful outcomes and the rules of the game should always be properly explained so that it feels like a fair challenge to all students.
Gamification presents additional challenges when the material to be taught involves creative subjects rather than technical ones like maths, physics, chemistry or coding. In particular, creating a gamified learning experience for students in the arts, design or animation streams is complex. Here the expected results can often be more qualitative and subjective compared to the sciences. This makes the process of weaving an exciting story around the gamified experience essential to bind the curriculum into meaningful micro-experiences that excite the students’ creativity and encourage them to excel at the creativity game.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Gamification today has become a major design strategy to enhance user motivation (Dichev and Dicheva 2017) and that gamified learning leads to superior motivation and outcomes in students in general, however the process still remains complex and challenging to execute compared to the traditional system of education and poor gamification may yield worse results than no gamification. The process remains heavily dependent on the skills of the team of instructors tasked with the job of gamifying the curriculum, which is why talented game developers can be a great resource to collaborate with on the gamification process as they have a fair idea of what triggers persistent behaviour and enhanced motivation in players. For a good gamification exercise it would be essential for the curriculum team to understand the principles of game design or at least interact with experienced game designers to understand the fundamentals of what makes a game successful and additive to play. But cracking the gamification code, any curriculum can reap rich rewards in student motivation and successful educational outcomes.
The author is academic director, EDGE by Pearl Academy. Views expressed are personal.