Gamified Learning: Liven Up Your Course Content With Educational Games

Gamification in education is nothing new. Gamified learning actually predates online learning entirely, at least when it comes to K-12 education. Most individuals of all ages enjoy learning in a competitive environment, whether it’s between other learners or themselves. When presented with a gamified challenge, engagement and interaction is naturally increased, providing more impactful and memorable lessons. The fact that it is on the rise as a buzzword today reflects both the effectiveness of this strategy and the rising opportunity to use it in online learning programs. This is especially true for those that embrace next-generation design features like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

What is gamification?

In short, to gamify something is to incorporate aspects of game structures in its design. Offline, educators do this by setting up quiz bowl tournaments, spelling bees, or rewarding students with the highest average test scores. These techniques foster competition between classmates, driving them to focus more on course content and information retention in order to succeed.

These strategies work online as well. In fact, remote learning environments present even more opportunities for gamified learning experiences. It wasn't long after the advent of the PC when educational software providers popped up with games as lessons, leveraging the interest that younger learners have in the relatively new video game world.

Today, gamification includes online games that test knowledge and provide assessments, but it also permeates the deeper design of most courses. Many features of systems that depend on machine learning, like user insights, include gamification features like achievements, behavioral rewards for participation, and position tracking relative to course averages. These features don't always look like gamification on the surface, but they still come from the realm of game design.

Advantages of Using a Reward System

Point aggregation and achievement tracking are among the most common forms of reward systems in education, but they are not the only ways to use this design feature in your course. You can also incorporate higher-stakes rewards like the ability to skip certain evaluation points if a student's performance achieves certain milestones before the evaluation is due.

So what are the advantages of this choice?

The most obvious is increased engagement and attentiveness. Gamification has long been understood to increase student engagement with material by using the same rewards that have been demonstrated in study after study to increase engagement with gaming. Those ground-floor principles include reward feedback loops that provide encouragement and a sense of achievement, sometimes structured as literal achievements for completing objectives. The more satisfying each new milestone's reward, the more invested learners tend to become.

Outside of educational games as course components, personalized rewards can also be used for engagement behavior in the course as a whole. Extra credit for course participation when a student consistently signs in at least every 24 hours over a set evaluation period is one common example. These rewards can be further customized in modern learning environments by using insights to structure the rewards and machine learning tools to customize the delivery to a student's learning needs.

One study found the increase was over 50 percent from prior engagement levels with gamified tactics in corporate learning environments. Increased engagement also leads to increased fluency with the course material and usually a faster learning curve for each participant. This is why it is so important in an asynchronous learning process as it gives learners the opportunity to learn at their pace without losing motivation. Additionally, microlearning events like impromptu quiz questions and educational game experiences have been shown to increase information retention by 17 percent in the same research.

Optimizing Learning Programs with Reward Systems

As with any design feature, the key to gamification is balance. Course modules should not feel too gamified, because the pressure to keep the achievement cycle going can cause stress over time if it gets out of hand. So how much is enough? That depends on the educational goals being served.

Using rewards for basic behavior like consistent logins works because it is simple and effective, making it a good place to start. Tying basic class participation points to both interaction with the system and course activities that encourage engagement with other students is a very common starting point — one that is easily trackable with most of this generation's digital learning platforms or learning management systems.

Another good idea to consider is using some kind of point tracking system, even if it is not used competitively. Seeing progress toward completion with clear milestones that provide positive feedback is a good way to motivate people, but more importantly, it gives them the data they need to see if they are on track to complete the material in the time given.

From there, the use of gamified features is up to the goals of the course. Many instructors find the use of educational games and competitions to be a good way to introduce fun, low-stakes reinforcement. Sometimes, just winning a quiz bowl is a more effective reward than a grade.

To learn more about using gamified learning approaches in your eLearning programs, check out this recent webinar with Open LMS partner Motrain in, Optimize Your Education Program with Personalized Rewards, or request an individual demonstration to speak with an expert.

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