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Next Level Gamification - Photo by Kirill Sharkovski on Unsplash
Posted in: Higher Education
By McGraw Hill
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Take your Class to the Next Level with Gamification

In a previous blog we discussed student engagement in the online environment at length. As schools and universities plan for the next academic year and with the latter especially planning for online delivery to begin with, it’s clear that this topic is going to remain at the forefront of minds. 

The technology that enables remote teaching can allow educators to incorporate materials, activities and pedagogies to increase student excitement about learning from home - which is where gamification in education comes in. So, how can teachers use gamification to bring online courses to life? 

What are benefits of gamification for teachers and students? 

Gamification in education involves taking learning processes and applying elements of game playing to these processes - think point scoring, earning badges, moving up levels and leaderboards, as well as having students compete with others or beat their personal best. 

There are many benefits for teachers and students when gamification is brought into the classroom. For teachers, the introduction of game mechanics into course design can provide an easy way to increase student engagement and motivation - two important predictors of student success. 

Caroline Ennis, an academic at the University of Westminster, has been using gamification in her courses for the past few years. She initially became interested in gamified learning when working with hard-to-reach learners. Subsequently, when asked to design a module for her university students, she decided to use Practice Operations, which is a McGraw Hill simulation game and was a central resource used within the operations management course that she ran.  

What happened when the students had a go at the game was not too surprising to Caroline.

“Our students couldn’t wait to register for the game and get going with their learning.

When you’re standing in a lecture theatre you don’t get the same sense of the level of student engagement, but with a digital platform you can see when students engage with their learning and how they are performing.

These means of transparency for learning management are some of the most critical benefits of digital platforms.” 

For students, gamified courses provide them with an opportunity to develop 21st century skills beyond the subject matter. Critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and productivity are all necessary when progressing through a game and in a space where they can address any errors that they make and are able to understand the impact of management decisions as if they were in a real workplace. 

Likewise, if your students will be working together, gamified learning is a great way to develop their collaboration, communication and leadership skills.

Our students loved it,” says Caroline. “They would say things like, ‘I’m learning so much’ and ‘I’ve become addicted, it’s amazing and just like real life” - and we found that it made students more confident in other subjects too.” 

5 Steps to Get Onboard with Gamification now

How can you get started with gamifying your online course? Two researchers from the University of Toronto, Wendy Hsin-Yuan Huang and Dilip Soman, recommend these steps in their paper "Pratitioner's Guide To Gamification of Education". 


Understand your target audience

The first step is making a customised process for the students, which will depend on several different factors. Questions you need to consider and deliver here are around: How large is your group? What is the average age? What is their motivation for signing up to your course? What skills are they bringing to the course? Is your course vocational?  

The more you can build a profile of your typical student, the easier it will be to figure out which elements of gamification will engage and motivate them.


Define your learning objectives

You need to think about your learning objectives in three specific ways; what knowledge you want your students to acquire, the skills you want them to develop and the behavioural goals you’d like them to achieve though gamified learning.


Structure the experience

Look at your course and plan it step by step. In order to gamify it successfully, you’ll need to be specific with what you want your students to achieve at each stage, and how they can build on their knowledge and skill to progress to the next stage. Think about what will happen if students aren’t successful at completing a stage first time round - how will you motivate them to try again? You want your classes and activities to progress from easy to more difficult, so that students are motivated by completing simpler milestones from the start. By planning each stage in detail, it means that you’ll keep the course assessment in mind.


Identity the resources you will use

Now think about what you’re going to use to gamify the learning process. Consider how you are going to track your students through the course. How many levels will there be? What kind of rules are you going to apply if, for example, a student cheats? What is your currency going to be - points, or grades, or badges? Don’t forget to make the most of your reporting functions through Connect!


Apply the gamification elements

Finally, decide how they are going to be rewarded. Working towards a reward is a great driving factor throughout assessments. In this context, associating a reward into the gamified content is called a game element. There are two main types of game elements - self-elements and social-elements. The aim of self-elements is encouraging students to compete with themselves and strive for self-betterment. Some examples are badges, levels and time restrictions. Social-elements are things like avatars, leaderboards and interactive competition, where the achievements of each student are publicly shared and compared to their classmates. However, this system doesn’t necessarily have to reward the brightest students. As the instructor, you can award points for hard work, creativity, risk-taking - the parameters are up to you! 

Gamification in practice

Angela Short, a lecturer at Dundalk Institute of Technology, is an avid proponent of the benefits of gamification.

“I was always interested in ways of making the theory ‘real’ for students. Reproducing what the real world is like in a learning environment is going to be what we need for the future,” she says.

Whilst using Practice Operations in her courses for many years now, she has seen clear benefits when it comes to her students’ performance and engagement.

“Despite the stress associated with the many challenges and ‘curve balls’ that the game threw up, almost all of the students enjoyed the game and, in particular, the sense of achievement they experienced when, through perseverance, they succeeded.”

Her advice to teachers considering gamification as a teaching strategy.

Try playing the game yourself - you have to experience it to know what it’s like. And take effort and persistence into account when it comes to grading - because you know that once they graduate and they’re part of the workplace, that student will persist until they succeed, which is such a valuable attribute for employers.”

We produce a range of simulated exercises and games that support the notion of "learning by doing" and can help you create a challenging, creative and competitive educational environment where 21st century learners will thrive.

If you would like to learn more about how we can support you with this, please click here to contact one of our Academic Learning Consultants.

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22 September 2020