Getting Students to “Eat Their Vegetables” Through Gamification

Game-based learning used to be—and still can be, to an extent—like chocolate-covered broccoli. You try to make something good for you taste better, only to sit down to a culinary abomination. I can confirm that chocolate-covered broccoli is horrible to eat, but game-based learning doesn't have to be tough to swallow! In this post, we discuss what game-based learning is and how you can boost engagement in your classroom. 

Before we begin, a quick note: contrary to popular belief, game-based learning does not have to be "edutainment." Game-based learning, in its purest form, should take the interactive and internally motivated elements of games and seamlessly integrate them into your online or in-classroom lesson plan. 

These elements can take many forms, but the three most standard game-like features are leaderboards, points, and badges. Why are these features so popular and, in most cases, effective? The answer to this question forms the basis of game-based learning. 

Leaderboards introduce competition, which appeals to our lizard brains that strive to prove we are better than others. According to a study by Jillene Grover Seiver, Ph.D., professor of psychology, "When we see someone else just like us being able to complete a task and gain the recognition we seek, we up our game to achieve these outcomes for ourselves." Further, competition stimulates our brain's pleasure center, driving us to continue engagement to obtain more of that feeling we get from winning.

Awarding points is another way to show progress in real-time, allowing learners to realize what effects their actions have on progress and outcomes.

Badges work to display achievements among your peers, which reinforces self-efficacy, or in simple terms: "I can do this." 

But, how does one create a sense of competition, show real-time progress, and build self-efficacy within the confines of an organized course? One suggestion is to assign teams that last the entire semester or course duration. Teams provide a way for students to develop a sense of comradery within the larger classroom, create some form of competition between groups, and help students feel their achievements are being recognized through internal group praise.  

Another solution is to create a simulation of an event in which students can affect the outcome. Within the simulation, students may change variables (that the instructor has carefully selected) and examine the results of each scenario. In addition to helping students see the direct consequences of their actions, you help build self-efficacy by giving the students direct control over the situation. You even can go a step further by making it a direct competition—with a singular individual or team claiming victory.

At IP3, we know that at the core of any successful learning experience is collaboration, which is why gamification plays a key part in the design of all of our course offerings.

Let's talk about how your company can build interactive training that brings your organization real results and a solid return on your investment!

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About the Author

Austin Engel

Austin is an Instructional Designer who has experience in creating interactive educational modules for Adult Education using innovative techniques and philosophies. Mr. Engel has a Master of Science in Design Media for Digital Learning, with a specialization in Games for Learning from New York University.

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