Game-based Learning & Gamification


November 23rd, 2020

Between playing a game with friends and attending a lecture in Zoom, what would your student choose? What if the lecture itself is a game they can play with friends? Researchers have found that playing games and creating a game-like environment help increase learner engagement, promote peer-to-peer interaction, and sustain motivation.

On November 9th, LfA faculty coach and senior lecturer Mira Angrist (Senior Lecturer in Hebrew, World Languages and Literatures) gave her insights and creative ideas on how to maximize learning outcomes and pleasure through both game-based learning and gamification of learning (you can also hear Mira Angrist speak about game-based learning and gamification at the next Lightning Talks Speaker Series event on December 4).

Game-based Learning uses games to achieve learning goals and often has a set of activities from a well-defined beginning to end (the duration of a game). Successful implementation of game-based learning also requires instructions and rules given in the beginning and oftentimes a debriefing at the end.

Mira’s example of game-based learning: A board game (Snakes and Ladders) created online that has movable pieces representing each learner (“meeples” in gamers’ jargon), a board map for the meeples to progress in their journey and a die on the screen to decide the number of spaces to move. Students answer questions and if they succeed, toss the die to advance towards the destination on the map.

Explore these apps for creating different types of games:

Benefits of game-based learning:

  • Students learn by “doing” (hands-on learning);
  • It creates “productive struggles” that promote deeper levels of learning (problem-based learning);
  • Students are less afraid to take risks and make mistakes;
  • It provides the teacher formative feedback as students progress in the game;
  • It provides students an opportunity for self-assessment and growth;
  • It increases retention of learned content.

Gamification of Learning uses game elements and game design techniques in non-game environments. Common elements include: points, rewards, timing, social elements (teams or competitors), progression, levels, quests, leaderboards, avatars, badges, performance graphs, animation, and narrative stories. It may not necessarily look like “a game” with clear boundaries, but transforms the whole learning experience into a game-like system.

Mira’s example of gamification: Students choose and describe pictures the teacher provides as a “quest”. Each picture story is worth 20 Israeli “shekels” (images of shekels are used as virtual tokens for students to “earn” through this quest). The task itself may be done without gamification, but adding gamification elements (virtual money as a form of points) makes it a more engaging and rewarding learning experience.

Apps for gamification of learning, including suggestions from the audience included:

Mentimeter: for animated survey-type of tasks

Spreeder: for speed reading challenges

YouTube timers: ex: search “one-minute timer” on YouTube and embed the video in slides

Note: Some of these apps also include tools to create online “games” in addition to gamification tools such as point trackers or timers.

Benefits of gamification:

  • It increases learners’ motivation;
  • It promotes learner autonomy and self-assessment;
  • It provides immediate feedback;
  • It provides opportunities for social learning through collaboration and competition;
  • It may help establish emotional connection among peers (ex: story telling)

Be sure to check out Mira Angrist speaking about game-based learning and gamification at the next Lightning Talks Speaker Series event on December 4.


Research on Game-based Learning in Higher Education

Quick reads:

David Chandross, “How playful design is transforming university education,” (2018).

Natalie Schwartz, “Gen Z Takeover: How colleges are using gamification to engage students,” (2019).

For a longer overview: 

Snezana Scepanovic, Nadja Zaric and Tripo Matijevic, “Gamification in Higher Education Learning – State of the Art, Challenges and Opportunities,” (2015).