Gamification involves the application of game-related principles and to non-game contexts such as education in order to improve outcomes.
Gamification can keep students engaged throughout the semester, with studies finding an up to a 9% improvement in information retention.
But getting the formula right requires an understanding of your classroom and out-of-the-box thinking.
Here are 9 essential tips for gamifying your classroom.
1. Know the elements of a game
Essential for educators wishing to gamify their classroom is understanding what actually makes up a game. There are four key elements to any type of game:
- Rules: Every game has rules to provide structure. Ryles tell you what you can and can’t do, and what constitutes acceptable behaviour within a game.
- Objective: Gamification needs an objective. What does ‘winning’ look like? How do you get there? While games that are overly competitive might not be the best for learning, having clear milestones for achievement is an integral component for any game.
- Progression: In games, progression is marked and metered. Think levelling systems, points, badges and experience. The more interesting and frequent you can make it, the better engagement you’ll receive.
- Mechanics: Mechanics can make a game fun or boring. Getting the mechanics right involves more than just rules and structure. It’s the way the game is played, how the players get from one progression point to the next, and what they earn (and learn) by doing it.
These four concepts can also be shared with the class when building new games in collaboration with students.
2. Implement a points grading system
Lee Sheldon, a Professor at Indiana University, created an interesting way of gamifying grades through an ‘experience points system’. Students accumulated experience points (XP) throughout the semester by completing tasks. An accomplished television and game writer, Sheldon drew on his wealth of industry experience to create an experience more in-line with the current generation’s experiences – after all, “we are teaching the gamer, social networking generation” and so Sheldon believes teaching methods should reflect this.
Under the points method, classes are framed around terms that are associated with fun rather than education. Students already comfortable with a points system can easily take to Sheldon’s way of associating grades. Starting at 0XP students complete ‘quests’, including tests, group and solo projects to advance. A student’s final XP level determines their grade at the end of the semester.
3. Awarding badges to promote perseverance
Badges in games are typically awarded to commemorate certain milestones. In Scouts, it might be mastery of tying knots. In a city simulation game, you might receive a badge for building your first high rise. In education, the same philosophy applies.
Western Oklahoma State College uses badges in their technology classes. For example ‘Drop it like it’s hot’ is a popular badge awarded to those who have mastered DropBox. The actual merits of these badges comes down to the educator. The badge alone can promote perseverance for collector types. But actual rewards, like early access to the next lesson, bonus ‘points’ towards grading, and other perks are essential to give the badges a sense of value in the classroom.
4. Reward failure through learning
Contrary to some other educational methods, rewarding failure is essential for gamifying the classroom. Rewarding failure doesn’t mean allowing students to fall behind. It means building lessons around non-successful outcomes.
Just like a video game platformer teaches you timing with each failed attempt, gamification should teach students what they can do right next time to turn failure into success.
5. Provide visualisation of learning progress
By including a visual roadmap of your gamified lesson plan you provide students with accessible progress through the lesson. The visualisation can take on many different elements:
- Percentage bars or numbers
- Areas to take notes and reflect on lessons
- A slide or timer
Think like a gamer. What visual elements would help your students to track their progress? Also consider a collaborative ‘class score’ that promotes working together for the best outcome.
6. Design class games with your students
By including your students in the design of gamified lessons and exercises you engage them on a deeper level. You won’t be able to design the ‘perfect game’ that keeps everyone happy, but you will get a greater understanding of what engages them, which will help deliver better lessons to your students in the long run.
7. Provide continuous feedback
One of the best things about games is that they can provide hints and information on how to improve. This continuous feedback keeps the reader engaged and helps provide a platform for students to discover better answers and solve complex problems. Continuous feedback not only provides opportunities to turn failure into success, it also builds engagement by being timely in delivery and maintaining the student’s interest in the subject at hand.
8. Reward students for collaborating
At their core, games are usually best played with others. That’s why it’s essential to gamify your classroom in a way that promotes group work and collaboration. A ‘students vs teacher’ game is a great way to promote cooperative learning. If one student can get a question right, the whole class gets a point. Conversely, if a student gets a question wrong, they can look to their peers for answers. If the class can’t collectively answer, the teacher gets a point. Set boundaries for how the rest of the class can help the student achieve their goals, and build class rewards and objectives into the system.
9. Speed up repetitive tasks with gamification
Something as simple as offering points to students who have their homework out on time, or are at class 5 minutes before commencement, are easy ways to gamify the learning experience and conquer repetitive tasks that often slow down the class. Educators can use gamification for just about any task, provided the gamified aspect is rewarding in some way (i.e. the points count for something greater).
See your class thrive with gamification
Implementing gamification can be fun. Seize the opportunity to be more creative with your lesson plans. Not only will your students be more engaged, but you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the education process and provide a better learning environment for the students of the future.