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Gamification and Game Based Learning for Education

A guide to exploring the literature and implementing gamfication and game based learning in your classroom.

What is Gamification and Game Based Learning?

Pair of DiceGame Based Learning and Gamification are not synonymous. While both bring game concepts into instruction and the course experience, they have different outcomes for learning. Gamification occurs in non-game instances (like classroom instruction, businesses, leadership training, and customer experiences) and applies the structures and ways of playing (like rules, physical or virtual design, actions that players might take and the thought process that gets them to take actions, risk or chance and the opportunity to succeed or fail) to motivate and engage learners (see the video "What is Gamificaiton? A Few Ideas" below for more information).  Gamification can be easily implemented in your Canvas course or in the classroom 

Game based learning takes a bit more planning and design for a course assignment or exercise since game based learning actually occurs when a game is developed with specific educational goals such as learning content for a subject or a new skill, rather than primarily being a motivating and engaging tool. 

Check out this guide to learn more about gamification and game based learning. If you are thinking of gamifying your classroom or course activities and need someone to discuss how to develop and implement it you can chat with an instructional designer. 

board gameInstructional Designers: 

Morgan Barker, phone extension 4460

Terri Georgopoulos, phone extension 6344

Key Points from "What is Gamification? A Few Ideas"

Gamfication takes game concepts and applies them to instruction 

Two types of gamification 

  • Structural 
  • Content 

Is Gamification Effective? What makes it work?

Key points from Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right

  1. Meaning 
    • Community value and goals matter more than just getting a badge
    • Goals to accomplish connects to our interests and has meaning in our lives
    • If you are telling a story or narrative, include visual cues and the social context 
  2. Mastery
    • Learning that is enjoyable in games comes from a feeling of achievement
    • Goals have to be achievable, smaller parts that add up to a whole set of skills learned and become more challenging as the learner progresses, but also matching the level of skill that they are at as they grow with opportunities to fail occasionally and experience success afterward
    • Give feedback for successes and failures--make sure the feedback for success is not valueless, but celebratory and gives a sense of accomplishment
  3. Autonomy
    • extrinsic rewards are not motivating, intrinsic rewards are more motivating  
    • Feedback that is "informational", not "controlling"
    • Voluntary participation makes the experience more valuable

Stories that connect to their interests, rules that are learnable and able to be mastered, and free place to explore those skills are key to designing a gamified experience of learning. 

Looking for resources on Game Based Education or Gamification?

Check out the section "Gamification Literature" for some selected articles and books on various topics, or try searching in the library catalog and databases through OneSearch below.  Here are some keywords to get you started: 

  • Gamification 
  • "Gamification in Education"
  • Psychology AND Gamification
  • "games with a purpose"
  • "serious games" 
  • "Game based education"
  • "game based learning"
  • "educational games"


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