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Lucie Carney - 31 August, 2023

Category : Blog

What are the benefits of gamified learning in education?

According to the latest data (Ipsos 2023), there are approximately 3.09 billion active video gamers worldwide, meaning over 40% of our population actively play games That figure has risen by over 1 billion in just seven years. You might also be surprised to learn that 63% of those gamers report playing casual games, think Candy

According to the latest data (Ipsos 2023), there are approximately 3.09 billion active video gamers worldwide, meaning over 40% of our population actively play games That figure has risen by over 1 billion in just seven years. You might also be surprised to learn that 63% of those gamers report playing casual games, think Candy Crush or Homescapes – the kind you pick up to pass the time while you’re waiting for dinner to cook or your partner to finally finish getting ready for the pub.  

The global video game industry is worth an estimated $197.11 billion and there is a reason for that. It’s not necessarily that video games are addictive (although some people do struggle) but that getting lost in a good game is both thoroughly enjoyable and uniquely rewarding to the human brain. They offer an expertly crafted difficulty arc that allows you to learn all of the skills required to get you to the end without ever noticing you’re learning. Games place you in a flow state, which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines as a state in which all worldly matters other than the activity you’re doing seem to dissipate: you are fully in the present. During flow, you pay less attention to outside negative anxieties and stressors as your consciousness is filled entirely with the current activity. 

What is gamified learning?

So what is gamified learning? In short, gamified learning is the process of using game elements in non-game contexts, using flow states and familiar gaming strategies to increase intrinsic learner motivation levels, improve knowledge retention and increase engagement through social mechanisms such as leaderboards, badges and points.

Whilst game-based learning has been around in education for an age, this differs from gamification in education. Game-based learning is an active learning technique that uses the games themselves to improve learning. Think card and board games to improve maths skills or typing games to improve keyboard skills.  Gamification in learning is different however, by overlaying game mechanics to everyday teaching it has the potential to swap a fear of failure with the feeling that failure is fun and part of the learning process. Levelling up to the next stage of knowledge!

What are the top benefits of gamified learning?

Creating a fun, risk-free environment:

If you’ve ever watched a child playing a video game, you’ll be familiar with their lack of concern at failing at a level, getting wiped out on a tight corner or coming last in an online battle. You can hit start and try again. Contrast that to the child in tears, beating themselves up for being ‘terrible’ at maths because they just ‘don’t get’ long division and it’s easy to see why educators would love to harness that same resilience exhibited during gaming in the classroom. Gamified learning creates a risk-free environment where children not only learn how to apply the skills they have learned, but develop skills such as resilience and an understanding that those same skills take effort to master. 

Engagement through excitement:

One of the main benefits of gamification is engagement. By shifting the control to the student and adding game-related elements there is a sense of agency alongside an excitement for learning. 

Tracking progress:

When gamification takes place in a digital environment, the continuous feedback offered allows students to see their progress. They know exactly how they are doing and what they need to improve and advance.  Everyone wants to know that they are making progress and getting better at what they are learning. This shifts motivation from extrinsic (externally rewarded) to intrinsic (I’m doing this because I want to improve) and improves engagement along the way.

Information retention:

When learners are more engaged and motivated they will naturally retain more information. The use of game-based mechanics such as leaderboards or points taps into the natural human desire for recognition and competition. When people are incentivised like this they tend to engage more and process the information deeply, resulting in better retention. Knowing the information has a purpose and their ongoing success is their reward.

Ways to use gamified learning in the classroom/education

When we think of gamified learning in the classroom, most peoples’ minds will inevitably jump to apps and games we find in the digital universe. Quiz games like ‘Kahoot’ are an excellent way of not only testing knowledge and introducing an element of competition (either in teams or solo) but can also be set up with learning pathways to easily gamify and scaffold learning for students. They also have added features enabling the download of results so educators can identify trends and knowledge gaps. 

But gamification doesn’t only exist in the digital environment. In 2009, Quest to Learn was opened in New York City, a public school with a gamified curriculum where learning happens through the motivation of play. Students are organised into ‘guilds’ or ‘leagues’, choosing their own party members based on the unique skills needed to succeed in ‘quests’ and complete games. 

Whilst not every classroom can become fully gamified like Quest to Learn there are lots of applications that can be integrated into the every day curriculum.  Introducing digital learning apps that mimic the game mechanics that children know and love is a quick and easy win. Like Quest to Learn, creating teams and adding a structural narrative can increase motivation and retention. Perhaps groups of research mathematicians could investigate and report back on the different methods used around the world for solving mathematical problems (grid method, lattice etc). Adapting the grading structure is another way of adding game mechanics to the classroom.  Instead of letters  or statements as grades, using a ladder of experience points (XP) shows learners their progress as they climb.

The takeaway is that you don’t need to understand video games or be a gamer to integrate gamification into the classroom.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure who Mario is or would rather watch paint dry than discuss Fortnite. Thinking about what it is that makes games so successful, enjoyable and engaging and then applying those principles to the classroom is Gamification in its essence.

Gamification at Arbor

Although Arbor is consistently rated as the UK’s most-loved and intuitive MIS, we know that learning a whole new system can be daunting. That’s why we thought we’d tap into gamification principles when thinking about how we can make sure our community of schools and partners can get to grips with Arbor as quickly as possible. 

The Arbor Training Hub features badges, levels and progress tracking for all of Arbor’s modules. So whether you’re a Data Manager, member of SLT, one of Arbor’s partners looking to get accredited or a member of your school’s back-office, the Training Hub is designed to help you learn everything you need in your role. 

If you’re a school or trust using Arbor, click here to get started with the Hub. 

Or, if you’re a partner, get in touch with our Partner Success Team at partner-success-team@arbor-education.com