Educational Gamification – Definition, Types and Examples

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Calls, e-mails, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Instant Messages, LinkedIn, News, Weather reports, Sports, Shopping and Cat videos – Your employee is more distracted than ever. Even worse, study shows that two out of three are completely disengaged. Disengagement costs companies like yours hundreds and billions of dollars each year.

We know that employee engagement is critical to your business. Companies that invest in employee experience are four times profitable than those that don’t.
So what do you do? Tried one of spiffs – contests and campaigns designed to improve the engagement scores.

Are you realising monetary rewards like gift cards, free lunches and trekitts don’t create sustainable long term performance improvement?  You don’t need another perk whose effectiveness can’t be measured. Or you have another robust learning system for your employees altogether to adopt a news.

What do you mean by Gamification?

Gamification Based Learning For Corporate Employees

According to Wikipedia – “Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts”.
Let’s look at a simple definition of the term “Gamification”. Quite simply, Gamification uses the elements of games to motivate and engage the learner.
In order to better understand this concept, let’s look at the elements that comprise most basic board games.

        • First we have the board with marked spaces on which you play. This is the game space. This is the context in which the player plays the game.
        • Usually a game has cards or some other elements that incrementally reveal information to the player.
        • An element of chance exists in most games indicated by a spinner or dice.
        • In games, you have pieces which are basically stand-ins for the player.
      • And finally you have spaces on the board that reward the player for accomplishments.

Gamification Compared to Board Game Elements

Gamification is the breaking up of a game into its fundamental elements. Each element of the board game can be abstracted and used to engage learners.

    • The pieces can be considered an avatar – a representation of the player.
    • The dice represents an element of chance.
    • The unpredictability of a game can add mystery.
    • The player can receive points within a game and the in-game rewards can be considered as digital badges.
  • The game board itself is the context or story encompassing all other activities.

And of-course in many games you have competition and even cooperation among players.
From an instructional context, gamification is using game based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning and solve problems in a non game context.

Who coined the term Gamification?

Gamification may seem as a scary or strange word but the concepts behind it are gaining momentum.
The term gamification has not been around very long. The term appears to have been coined in 2002 by Nick Palling on a webpage but the term did not gain widespread recognition until about late 2010 and now the term and concepts are picking up momentum.

Gamification Industry – Current State and Predictions

According to figures reported on PRWeb, in 2013 the gamification industry was a $421M industry and by 2018 its expected to go to a $5.5B industry (analysed back then in 2013).
That’s a growth rate of 67%.
Also, the latest figures by Tableau reported it to be $4.91B industry in 2016 and expects it to grow to $12B by 2021.

Gamification Industry Year On Year Worth Estimate - Image by HandyTrain

And while gamification is gaining momentum, it’s still often confused with learning games and simulation.
Technically gamification is not the same thing as learning games or simulation.
A learning game or serious game is typically a self contained unit that has all the elements needed to engage and play for a set period of time.
It is a clear beginning, middle and end. Game based learning is using an actual game to teach or reinforce a skill.
A simulation on the other hand is a realistic controlled risk environment where learners can practice specific behaviours and experience the impacts of their decisions.
The most familiar type of that is a flight simulator. Simulation may contain game elements but the focus is on a realistic experience for the learner.

Game and Gamification – The Underlying Difference

Here is the simplest way to think the difference between a game and gamification.
Think of it this way like the old S.A.T word problem.

gamification-vs-game-handytrain
Gamification uses parts of games.
Another way to think about gamification is as a Continuum. On one end is simply adding points to a learning event and on the other, as a fully immersive 3D learning equivalent of Halo.
Most gamification efforts are clearly somewhere in the middle.

Broad classification of Gamification

Additionally, gamification can be further divided into 2 types – Structural Gamification and Content Gamification.

Classification of Gamification - By HandyTrain

Structural Gamification

Structural Gamification is the application of game elements to propel a learner through content with no alterations or changes to that content, only the structure around that content.
A common implementation of this type of gamification is to take the scoring elements of a video game such as points, labels, badges, leaderboards and achievements and apply them to an educational context.

An example of structural gamification in a learning context is when student receives content to be learnt through a quiz type game on a daily basis for a two-week period via e-mail or through mobile apps.
A student receives an e-mail with a quiz question containing content to be learned.
If they answer correctly, they earn points and progress towards earning a digital badge.
If answered incorrectly, the student is immediately presented a short instructional piece designed specifically to address the topic covered in initial question.
Questions are repeated in various intervals until the student demonstrates mastery of the topic.
The entire process needs 30-90 seconds each day that is done in the beginning of the day or the end of the day based on the choice of the student.
As the student is progressing through the content, the number of questions they answer correctly are indicated on a leaderboard for the entire class to view.
This enables the learners to assess the progress relative to others.

Content Gamification

Content gamification is the application of game elements, game mechanics and game thinking to alter content to make the content more game like.
Common implementation of this type of gamification would be to add the elements of story, challenge curiosity, mystery and characters to content to engage the learner.
For example, adding story elements to a series of math problems to place the student in a fantasy context or to start a classroom dialogue with a challenge instead of a list of objectives.
These are both simple methods of content gamification.

That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning. @HandyTrain  [Click to tweet]

An example of content gamification in a learning context is when the learner takes on a role and participates within the context of a story.
In teaching the topic of accounting, a learner could begin the instruction with the challenge, complete this audit in 1 hour or your client goes to jail.
The learner could then be dropped into the middle of an audit and asked to produce a requested list of documents for the IRS using basic accounting procedures.
Within the context of this gamified learning event, the learner must complete the correct document request forms, retrieve file information and take that information to the authors office to avoid arrest.
The learner is scored on accuracy of documents, speed of responding to request, whether or not the right documents were provided to the mock auditor.
This is an example of content gamification.

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So in conclusion, knowing these two types of gamification will help you think how you want to apply gamification to your own content that you design.
Remember, Gamification is simply applying game elements, game thinking and game mechanics when designing instructions.
You can apply these ideas to help move your learner through instruction or you can apply them to actually alter the content of your instruction.
So now that you’ve had this brief definition of gamification, you can now use your knowledge to create your own engaging game-like learning events.