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What is gamification in education?

In this article, we explore the concept of gamification and how it can be used in education. We will also discuss some gamification examples and related learning techniques.

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When it comes to learning, being focused and immersed can improve your experience massively. Gamification offers a way to make education more enjoyable and fun, as well as increasing productivity.

We are going to discuss how gamification can enhance a learning experience and offer some examples of gamification. We will also look at some learning techniques that incorporate the term. 

What is gamification?

Let’s begin with a definition of gamification. We can define gamification as a strategy that implements game-like elements into non-gaming activities to enhance engagement and motivation. 

Video games are made with the intention of captivating and entertaining players. It’s not unusual to find yourself fully immersed in a video game, and feeling that one more level is never enough.

But what is it that makes us so invested in games? Video games have been linked to the production of dopamine, often dubbed the feel-good chemical, which can lead to game addiction.

This is because games use features like points, leader boards and trophies to encourage players to stay invested. The gamification method implements features just like these into other activities such as learning environments.

Intrinsic motivation

Gamification is built to encourage intrinsic motivation, which is the desire to do something because you have an interest in the task. This type of motivation will leave learners genuinely enjoying the topics they are studying. 

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is wanting to do something based on external rewards or factors, such as someone telling you to do the task. Although most learners will have a healthy mix of both motivation types, it’s important for learners not to lean more towards extrinsic motivation. 

If a student is only extrinsically motivated, they will be completing tasks for the wrong reasons. Educators should enforce the fact that learning is enjoyable, and can create educational rewards for students to help enforce this.

How can gamification benefit education?

Implementing fun and rewarding elements to education has the potential to completely shift the way we learn. So, how can we utilise gamification to benefit education?

Many of us have become used to immediate satisfaction from social media, apps and games. With the dopamine release we’re used to from unhealthy habits, it can be tricky to stay focused on a productive activity. 

This is especially relevant to younger generations, who tend to spend larger amounts of time on the internet. In fact, studies have shown that 55% of Gen Z use their smartphones for over 5 hours a day

By using a gamification learning approach, we can match the addictive bad habits and train students and learners to crave satisfaction from learning. 

A recent study has shown that those who learn via gamified education methods score higher marks than those who don’t. Other studies suggest that although gamification improves learning outcomes, there isn’t evidence to show that gamification drives engagement. 


The introduction of progress indicators can be extremely motivating for students. Pushing yourself can be far easier if you have a reachable goal. Rather than having one set goal to work towards (which can be daunting), gamification encourages small wins that help motivate students.

Gamification in education is also great for social learning, which can be a huge motivator in itself. There are apps and websites that give you the option to link up with friends and compete against their scores, challenging you to learn the most.

Fun learning

Gamification introduces an element of play into study, which ultimately makes for a fun experience. Having a goal to drive towards, or a new level to reach can push you to study harder.

In true video game fashion, the challenge of reaching that new level or goal can be incredibly fun. Gamification can change the mindset of learning being a chore into something enjoyable that students look forward to. 

Educators are constantly working to find ways to engage with young minds and learners. There are, of course, digital aspects to teaching and more modern approaches. However, Gen Z play a lot of games for fun outside of school. It only makes sense to incorporate what they know and are comfortable with into a learning environment.

Control and encouragement

Gamified learning material can make students and learners feel more in control of their own education. With motivators like point systems and levels, students have a means to work towards their goals in a way they understand and enjoy. 

Not only does gamified learning encourage students to feel as though they control their own destiny, but it also encourages them to try again after failing. In classic educational models, it can be quite demotivating for students if they fail a task or don’t reach their desired grade.

Rather than having an expected grade or outcome that a student can fail, points encourage building up to a level. This is a much more positive approach, and creates a more supportive classroom culture. The fun nature of the gamification model can make it easier for students to visualise the way to try again and work up to their goals. 


Gamification also goes hand-in-hand with e-learning. Online education platforms are a great way to carry out gamified learning. As we discussed in our blog post about the edtech industry, online education is a thriving industry. 

E-learning has grown dramatically during recent years, particularly due to the pandemic and the need for online education alternatives. Apps and websites are great hosts for gamification techniques, as they often smoothly incorporate things such as leader boards and point systems. 

Online learning is not always as engaging as physical classrooms, and comes with its own challenges. Online lectures and lessons can be tricky for young students, as it’s harder to engage them and there are distractions all around. Gamification is a great way to make e-learning just as exciting as in-person learning.

If you’re struggling to engage students in an online setting, our digital learning toolkit course is a great place to start. Our blended and online learning design course is also helpful for developing online teaching skills.

Disadvantages of gamification in learning

Gamification is a fantastic learning aid, but it also comes with some complications. Gamification methods are often tied in with apps and websites, which require the use of technology. There is already a digital divide, and by making tech such a prominent part of learning we could risk ostracizing some students.

Another risk of implementing gamification could be lowered attention span for students. Young people today are used to instant gratification, and turning learning into a game could be feeding into that. We could combat this by mixing gamification with traditional learning methods. By doing so, we can ensure that students can still learn and work in more serious environments.

Gamification examples

Although the concept may sound new, it has been present in modern education for quite some time. Let’s look at some successful examples of gamification: 


This language learning app is the perfect example of gamification used for learning. With over 500 million worldwide users, they are clearly using gamification techniques well. 

Duolingo successfully uses multiple gamification techniques to keep users engaged; with levels, streaks, badges and leader-boards. All of these features make for a very game-like experience, and keep users craving progress. It’s a great example of using a virtual scenario to create effective learning.

Whilst there are many apps that use some of these tactics, Duolingo manages to use all of them to help users feel motivated. On top of the successful implementation of these gamification techniques, the app is very bright with fun colours which adds to the game-like feel.


Although learning may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Minecraft, it has become a very powerful educational tool. 

Minecraft Education Edition was created specifically for educators and learners. The platform allows students and teachers to work together in a synchronous environment. It is a fantastic example of using methods that children are comfortable with as a means of teaching.

In the Minecraft education edition, learners can boost their creativity as well as learn a variety of topics. The game is particularly good for teaching students how to code, but can also assist in other areas of learning. They even offer game-based learning that offers indigenous and traditional knowledge.


This is an extremely unique learning platform, centred entirely around gamification education to drive motivation. Classcraft allows students to create their own in-game customizable avatar with different powers.

Collaboration is key with this platform; students are encouraged to work together to reach their goals. The game has its own currency, and awards can be given to students for positive behaviour. 

Points can be spent on unlocking new outfits for avatars, or even to unlock trainable pets. Classcraft makes learning exciting, and brings a real video game experience to the classroom. As if this platform couldn’t get any better, it can be accessed both at home and in the classroom, which makes it perfect for blended learning.

Gamification elsewhere

Clearly, gamification has proven very effective in encouraging study. However, gamification is not just limited to the education industry. Gamification is also used widely throughout the marketing industry.

An example you may be familiar with is the annual Monopoly game that McDonalds hosts. This strategy encourages customers to purchase more fast food for the chance of winning various prizes. When gamification is used for marketing it raises some ethical issues, especially in cases of unhealthy habits such as fast food.

Gamification elements can also be implemented to enhance a working environment. Whether it’s for career-based training or to jazz up daily tasks, they can improve employee satisfaction. Studies have shown that 79% of employees claim to have gained motivation and purpose due to gamification elements. 

Gamification in education – learning techniques

Gamification is often focused on rewards and goals. Typically, these rewards are given when the audience carries out a desired outcome. In the instance of learning, a reward may be given once something new is learnt. 

The gamification strategy is a great way to get learners to carry out desired actions. We’ve mentioned some gamification techniques throughout this article, but let’s look at some a little closer. 


Using a points system can be extremely encouraging and make a learning experience more enjoyable. They could be given out based on academic improvements, positive actions or even successful collaboration. 

Points can be even more impactful if learners have a goal to work towards, and something desirable as a result of earning their points. The costume add-ons in Classcraft are a perfect example of a points system reward. 

They can even be used as an alternative to traditional marking in the classroom. The concept of points encourages progress as it shows students that goals and grades can be gradually worked towards.

Levels and progress bars

This is similar to the points method, but offers a visual representation of a learner’s progress. Levels can be determined by a learner’s achievements, and allows students to compare or compete with others. The concept of levels enforces the fact that progress can be made to reach goals, whereas traditional grading can make it trickier to see how progress can be achieved.

The introduction of a progress bar can really help a student visualise their progress, and push them even further. You could even have a class-wide leaderboard or progress bar, where collective achievements go towards a common goal. 

It’s important to note that any class-wide leaderboards should be done sensitively. The idea of a class-wide goal is for all students to work together, and if done incorrectly, could be demotivating for less academic students. Leaderboards could include behavioural achievements and effort to be more inclusive. 

When done correctly, a leaderboard should encourage more academically inclined students to help those who may be struggling. It should also push the less academic students to try their best, as everyone will be working towards a common goal. 

Challenges and competitions

Challenges can be fun, engaging and introduce healthy competition. By turning a task into a challenge, students will feel more involved than traditional classroom methods such as a worksheets. Challenges can be implemented in groups to encourage social collaboration, or been given individually to encourage friendly competition. 

For example, instead of giving a student reading material, you could challenge students to find out the most about a certain topic. Challenges work similarly to points, and give students a definitive goal to achieve. 

Final thoughts

Gamification is an incredibly powerful strategy, and a great way to motivate learners. As the world of education becomes more digital, we can expect to see an increase in gamification methods. 

We hope this article has improved your understanding of gamification, and the ways that it can be used for learning and teaching. If you’re interested in learning more ways to enhance your study, check out our improving your study techniques course.

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