“Gamification” made the shortlist for Oxford Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” in 2011.
Since then, this e-learning trend has enjoyed increasing acceptance throughout the public and private educational sectors. Educational environments and learning materials have incorporated gamification elements across the educational spectrum. Studies show that preschoolers through college students can benefit from concepts supported by this new educational trend. Let’s take a look at three ways gamification encourages life-long learning.
Positively Frames the Learning Experience
When students enjoy how they learn, they create positive associations with the process of learning. Gamification works to create a learning experience which not only engages the learner in a unique way, but encourages students to progress through difficult concepts in a non-threatening way. Many of today’s students grew up in a technologically-rich environment, surrounded by smartphones, tablets, and other learning devices. Introducing aspects of gameplay into traditional learning environments not only creates a familiarity of the platform, but can also generate feelings of confidence when confronting new tasks and new information. As any teacher knows, confidence exists as an essential aspect successful students must possess in the face of challenging learning situations. If students can persist through difficult tasks, they are more likely to master the concept. Gamification presents the learning experience in both familiar and safe ways for students to explore. This presentation thus creates an overall positive association with learning that inspires students to become lifelong learners because they enjoy learning.
Provides Real World Experience
A constant complaint about traditional curriculum material involves its lack of applicability in a real world context. Gamification not only presents an avenue for content mastery, but provides several important real-world lessons benefiting students beyond a classroom’s walls. First, students learn the value of taking risks in a safe environment. Learners begin to explore the risk versus reward model in a controlled environment; this exploration makes them more comfortable and confident making such decisions in professional environments later in life. Second, students begin to internalize the results of their choices. Gamification presents consequences and rewards in real time; if students make poor choices in the e-learning environment, they won’t progress forward. Students quickly learn that the effort they put into an endeavor directly correlates to the endeavor’s outcome; victorious virtual choices result in rewards. Third, students learn the value of retaining knowledge. A skill learned in lower levels may need to be recalled and applied at higher levels in or to move forward. This type of gaming mechanism reinforces the real world experience that individuals need an arsenal of tools at their disposal to tackle problems efficiently and productively. Fourth, students learn the value of failure. In the real world, it is unrealistic to expect success during first attempts all the time. Gamification teaches students that failure provides a valuable lesson: it teaches students what choices didn’t work and encourages students to re-evaluate and make different, better choices moving forward.
Supports Value in the Details
Including gamification methods into the classroom encourages students to seek out and evaluate relevant details. This skill can be applied across educational disciplines as students begin to appreciate the importance of details. After graduating and moving into a professional environment, this capability exists as an indicator of success. Employers value employees who not only play attention to the details, but who work to address important details as they arise in the working environment. The skill of noticing, of paying attention to the details, isn’t just a professional competence; it’s a valuable skill in interpersonal relationships as well. Valuing the details is a cognitive benefit of gamification; paying attention allows students to complete levels, leading to increased rewards and access to more challenging levels. That creates the association between the importance of paying attention and achieving one’s goals.
Today’s technologically-experienced students need an educational environment that appeals to their learning styles. Gamification fills this need, and in the process creates life-long learners who love discovering and applying knowledge in both personal and professional settings.