Get Your Game On: Use gamification to enliven content

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December 7, 2015 by HCDE Communications

 Get your game on: Use gamification to enliven contentA new movement in educational technology re-evaluates the benefits of “gamification,” the process of using game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

In the past, gamification presented difficulties for effective learning. However, Jay Hanlon of Stack Overflow says it best: “Gamification has never gotten a single person to do anything they didn’t already basically like to do.”

I agree that a more purposeful approach is needed in order to make game mechanics beneficial to education. Below are a few suggestions for gamifying your courses the most effectively.

1. Identify what you are trying to accomplish and decide if gamification might make an impact.

Start with a mechanistic approach to learning that shows some progress and apply gamification elements to enhance the learning.

2. When adding competitive aspects to learning, be careful to allow for participants to opt-in so you don’t threaten students who are more exploratory in their learning.

While adding point systems and rankings to a course may inspire some users to be more competitive, others may feel they are being left too far behind to be competitive. You don’t want to disengage students from the learning.

3. Use a narrative to frame the learning experience and allow students to invest in the narrative.

Some of the best games out there have a story to tell.  Frame your content in the form of a narrative and let your students create avatars or characters that take part in the story. These processes engross learners in the educational experience.

4. Use leveling and the escalation of difficulty to drive competitiveness in the course.

Escalate the rigor of the content as students climb the ranks in the game as a means to keep them engaged in content.  Students will use this opportunity to compete against each other or try to beat their personal best scores.

5. Set very clear expectations for game play.

Even the most simplistic games offer gameplay tutorials with instructions to help guide gamers in their journey.  Clearly outline the expectations and objectives for every gamified activity and include examples that help the learner to be successful.
These five steps are just the beginning of a journey to help students to get their game on.  Experiment with a few small changes to your curricula, and build additional game elements as you go.  If you’re careful to always keep the learners and learning objectives in mind, you’ll all be winners!

What do you do to help gamify your content?  Join the conversation on Twitter by including me (@dcmcgeary) and by using the hashtag #GetYourGameOn.

About the Blogger:
David McGeary, manager of innovation in the Teaching and Learning Center at HCDE, spends his days exploring the ways that old and new digital tools and resources can be used to enhance a student’s ability to learn new things, collaborate with learners anywhere and share new ideas with the world. When not hard at work, David enjoys playing classical guitar, practicing photography or doing anything his new wife tells him to do.

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