An image of designing a game (gamification)
Author: Ling Zhang;

What is gamification?

Game it up! Let’s make learning more engaging and motivating! Gamification has become increasingly popular in non-game contexts. For education, gamification means that we use game thinking and design elements to engage students and encourage them to solve problems when completing learning tasks. To do this, we can leverage feedback and rewarding systems, such as levels, points, badges, leaderboards, and other rewards, to motivate students to achieve their goals. 

Why gamification?

Gamification taps into the rewards and emotion centers that can motivate learning and engagement. Accumulated research has shown that the proper integration of gamification into classrooms would improve satisfaction, motivation, and effectiveness of student learning. Also, gamification can help personalize learning experiences for students with diverse interests, preferences, and learning needs. Some simple techniques include customizing name, avatar, and storyline to one’s personal needs and preferences. It sounds appealing! But how could we get started? 

How to gamify your classroom?

A literature review of research on the application of gamification to education summarized a set of useful gamification design principles. Here are some examples:

  • Specific, clear, and appropriately challenging goals
  • Concrete and actionable learning tasks with increased complexity 
  • Autonomy in choosing sub-goals within the larger task
  • Adapting difficulties and challenges to players’ skill level 
  • Visible progression to mastery through rewarding and recognition systems
  • Immediate feedback and short feedback cycles
  • Allowing for multiple attempts and failing without penalty 
  • Collaboration or social engagement loops
An image of leaderboard

The key of gamification is to give students instant feedback on performance, deliver prompts for problem-solving, and incentivize them to achieve their goals. For instance, you can use leaderboards to show individual scores and progression, which is a good way to keep students focused on winning and completing the game. These design principles can be enhanced by incorporating the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to personalize gamification for your students. When designing specific steps, materials, and tasks, you might want to think about how to embed choices into the game. Let’s start with some critical UDL considerations: 

  • Students have access to information, materials, and tools in multiple formats
  • Students are offered multiple pathways to complete the tasks and demonstrate success 
  • Students have autonomy in choosing (sub-)tasks based on their interests 
  • Students receive individualized guidance (e.g., prompts, instant feedback) along the way
  • Students are provided with chances to self-evaluate their gaming experiences  

Try Them Out!

The rapid development of digital technologies, such as online tools and learning management systems (LMS), makes it easy to include gamification techniques into blended and online learning settings. Check out the following links. You might find useful resources and tools for applying gamification in your classroom:

Resources and Tools

Suggested Further Reading

Footnote: pictures used in this blog are created by Freepik

  • Gamification (image 1): <a href=””>Computer vector created by macrovector_official –</a>
  • Leaderboard (image 2): <a href=””>Background vector created by freepik –</a>