Gamification means applying game mechanics to something that is not a game. Read here how to apply gamification for higher engagement.

What is gamification and how it can be applied to education and learning


Whether it’s getting people to exercise more, eat healthier, or simply stay focused on a task, gamification is a very powerful tool.

The gamification industry is increasing by an average of 47% year-on-year in Europe. One of its main applications is within the education and learning industry.

Yet many companies who try to gamify their user experience are missing the mark. Let’s have a look at how to introduce effectively game dynamics into digital products.

Source: RawPixel.com


What is gamification


Gamification is the use of game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage users in non-game contexts. In other words, it’s using game-like elements in non-game situations to encourage certain behaviours.

One of the most common applications of gamification is in education and learning. When used correctly, it can help students learn faster and retain information more effectively. But how does it work? Let’s take a look.

duolingo e-learning screenshot


How Gamification Works in Education and Learning


There are three primary ways that gamification can be used to support education and learning: by providing feedback, by increasing motivation, and by decreasing the effort required to learn something new. The framework to apply game dynamics into digital products often starts as a challenge.

Credits: Useresponse


The role of challenges


As human beings, we’re naturally attracted to challenges. Be it a mental or physical challenge, we’re often more engaged when we’re working towards something.

When applied to gamification a challenge can be something as simple as trying to get a high score in a game or completing a level. But it can also be more complex, such as solving a dilemma. Challenges often act as trigger to motivate us to engage.


Providing Feedback


In real life, when people play a game, they receive immediate feedback on their performance. This helps them understand what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong so that they can adjust their behaviour accordingly. The same is true for gamification in education and learning; students need frequent feedback in order to improve their performance.


Increasing Motivation


Another way that gamification can help support education and learning is by increasing motivation. When students are playing a game, they’re usually motivated by the desire to win or achieve a high score. The same principle can be applied to learning; if students are motivated to do well, they’re more likely to succeed.


Decreasing the Effort Required to Learn Something New


Finally, gamification can also decrease the effort required to learn something new. When students are playing a game, they’re usually so focused on winning that they don’t even realize how much they’re learning. The same is true for gamification in education and learning; if students are engaged and having fun, they’ll be more likely to absorb new information without even realizing it.


What’s missing with most gamification attempts


One of the most common problems, when companies try to gamify the experience of their products, is that they only think in terms of isolated features.

For example, they think of adding “badges” or “confetti”. Badges and confetti are tools widely used for gamification, but what this approach is missing is context.


The 3 elements of a successful strategy


Gamification is not just a signal feature, but a framework of elements strengthening each other.

gamification framework

For your strategy to be successful, you have to nail each single aspect of this cycle.


Often there needs to be something that starts everything. That’s your trigger. The trigger has to be powerful enough, especially at the beginning. On the long term, its role will become less relevant.


You have to provide a motivation strong enough for users to act. This behaviour can be tracked, so you’re able to analyse whether the behaviour leads to the desired outcome.


Reward is often confused with gamification altogether. That’s where things go wrong. Reward comes as the cherry on the pie of a behaviour. So reward alone, or reward without trigger, is not sufficient to create a self-sustaining gamification strategy.


An case-study of successful gamification: Duolingo


Duolingo is one of the most cited case of gamification done right. Their app has been one of the first to apply gamification to learning. One of the elements they have successfully leveraged is a system that rewards users for completing lessons.

gamified leader-board by duolingo

Credits: Duolingo


The reward system is omnipresent within the app. It has been applied with:

  • A leader-board
  • Experience points (XP)
  • Progress bars
  • Streaks

What’s important to notice is that Duolingo hasn’t been the first app to invent these elements. But they have applied them in a way that makes sense for the user.


Gamification is a powerful tool that can be used to support education and learning.


By providing feedback, increasing motivation, and decreasing the effort required to learn something new, gamification can help students learn faster and retain information more effectively.

What’s important to remember to create a successful gamification experience is that gamification is not only about adding elements such as badges or leader-boards. It starts with creating an experience that users care about.


Read further:

Do you like this article? Don't miss the next one.

Continue reading: