Is gamification the key to student engagement?

Three years ago, the prospect of pupils spending months studying in solitary confinement or teachers lecturing remotely would have been an almost ridiculous scenario.

How would it work? How would schools keep track of performance? Would the well-being of pupils and staff be adversely affected?

Fast forward to early 2022 and the profession has developed at lightning speed. Virtual learning platforms are now commonplace in the classroom, with blended learning becoming more and more popular.

While many education leaders believe gamification can help because it improves pupil motivation and engagement, some believe that play-based elements in education could cause unwanted competition among pupils or even addiction if we don’t pay attention.

Here, Emma Slater, Head of Education at Access Education and a strong advocate of classroom gamification, explores how digital realities can instead serve as a powerful tool for student engagement.

Gamification is not a new concept

The use of games in education is, and always has been, widespread. Before the immense digital revolution, game-based learning involved students in creating competitions, board games, number games and puzzles to reap rewards. Taking on different roles in fictional scenarios has also helped teach broader life skills. For example, from an early age, students could pretend to be doctors, astronauts or scientists, opening up new ideas and possibilities.

Play activities are useful educational tools, able to engage and motivate students, with point-based systems that encourage them to reach a learning goal or answer a question. This method can also be used when dealing with non-academic skills, such as positive behavior, support for others, or even classroom tidying.

While these game-based initiatives have always existed, the pandemic has certainly accelerated digitization in schools, with students now undertaking much more of their academic study via digital platforms. This has led to greater creativity within the “online classroom” in the form of interactive games, online quizzes and video learning.

Advantages for schools

A recent ScienceDirect study on gamification in education revealed that pupils who learned in a challenge-based gamified environment increased their performance by up to 89.45% compared to those who received only traditional lessons.

One of the benefits of educational technology (or EdTech) is that it can be accessed in the classroom and at home. During the pandemic, when many pupils have experienced numerous learning periods at home, this has brought continuity and a level of familiarity. It also allowed teachers to pre-record lessons so that pupils could learn in their spare time.

Digital learning and online learning content, including games, work best when integrated into a school’s broader e-learning strategy. Digital tools that do not cognitively overload the learner, while the option to reproduce, repeat and revisit learning can help incorporate knowledge. Tools like those from The Access Group Gamebrain The microlearning solution engages users and makes facts memorable, enabling users to make continuous improvements and easily absorb information.

Digital platforms also allow students and teachers to reflect on performance over time. As students collect points, teachers can monitor progress and give rewards to continuously motivate the student. We know that more engagement leads to better outcomes for students. Engagement does not mean ‘entertainment’: the two are not to be confused! Engagement with digital learning tools feels just like engagement in lessons. Students want to do more, know more and feel confident in what they are learning and why.

Embrace gamification

With younger generations much more comfortable using online tools and the vast majority able to access the internet from home, schools are now able to flexibly incorporate these tools. As the education sector continues its digital transformation, the use of play-based learning is likely to increase, promoting more exciting and engaging experiences for pupils.

Over the course of the pandemic, many skeptics have realized the enormous benefits of game-based learning and now is the time for schools to implement software that offers students the best chance of success. These tools can also fuel broader ambition and career goals, which play a huge role in developing self-confidence, creativity and proactivity, all of which are required in a student’s future employment.

Is gamification the key to student engagement?

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