Students have grown up with technology use it to communicate. They relate to icons, social media, meme, gifs, emojis, apps and games. Educators are continually find ways to connect with students to keep them motivated and engaged in their learning. A students success in online learning is dependent upon how self-directed they are and their motivation to learn. Gamification in online learning is not something new and is gaining a lot of traction with educators as they try to connect learning preferences with outcomes they are trying to achieve.
One example I read about is an educator at Mohawk College who used gamification in his online course to make learning fun for his college students. The article states, “When students are forced into a rigid, one-size-fits-all learning environment, their individual needs and interests aren’t taken into account. As young children, we learn through games and simulations. As we get older, that model changes and learning becomes less fun”. This is so true! Who wouldn’t like to play games? Even my adults learners enjoy review games I have organized and I can immediately sense the positive energy and engagement within the room once we start. The results used in the example I read are very convincing. Since gamifying his course, this educator has seen withdrawal rates drop by 25%, 20% more students are achieving passing grades and enrollment has increased.
This article from US News, reviews the pros and cons on gamification in online education. The article state, “faculty view gamification as a way to better engage students, who usually won’t have opportunities for face-to-face interaction” (p.2). Students are already online and this is the format that they can relate to most. The author also argues that “gamification allows students to become more active learners by inserting themselves into different scenarios, rather than passively listening to lectures and reading course material on their own” (p.2). Students learn to persevere as gaming gives them multiple attempts to solve problems and feedback is instant. Educators are also able to use the results of gaming to evaluate if students are learning and understanding the material. Gaming creates competition between students that can enhance engagement and motivate them to achieve rewards if offered.
Gamification has some negative consequences that also have to be considered. If there is too much emphasis on rewards, students can become more focused on the rewards than the learning and some students can become discouraged if they never win. Students who are not into gaming or competition may not participate and learn within this environment. The other issue highlighted within this article is that gamification required time, support and resources to set up. This can be difficult for educators. It may also require time for students to complete which does not align with time constraints within courses.
Educators have a difficult job trying to remain current with changing trends,satisfying new learners, and dealing with a reduction in resources, budgets and support. Learning requires engagement and as learners are becoming more dependent on technology, education must respond to this demand. Online learning is challenging already and a student’s success is dependent on their motivation to learn and to do so in a more independent environment. I see a lot of merit in this new approach and I can relate this to my professional field of dentistry as well. We are always trying to educate our patients on the importance of oral health and we must be cautious that our patients do not become too dependent on us to achieve this goal. I have had numerous patients that rely on me to get their oral health to a healthy state, and am I doing more harm by fulfilling this request? Like education, it is our job to help others out when they have problems that they cannot solve on their own. However, we must provide them with the tools to also survive and problem-solve on their own. This relates to an old proverb below.
When done right, gamification engages and motivates students. It is a way to make learning fun and for online learning, this is important. We cannot use the same approach as face -to-face formats and we must be creative. Online gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry and many of our learners are actively playing video games. Why wouldn’t we try to tap into this love connection with our learners to create interest and enthusiasm in subjects that the may not have a lot of interest in? No question there are some drawbacks to gamification but the research is supporting its implementation in online learning and is worth further investigation.