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5 Proven Examples of Gamification in Higher Education

As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to create and maintain interest in my subject matter. Students today have a very limited attention span (not a criticism) and a million things going on at any given time. My class is not the only one they’re taking (many of my students are carrying 15 hours each semester), some are working, and all of them are dealing with life outside of school. They don’t want to listen to me drone on along with a PowerPoint for an hour and fifteen minutes. They don’t want to watch some useless video that may or may not even be relevant to what they’re studying. They want to be engaged. They want to make the most of the short time we have together each week.

We know that education is much more effective when our learners are active in the classroom. I believe it’s my job to promote active learning by facilitating independent, critical, and creative thinking. I want to encourage effective collaboration and ultimately enhance their investment and performance. There are so many active learning strategies and classroom gamification techniques available to us as educators, and one of my favorites has become gamification.

Games are actually a natural part of learning and, in fact, predate any historical records.

Gamification in Education

I’m a fan of gamification in education because it works for everyone – adult students, non-traditional learners, and first year students alike. And the benefits of gamification in higher education are numerous. Increased motivation, more consistent class attendance and participation, and overall better performance are just a few. When students feel engaged in learning, they’re provided opportunities to perform better in class, on exams, and in learning the material overall.

Gamification in learning is nothing new. In fact, it is native to K-12 classrooms. However, game-based learning in higher education isn’t as widely used. Even before there was a computer in every classroom, teachers have been using games to keep students engaged and target varying learning styles, ultimately measuring performance in ways that might not show up on a test.

Gamified learning isn’t just for the classroom. It’s also extremely effective in online learning. It can make self-paced online learning more engaging by allowing assignments to be more interactive and bringing social aspects to the online classroom. It can enhance discussion forums and provide a roadmap for students who may struggle to express their ideas freely.

gamification in higher education for college students

Ways to Gamify Your Classroom

  1. Kahoot! – I love using Kahoot!, especially with exam reviews. You simply create your own quiz/game online and then facilitate it during your class. Students use their mobile devices to log in to the game and answer questions in real time. It’s a fun and competitive way to engage students with the material. Other platforms include Quizlet and Quizizz. These are free tools that you can use to create your own quizzes or use those that are already shared on the sites.
  2. Mixed Company - One of my favorite ways to use games in higher education is with conversation. Most of the classes I teach are management, leadership, and human resources-related. With a conversation game like Mixed Company, I can allow my students to have meaningful conversations around topics that they’re learning about and apply real world solutions and ideas to the concepts from their text. They have an opportunity to express their opinions, debate, and have their voice heard in a structured discussion. The best part about Mixed Company is that I can create my own cards with their easy to use templates.
  3. Go “Old School” – There’s nothing wrong with pulling out the old classics like a scavenger hunt, bingo, dice games, or even Scrabble. These games have been around and can be adapted to today’s classroom. There are even high-tech tools like Goose Chase that will allow you to create a digital scavenger hunt.
  4. Quests and Badges – At the beginning of each semester, my students get their copy of the syllabus with a weekly schedule. Why not turn each week into a quest where students can earn badges for completion and mastery? We reward student accomplishments with grades, but badges to beyond that because they represent more than just academic achievement. For example, in a Principles of Management class, a group can earn a badge by facilitating a chapter recap or conducting some other type of presentation. Badges can also tie in to some of the other games we play during the semester.
  5. Let Your Students be Designers – While this may not seem like a “game”, allowing students to have a say in the way their class is structured and giving them a voice in content selection, they’re more likely to be engaged. I do this in a couple of ways. In an online class, why not have several assignments in each unit worth a designated amount of points? Let students pick and choose which assignments they want to complete, as long as they choose enough to add up to the desired final points calculation. In one of my classes, I show a movie that is about management and leadership. There are several to choose from, so I let the students vote on the movie they want to see.

Benefits of Gamification in Education

Gamification is just about “playing games” in the classroom. Gamification uses elements such as creativity, rewards, challenges, and feedback to motivate students to earn and master concepts. There is a myriad of ways in which it can play a positive role in the educational setting.

  • We can engage students and their competitive drive and allow them to apply it to learning.
  • Students will feel a sense of ownership and accountability in the classroom.
  • Instructors have more variety and resources in their teaching methods.
  • Students will be inspired and motivated to learn.
  • Games are fun! When students have fun in the classroom, they’re naturally more engaged.
87% of people say that they would be more productive if their work was more game-like.

Give it a Try!

Many of your students have already been exposed to gamification in school. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from them. Ask them what motivates them, what they’d like to see more of in their courses, and how you can make the material more meaningful for them. I can almost guarantee you that they’ll suggest something along the lines of a gamified curriculum.


What is Mixed Company?

Mixed Company is an innovative card game for casual conversations and challenging debates. The quickest way to get a copy of this game will be to buy it from our upcoming Kickstarter. Please subscribe to the Mixed Company newsletter to get notified when our Kickstarter launches later this year.
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