Harnessing the Power of ‘Flow’: Gamification and Digital Learning Games in Education
General Manager- Marketing
Education has long grappled with the challenge of keeping students motivated and engaged amidst various distractions, ranging from video games to social media and now streaming services. Additionally, attention spans have shrunk, with Gen Z known for a mere 8-second span and Gen Alpha showing an even shorter one.
Over the past decade, educators have sought inspiration from professional sports and digital gaming to deliver captivating learning experiences that effectively achieve educational goals. Although gamification in education is no longer a novel concept, its success varies across different scenarios. The key lies in creating a state of “flow” that enthralls learners and shields them from common distractions. This state of “flow” reflects the immersive engagement observed in passionate gamers and athletes, who become completely absorbed in the present moment, unaware of the passage of time. This is what gamers call being “in the zone.”
Gamified learning experiences strive to recreate this “flow” state, akin to the captivating immersion found in popular games like Minecraft or Call of Duty. Within this state, learning becomes profoundly impactful for students.
The term ‘flow’ was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who discovered that people who experience this mindstate describe similar experiences, such as finding tasks easier to accomplish, where things simply seem to “come together,” and there is an experience of timelessness. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as:
“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
While experiencing flow, people can effectively filter out irrelevant stimuli and gain greater control over thoughts. They pay closer attention to details, which enhances their ability to meet challenges and solve problems.
Other researchers have taken Csikszentmihalyi’s work further to establish a relationship between flow and learning. A 2021 study found a positive correlation between flow, learning outcomes, and learning satisfaction in remote digital learning.
Using gamification in education to create flow can help educators improve learning outcomes. Flow creates intrinsic motivation, where the task is perceived as enjoyable.
A study published in August 2022 demonstrated that gamified e-learning increased motivation and satisfaction among middle school students. Some of the other benefits of digital learning games are:
Gamification also encourages competition and collaboration, where students are encouraged to work together to overcome challenges, demonstrate skills, and practice problem-solving through critical thinking. This fosters inclusivity.
Undoubtedly, digital learning games can enhance the learning experience manifold. However, to gain the maximum benefits of gamification in k-12 and gamification in higher-ed, the objective should be to build flow. Here’s a look at some ways to achieve this.
1. Set Short-term Learning Goals
From kindergarten to higher education, the pursuit of end-of-year academic achievements often overshadows the joy of learning. By setting short-term learning goals, introducing gamified formative assessments, employing adaptive assessments, and establishing clear milestones, we redefine a student’s entire learning journey. No longer confined to a linear progression every small goal conquered along this path should be recognized and rewarded, fostering a continuous cycle of motivation for students.
2. Ensure Immediate Feedback
Immediate feedback, provided on-demand and contextually, helps deepen learners’ understanding, reinforces knowledge, helps rectify mistakes, and affirms competence. Providing instant feedback is simplified with a powerful digital learning platform that allows the inclusion of question banks with a variety of question styles, such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, etc. Additionally, implementing a smart rewards system can further enhance the efficacy of learning.
3. Foster Collaboration and Healthy Competition
Online games where teams compete have gained huge popularity for the sense of social connect and competition they evoke. A similar flow can be achieved with digital learning games that bring together groups of students to complete tasks. Confidence increases when individuals perceive a balance between their skills and the level of difficulty. Each group member contributes their own unique strengths.
Concentration and focus can be enhanced through ‘flow’. The end result is intrinsic motivation and improved learning outcomes. Educators no longer need to play the traditional role of being the sole disseminators of information. By creating a conducive and immersive learning environment, students can be encouraged to discover information that aids their progress along the learning path. This approach empowers learners, promoting self-directed learning and fostering greater engagement with education.
Integra recognizes the value of captivating learning experiences rooted in the “flow” state. We specialize in assisting organizations with gamifying their content and offering related services. By recreating the engaging immersion of popular games, we guide students into a profound learning zone. Our research-backed approach ensures distractions are filtered out, thoughts are controlled, and optimal learning outcomes are achieved. Connect with us now to discover how we can support your educational goals!
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