The story of diminishing returns
If education is the playing field within which formal learning occurs, then it is safe to assume that students are expected to demonstrate positive cognitive, affective, and conative changes in behavior in this space. Yet, as one climbs the academic ladder, it is not uncommon to see diminishing levels of engagement in the class, distracted students, poor attendance, and dismal grades. The verdict that the stand-and-deliver mode of teaching has been failing the student population has been long out. This failure boils down to the dilution or complete oversight of fundamental drivers of learning – motivation, engagement, participation, reflection, and feedback.
Gamification answers core human tendencies
As much as the debate is between the efficacy of traditional versus modern approaches to education, it also seeks to validate how gamification – the buzzword in learning and development – can overcome these barriers to achieve successful learning outcomes. Gamification, or the application of game elements in non-game contexts, involves these learning drivers in varying degrees. It speaks to the core and primal tendencies of humankind. Depending on the kind of mechanics one uses, it has the ability to intrigue, excite, spark the desire to compete or accept challenges, and endow one with a sense achievement. As these basic human instincts are ignited and fed, learning turns to fun. So, when the stage is ripe for learning, efficiency follows close at the heels.
Data is power
A study on the current and future state of gamification and game-based learning in the education sector states that 67% of the students have found gamification to be more motivating and engaging than traditional courses. It is poised to grow by 15.4% from 2019 – 2024. However, the statistic that can turn the tables for non-believers is this: students who were introduced to challenge-based gamification improved their performance by up to 89.45% compared to those who only attended lectures.
How gamification fuels young minds
- High-visibility gamification ventures in education
When purposeful content receives the structure of game dynamics, the result is a high level of engagement and learning. Let’s look at three revolutionary examples that technology has gifted the world. The Minecraft: Education Edition offers students a mind-boggling interactive experience to learn about history, craft a story for a creative writing project, and delve into the mathematical concepts of shape, area, and volume. Google’s Read Along app leverages an avatar to help floundering students read a sentence or even shed light on unfamiliar words. With Kahoot, educators can rapidly deploy quizzes to students through a shareable link, while students respond to questions in-class in real-time. With a reward system in place, students remain motivated and attentive.
2. Decoding game mechanics for learning efficiency
Strategies like dividing a class into groups to work on projects, having them compete to feature as star achievers on the class bulletin board are classic gamification techniques. When technology is brought into the mix, the opportunities for learning efficiency explode. Education technology (edtech), which is pushing the frontiers of pedagogical approaches, comprise a few or all the following elements, with the pre-supposition that it offers an interactive experience throughout: 
- Narrative: To set the context and to make the content relatable, a story with a protagonist, a challenge, and a plot are essential ingredients.
- Rules: In gamified content, rules set the right expectations for how to navigate the content and of rewards and penalties along the way.
- Levels: One of the running themes in almost every game is overcoming a challenge, attaining a goal and moving to the next level. If the content lends itself to such, levels are a great way to streamline content.
- Rewards: Rewarding points or badges for responses to difficult questions is an excellent motivator to keep students glued to the content.
- Competition: People love to be recognized and acknowledged. If an institution runs its edtech program through a learning management system, leaderboards are a perfect way to display player (read: student) rankings and their scores.
- Discovery: Challenging learners to hunt for information to solve a problem or tackle a learning challenge is another exciting game element.
- Feedback: In all the systematic frenzy of gamification, feedback is an integral indicator of the progress the learner is making. This can take the form of progress bars, new levels unlocked, badges at checkpoints, etc.
Well thought-out game elements do not overpower the content but shape the learning journey into a productive one.
The cutting-edge of gamification in Education Technology
As if the leap from the classroom to e-learnings was not enough, the real game-changers that have precipitated an unprecedented shift in learning are technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) – the metaverse of limitless possibilities. IoT connects daily objects and products to the Internet, which means there is a large exchange of data to and from IoT connected devices. Thanks to IoT, students can automate tasks such as note-taking and research. Educators can move away from manually grading papers and even offer personalized learning tailored to a student.
Similarly, AR and VR are becoming the staple for an immersive, gamified experience. AR tags real-life objects with digital information. As a result, a student can point his tablet or smartphone to almost everything and read or hear constructive information. VR transports one to a virtual reality of far-flung places, space, art, or the human body to better understand and learn.
VR promotes auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning. With the help of VR, students can hold the models of chemical compounds and understand structural movements at the molecular level. They are even capable of hypothesizing historical events, evaluating them, and then forming reasoned conclusions using 3D models in augmented reality.
From creative subjects to analytical ones, gamification reduces cognitive overload and optimizes retention of knowledge or skill transference. Whether it is the metaverse, or the more familiar e-learning and mobile learning mediums, a gamified approach with the underpinnings of motivation, engagement, freedom to explore and make mistakes without serious consequences has irrefutably binding benefits for the learner.
As disruptive technology invades all spheres of life, and gamification proves its mettle, the education sector must stay relevant, adapt, and master the wave to stay true to its main objective – student development.