November 21, 2023

Gamification to increase student engagement

By Jess Holman, Instructor

Does your child spend hours in front of a gaming console? While this situation may make you want to pull your hair out, it could also mean that your child could be a prime candidate for gamified learning. Gamified learning is a teaching strategy that incorporates elements of game design to increase student engagement. For example, instead of simply memorizing vocabulary using physical flashcards, a gamified version might look like a digital platform where students compete in a vocab-based game to earn points, badges, or prizes.

The research on gamified learning is promising. In education, games have been used for decades to help students learn and grow (Cheung and Ng, 2021). Researchers have shown that gamification allows students to participate more actively in their learning and create new connections – often while having fun (Chen and Liang, 2022). Even further, gamification paired with educational instruction (classroom time learning new material) has been shown to enhance students’ learning motivation and learning effectiveness (Cheung and Ng, 2021). 

If you think your child may benefit from gamified study platforms, consider exploring the following options to get started:

Memorization Games: Platforms such as Brainscape & Quizlet provide an online space to memorize information in a game-type format. Although it can be helpful to explore existing flashcard decks that are publicly available, many students benefit from creating their own flashcard decks and inputting their own definitions to be more actively engaged in the learning process.

Tips and Tricks: 

  • These sites offer multiple ways to engage in active studying and review content, including answering matching, multiple choice and true/false questions. 
  • Both of these platforms use an algorithm to help students focus the most on challenging topics. 
  • While most often students put terms and definitions on flashcards, it can be helpful to also include pictures, diagrams, or graphics on one side of the card. 

Game Show platforms: Options such as Gimkit, Booklet, & Kahoot engage students in active studying through a game-show style experience. For example, Kahoot provides a real-time leaderboard for students to compete against their peers. Booklet offers users unique games, such as tower defense, fishing frenzy, and racing. These are great for groups of students, for use with a study partner, or for individual review for students who are reviewing topics that require memorization. 

Tips and Tricks:

  • These game platforms are often introduced in-class with a group of students. What many students may not realize is that they can also use these platforms to review individually. 
  • Connect with your students’ teacher to ask what platforms they use frequently in class. It makes the most sense to build on the study strategies and to engage with the content provided by the teacher. 
  • Students can create their own account and create a game to use independently or with a study partner.

Subject-specific games: There are countless programs for different academic subjects and age demographics that engage students in challenges and display leaderboards, offer badges, track progress, and celebrate achievements. For example, DuoLingo turns learning a new language into a game-based process. Chemcaper gamifies science topics, Reflex math offers game-based math fact practice and Lexia is a reading-based gaming site, and many, many more.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Work with your student to explore the platform. For example, DuoLingo encourages users to complete a placement test. Although that placement test is not as fun as the games, it is important to ensure that the student is appropriately challenged. 
  • Connect with your students’ teacher to inquire about what platforms may have been previously used in class for learning and use that same platform for studying outside of the classroom.

Games can make active study strategies engaging, fun, and memorable. Consider the many ways in which we can gamify day-to-day activities in addition to active studying and learning.