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Nick Peller, a British game developer, first used the term gamification, in it’s current sense, back in 2004. Since then, a body of research has developed around gamified learning solutions to quantify it’s value in educational technology. This series will explore eye-opening research within gamification and contextualize it with emerging trends in the training industry.

This research is built around a theory that the constant influx of gaming media ushered by advancements in technology, has stimulated and engaged digital natives for many years now. It has become an inherent, addictive part of peoples lives. By using game design mechanics and elements in non-game contexts, gamification is created and attention is better sustained for increased learning.

gamification in training, game based learning

In a world where our daily routine involves hours in front of devices, checking Facebook, Twitter, and perusing through many hours worth of bit-sized content on Youtube, it’s understandable that traditional lecture – chalk and talk lesson plans seem obsolete. Learners fall into the widening gap between education and technology, unable to draw the motivation to stay engaged with the lesson structure.

When applying gamification, it’s interesting to look to games such as Angry Birds or World of Warcraft with good service design: by creating intrinsic cognitive motivations such as aesthetics, achieving mastery, granting autonomy to the users. Microsoft released the game Ribbon Hero 2 as an add-on to their Office productivity suite to help train people to use it effectively. It was described by Microsoft as one of the most popular projects its Office Labs division ever released. It is not enough to simply absorb technology into the lesson plan, gamification involves utilizing design that gives users game-like experiences. According to S. Edmonds (2011), employing game mechanics are correlated to learning encounters, like increased knowledge retention, and learning collaborative skills, like problem solving and teamwork.

A unique benefit to gamification techniques, is the ability to learn in safe, risk and pressure free environment. Oak and Bae (2013) pointed out that in game play, taking on a quest or mission enables problem-solving with a fun and exploratory approach. This, in turn, promotes voluntary use or play, which transforms into immersion into the material. Another advantage to gamified solutions, is that the narrative, clearly delineates the reason, missions, and skills that have to be achieved, with rewarding outcomes upon completion. Extracting the points, achievements, leaderboards and badges into the real world, people are likely to engage with the material and each other to support internal and external motivations related to completing the training.

Early findings, like those proposed in “Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother?”, by Lee and Hammer (2011) suggest that playing video games (not content-specific) helps cognitive, social, motivational and emotional improvement. This was supported by findings by Hwang et. al (2013), where an educational computer game was developed for an elementary school, natural sciences course. Empirical results showed a significant improvement children’s learning achievement and their motivation and attitude toward learning.

At first glance, gamification seems like a cheap trick to make learning and instruction more fun.

It is not!

It is a paradigm shift in the approach to learning. It’s about engagement, narration, autonomy and creating meaningful experiences out of learning. A game provides set boundaries within a risk-free environment. It opens opportunities to explore and interact in order to come up with a solution. It provides an inherent motivation and stimulation to reduce the sting of failure, and empower the learner to try again.

Stay tuned for Part II. 



  • S. Edmonds, “Gamification of learning”, Training & Development In Australia, 2011,pp. 2023
  • J. Oak, J and J. Bae, ”Smart Multiplatform-Based CPR Game App Design”, Advanced Science and Technology Letters (Games and Graphics 2013), 39, 2013,pp. 2023.
  • J. J. Lee and J. Hammer, “Gamification in Education: What , How , Why Bother?,” Acad. Exch. Q., vol. 15, pp. 15, 2011.
  • G.-J. Hwang, H.-Y. Sung, C.-M. Hung, L.-H. Yang, and I. Huang, “A knowledge engineering approach to developing educational computer games for improving students’ differentiating knowledge,” Br. J. Educ. Technol., vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 183196, Mar. 2013.