Gamification is the process of using game-elements to engage people in non-game settings. Obvious digital examples are leaderboards, branching scenarios, Kahoot quizzes, and the DuoLingo language tool. Gamification is not about making tasks into a game, but rather about leveraging elements that are fundamental to motivation, and applying them in a non-game setting to have students engage more actively with the learning.


Appropriate use of gamification can increase student engagement with tasks that may otherwise have poor participation, for example, the use of class leader-boards and prizes for genre diversity in intermediate school book reading programmes. In addition, applying game elements to a larger course structure linked to marks can provide a longer-term incentive to achieve (e.g. competition between peer-groups, a “narrative world” for the course that progresses as the class reaches achievements). In any case, game elements can reinforce intended student behaviours in building toward the course’s learning objectives.


Gamification needs to be carefully applied in order to reinforce the correct motivators, as not all gamification techniques are appropriate in all cases (e.g. a live trivia quiz to assess critical reading of a political manifesto is less appropriate than a live scored debate).

There are many digital tools set up to “gamify” using their built-in structure (ClassDojoBreakout EDUClassbadges) but gamification requires no specific tools. It can be applied to in-class activities as well as digital ones, and potentially has a wider scope than simply solving skill-challenges and awarding achievement badges.

Where to next?

Getting started with gamification can be as simple as looking at the activities students do, and combining them with game elements with lists like this one from Andrezej Marczewski of Some examples might include:

  • Discussion Forums where “Expert” badges for content areas are earned, as a form of displaying social status
  • “Unlockable” mystery project options, earned through collecting points from various strands of assignment (e.g. Readings or quizzes on Canvas), or in-person participation
  • Progress bars (a common game element) to show progress towards earning “expert” badges, unlocking project options, etc
  • Creating an “economy” of points students can earn by engaging with content, and spend to gain options, help guides, or other bonuses associated with other, difficult tasks
  • Choosing a “role” to adopt when viewing a video/reading an article, then discussing it with other students from their chosen role’s perspective

Tools and Tips

When brainstorming activities, use a list of established psychological motivators as a guide. For example, this list from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

  • Problem Solving
  • Competition
  • Risk & Chance
  • Creativity
  • Friendship & Relaxation

Ask how a learning task can leverage one or more of these motivators. For a walkthrough of a gamification process, visit the Gamify My Lesson site, developed by Cory Antonini part of a Masters in Information Technology.


Gamified.Uk. 52 Gamification Mechanics And Elements [website].

Antonini, Cory. Gamification – Cory Antonini [website]. Classbadges [website].

Costello, B., & Edmonds, E.. “A Study In Play, Pleasure And Interaction Design.” Proceedings Of The 2007 Conference On Designing Pleasurable Products And Interfaces – DPPI ’07, 2007, ACM Press, doi:10.1145/1314161.1314168

Csikszentmihalyi, M. Beyond Boredom And Anxiety. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000.

Classdojo. Learn All About Classdojo [website].

Lucero, A., & Arrasvuori, J.. “The PLEX Cards And Its Techniques As Sources Of Inspiration When Designing For Playfulness.” International Journal Of Arts And Technology, vol 6, no. 1, 2013, p. 22. Inderscience Publishers, doi:10.1504/ijart.2013.050688

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