Online Teaching Gamification

​​I really appreciate faculty requests and this week I received one for the topic of Gamification for Education. Specifically, asking for research-backed strategies to attempt gamification of some aspects of a class. So, I would like to share the following resources.

From the 2019 Educause/NMC Horizon Report, author Alexander saw digital gaming as growing in importance as a tool for learning, as a subject of class study and research scrutiny, and as an area where academics would produce content. The reports also viewed gamification as rising, as faculty would introduce to the learning experience structures and techniques drawn from the gaming world. However, games and gamification fell off of Horizon after 2015. In Gee's (2003), work, "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning," he argued that computer games were essentially pedagogical tools, as players learned how to use them, utilizing many pedagogical techniques, from Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development to carefully calibrated scaffolding. Next, McGonigal’s shared an approach in her 2010 TED Talk (“Gaming Can Make a Better World”) and her 2011 book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better. In these, she argued that since games were successful in modifying user behaviors, game techniques could be deployed beyond games in order to encourage people to lead better lives. Educators then applied this insight to gamify classes, using points, levels, characters, quests, and so on to encourage student learning.

Here is a 2018 summary of Gamified Learning in Higher Education: A Systematic Review of the Literature by Subhash and Cudne. This paper shares frameworks that integrate game design elements, and various implementations of gamification.

A second paper entitled, Gamification in Higher Education. Toward a Pedagogy to Engage and Motivate by Herbert (2016) shares four game elements which engage and motivate students. These include narrative, challenge, progression and feedback (all of which align well with Course Design).

A paper examining Students’ Acceptance of Gamification in Higher Education by Chung, Shen & Qiu (2019) found that performance expectancy is the most important factor influencing a student to accept gamification. Other factors include effort expectancy, social influence, facilitating conditions, involvement, skill, and control.

University of Waterloo CTL created a summary of Game-Based and Gamification ideas. A non-scholarly article from Campus Tech on Tips to Gamify a Course shares some ideas - great to see the first one was to define Outcomes.

Kahoot is a popular student response system, which has seen success in K-12 and post-secondary education. Recently, I was able to publish research on this topic with a colleague (Iwamoto & Hargis, 2017). We found that Kahoot works best when it is used consistently and in different ways to engage students; multiple choice options are most effective when there are “Actionable Distractors"; there is sufficient time allowed (~15 seconds); and the results are used to encourage discussion.


Iwamoto, D., & Hargis, J. (2017). Analyzing the efficacy of the testing effect using Kahoot on performance. Turkish Journal of Distance Education, 18(1), 80-93.

Subhash, S. & Cudne, E. (2018). Gamified learning in higher education: A systematic review of the literature. Computers in Human Behavior, 87, 192-206.

Herbert, M. (2016). Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics. A Working Paper Series. ISSN 1401-4068.

Chung, C., Shen, C., & Qiu, Y. (2019). Students’ Acceptance of Gamification in Higher Education. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 9(2).

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