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Weekly Tip: Sparking Motivation through Gamification

What is gamification? Gamification is the use of game-like techniques and strategies to engage and motivate participants. Gamification creates an individualized experience through basing the level of difficulty on the student’s ability. Students are consistently motivated by pursuing a specific goal. Gamification may evoke notions of silliness and play, but it is an excellent strategy to immerse students in course content.

The benefits of implementing gaming strategies, such as points systems, or levels, into a course are numerous:

  • Investment—Students experience intrinsic motivation and increased engagement. Often, having a clear goal encourages students to focus on what they are learning and gaining from the course.
  • Growth—Students can learn at their current level and advance to higher levels of learning creating an equitable experience, opportunities for self-assessment, and increasing student success. Additionally, gamification allows learners to identify areas they need to review and improve on.
  • Achievement—Gamification allows students to focus on setting goals that are not related to a final grade. Students can see how they are progressing and how their learning is increasing in a non-grade-based manner.

Gamification in post-secondary manifests itself in different ways, including, but not limited to: role playing and rapid feedback during lectures. While a different approach, gamification can be just as useful to students in reaching course goals.


  • Consider your objectives and course goals. What is it you want your students to walk away knowing, or what do you want them to achieve?
  • Decide which elements of motivation you are going to tap into. There are many options to adopt, below are a few:
    • Levels allow students to ascend to different stages of difficulty throughout the course, or even a single class.
    • Badges can be used a designation for accomplishing specific tasks or mastering skill levels.
    • Mystery allows learners to identify what they know and what additional information they need.

    Learn more about the different types of gaming elements

  • The next step is to build these strategies into the design of the class by determining the extent to which gaming elements will be incorporated throughout the semester.
    • Use game-based learning throughout the course for components like test-prep or in-class activities.
    • Alternatively, the entire course could be a game in which students need to reach a certain level or complete a quest by the end of the semester.

    More on gamification approaches

  • Finally, after launching the design, take some time to reflect and evaluate what worked, and what didn’t. This will give you the chance to adjust your technique as you build different iterations of your course.

For a flow chart of the process, navigate to Science Direct.

From a young age, playing is how we develop our cognitive strengths. This does not change as we age and is why gamification can be a very successful tool in the classroom.

Resources and Further Readings

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For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.