VIU Campus


Search Google or VIU’s Library for “gamification of learning” and you will be rewarded with 1000s of results including research articles, book titles, blog posts and infographics. As you can imagine, these results will represent a spectrum of ideas, opinions, best practices and research findings.

Put simply, the gamification of learning is the integration of game-like elements into the design of your course that integrate rewards for students as they engage with the topics of your course. Many authors who talk about gamification of learning begin by discussing such elements as badges, point systems and leaderboards. More powerful is game-based learning, where instructors create activities that motivate learners by giving them problems to solve, autonomy in how to solve them (either alone or with peers) and clear rewards when they succeed in solving them. (Gamification and Game-Based Learning).Just as with online games, gamification and game-based learning can also create friendly competition among students or between student teams.

An Example of Gamification: One of the learning activities in your course is to have students contribute content to an open textbook that you are adapting as a class. In addition to the mark they receive for their contribution, they will also get points for every relevant submission they add. These points are added to a leaderboard  that is available for the whole class to see. Additionally, you may choose to award badges based on certain point levels.

An Example of Game-based Learning: In a History class, students engage in a simulation of politics and governance in a particular period of history. The various student teams are given different social, economic or political roles that were present the historical society that is targeted. Each team's role in that society instantly creates differing goals from the other teams, and thereby differing solutions to the problems of society in that era as they see them. The goal of the whole class is to negotiate one or more reasonable solutions that will serve everyone in that society.

Of course, you do not need to include each of these elements in your course. For example, if you are ‘gamifying’ your course, you could choose to award points and badges, but not make that information available to the whole class. The VIULearn Awards tool will allow you to build and award badges based on the criteria of your choice. If you are using game-based learning, you could design a much simpler problem to solve that would take only one class period rather than several weeks.

As with any instructional method and/or technology choice, the question we need to ask is whether gamification and badging or game-based learning is the right choice for our course. Will it help meet my learning outcomes? Will it meet the needs of my learners? Does this approach integrate well into my existing learning activities or deepen them in useful ways? Will it enhance my students' experience of the course and create better learning? These are all questions that only you can answer, but here are a few things to consider when doing so.

  • Are you motivated by this type of learning? If so, you will have a much better chance of building engaging and meaningful gamified learning experiences.

  • Keep in mind that extrinsic competition is not a motivator for all learners (Rodrigo). You can consider making the gamified elements optional and not tie these elements to grades. You can ensure that competition is between teams and never between individual students.

  • Does this approach fulfill an existing need in your course?

If you think you would like to integrate badges into your course or create game-based learning activities and would like to learn more or get support in doing so, please email and one of your team members will be happy to work with you.

We also have several books on games and gamification in the CIEL Library. You can access the list online and visit the library in person. We'd love to see you up at CIEL.