Gamification in Education - Why it Works

The power of gamifying education in today's society and current learning environments
"if we teach today, as we taught yesterday, we rob students of tomorrow" (Dewey, 1917)

Game-based learning

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘game’? Is it the word fun? Perhaps, the word exciting? Or maybe, it's the endless memories of you and your friends getting together and happily playing board games all day?

This time, what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘school’? Grades? Assignments? Is it the word dull? Or maybe, the all-nighters you pulled to complete a project that was given a month ago.

Although, we immediately see the differences and it might be rare to see the two words in the same sentence, you would be surprised of the similarities both possess regarding the quality and quantity of knowledge one gets from participating in either activities.

A new era of learners

Students in the ever-advancing digital society have shown differences in population profile compared to those who were born before the 21st century (Prensky, 2012). Apart from the obvious reasons such as students’ greater reliance on technology to support their education, students nowadays have a ‘new attitude to the learning process and higher requirements for teaching and learning’ (Kiryakova et al, 2014). With new variables and uncertainties in the modern student profile, educators face a challenging task to mend the gap between the ‘old’ education system and students’ new learning styles. Meeting both the educators’ and students’ needs is not easy and requires various perspectives of the education system and different pedagogical paradigms. Of which, active learning, highly engaging content and an enjoyable experience are at the core of students’ requirements and what educators strive to provide. However, as much as the education system is trying to facilitate different teaching styles to mend the gap and satisfy the polarizing preferences, relying on past methods and old pedagogies won’t effectively address present and future challenges regarding students’ academic and personal growth.

As such, new approaches to teaching and researched-practices are being implemented across academic institutions such as gamifying education.

What is gamification?

Bringing it back to the all-nighters mentioned earlier, why is it that students wait until the last minute to complete their assignments and don’t eagerly start on working like they would on a game? Simply put, they lack motivation and enthusiasm and the process provides little encouragement. This is not to discount the fact that there are external individualistic reasons why students procrastinate such as different personalities but the majority of the reasons are intrinsic to the ‘old’ education system. A behavioural research done on academic procrastination and the educational environment have shown that “delayed consequences; long periods given for completion; boring, routine, unpleasant assignments; pressure from other obligations; delayed gratification and rewards” are all conditions of the academic process that provoke procrastination (Shemyakina, 2013).

Now, what if there is a method to get students to participate in a manner that piques their interest and activates their innate healthy competitiveness thus empowering them to start working earlier, academically learn and strive for excellence. Enter, gamification.

Gamifying education might sound counterintuitive or even nonsensical given the infancy of the practice in the history of the education system. However, if we dissect games down to its core and design, it is evident that games are no different than school. According to Karl Kapp, a professor at Bloomsburg University and an academic expert in the field of modern education, gamification is “using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems” (Kapp, 2012). Evidently enough, games share the same goals as schools which is to tap into individuals’ creative problem solving skills and impart knowledge on specific content. Same goals, just different execution. Similar to Landers et al’s research on Psychological Theory and the Gamification of Learning, “gamification represents a new combination of and perspective on many prior techniques, all wrapped into new packaging” (Landers et al, 2014). This new ‘package’ of teaching is one of the innovative methods of meeting students’ new learning styles while satisfying educators’ objectives.

The power of gamification in education

As Kiryakova et al describe, “games have some distinctive features which play a key role in gamification:

  • users are all participants – students (for educational institutions);
  • challenges/tasks that users perform and progress towards defined objectives;
  • points that are accumulated as a result of executing tasks;
  • levels which users pass depending on the points;
  • badges which serve as rewards for completing actions;
  • ranking of users according to their achievements” (Kiryakova et al, 2014)

Gamification fits very well with students’ new learning styles as education becomes more digital-based. Educational platforms like Kritik facilitate higher engagement and motivation specifically in online environments through the implementation of game design elements mentioned above. Through Kritik’s proprietary ‘Grading Power’ mechanism, students are able to actively learn and their progress are monitored in the form of a star rating system. They are able to level up their scores, upgrade their evaluator status and earn new badges by improving their peer-assessment capabilities thereby rewarding them for new accomplishments. Ultimately, students are encouraged to participate in a healthy and enjoyable competitive environment that is both interactive and educational.


As mentioned earlier, academic processes that are routinary and mundane result in a decrease in engagement and motivation. Although there is nothing bad about these conditions, to meet students’ new learning styles, new pedagogical practices such as gamification should be explored. Unlike traditional systems, Kritik offers an opportunity for students to improve their academics through the use of enticing game elements. Not only do students learn better and strive for excellence by gamifying education specifically for the college and university environment and online settings (Alsawaier, 2017), students’ stigmas regarding schools are eliminated as the learning process becomes more fun, exciting and rewarding while ensuring that the objectives and fundamentals of education are maintained.


Alsawaier, R. S. (2018). The effect of gamification on motivation and engagement. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 35(1), 56-79. doi:10.1108/ijilt-02-2017-0009

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Kiryakova, G., Yordanova, L., & Angelova, N. (2018). Gamification in Education. 9th International Balkan Education and Science Conference. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-5198-0

Landers, R. N., Bauer, K. N., Callan, R. C., & Armstrong, M. B. (2014). Psychological theory and the gamification of learning. Gamification in Education and Business, 165-186. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-10208-5_9

Prensky, M. (2012). From digital natives to digital wisdom: Hopeful essays for 21st century learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Shemyanika, O. (2013). Impact of procrastination on the stress levels of students. Psychology and Law, 3(4).

Jay Arias
Education Researcher