The Gamification of Education

By Jessica Estremera, graduate student, School for Graduate Studies

December 11, 2012

 The utilization of games for health, wellness and learning benefits have fueled the creation of mobile apps such as “Zombies, Run!” and “Foursquare” and learning sites like “Stack Overflow” and “Codecademy.” Now, education is expanding into the realm of “gamification.”

As more schools struggle to adequately motivate and engage students, gamification provides teachers with a tool to reach students. Quest to Learn, a 6-12th-grade school in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, has gamified all of its classes including math, science and language arts. A closer look at Quest’s sixth-grade curriculum shows how the school differentiates itself from that of a traditional school:

Each learning ‘Quest’ is presented as a challenge or problem to be solved and figured out either by gathering relevant resources, doing mathematical calculations, reading and analyzing texts, designing tools, repairing broken systems, creating models, doing scientific experiments, building games or a host of other activities. Missions are approximately 10 weeks in length and culminate in a special unit called “Boss level.”

People who use gamified systems (students, runners, programmers) are referred to as “players.” Each player is sent on quests. Players earn points, unlock badges, or earn prizes or discounts by performing a desired behavior or achieving a desired result. Think rewards program meets personal trainer. The game incorporates a player’s motivation and applies it to a game scenario.

Rather than a progression through grade level, students progress through game-like levels from “novice” to “apprentice” to “expert.” Science and math are combined into classes and students play games that teach the metric system, fractions and conduct scientific experiments.

One of the most popular examples of Gamification in HigherEd comes from Lee Sheldon, an associate professor in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Language, Literature, and Communication. Sheldon gamified one of his design courses by converting points to experience, grades to levels, and adding student avatars, among other things. One student who was unfamiliar with mass multiplayer online games before the class felt it provided him with “cultural immersion.” The syllabus of the class screams fun:

Gamification name cloud“Class time will be divided between fighting monsters (Quizzes, Exams etc.), completing quests (Presentations of Games, Research etc.) and crafting (Personal Game Premises, Game Analysis Papers, Video Game Concept Document etc.).”

Students learn to collaborate with other students, simulating real-world circumstances while experiencing a sense of urgency to solve the problems in gamified classrooms. More students are engaged and motivated to learn with the implementation of this latest teaching technique. Best of all, it’s all in the spirit of fun.

For more information regarding gamification in schools and HigherEd, visit:

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Article Contributors
  • Sandra Barkevich
  • Helen Edelman
  • Jessica Estremera
  • David Henahan
  • Dana Henson
  • Al Lawrence
  • Vickie Moller

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