Date posted: 21/11/2019 5 min read

4 things you didn’t know about gamification

If you think gamification is kids playing Minecraft at school and calling it education, think again.

In Brief

  • Gamification isn’t about playing games – it’s about using gaming features to encourage learning.
  • Placing people in virtual environments that reflect the real world gives them a chance to fail and learn again.
  • Adding visible scoring systems and leaderboards can encourage student success.

By Seamus Byrne

1. It’s not about playing video games in class

Gamification isn’t about sitting students in front of Minecraft and calling it a valuable lesson. Rather, it’s about using those things that attract us to games – agency, emotional investment, engagement and, yes, even fun – to enhance learning. With less face-to-face class time, and more social media distractions, academics see gamification as a potent training tool.

In 2017, Swinburne University of Technology senior accounting lecturer Dr Gráinne Oates and Professor Dan Hunter won awards for a course-based quiz app, Quitch, which harnesses students’ smartphone addictions for good. In 2019, RMIT University will launch Bogart Technologies, an interactive game set in a fictional firm to educate accountants about the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants. RMIT also developed the award-winning serious game Lucro Island – a strategic budgeting simulation that allows management accounting students to compete against each other in real time using their accounting skills as managers of hotels.

2. Gamification can be used with real stakes

UTS accounting lecturer Dr Nicole Sutton uses a “giving game” to make her students responsible for deciding what charity is the worthiest recipient of a small but, importantly, real amount of money. “In one case a final vote ended in a deadlock,” Sutton says. “When a coin flip was suggested, one student leapt up and yelled ‘We can’t do that! It isn’t rational!’ It’s rare to see accounting students animated like that.”

Rather than simply discussing a financial concept, the class experiences what it means to use funds wisely. Having actual money at stake means there are real consequences for the decisions, so these future accountants are much more engaged.

3. Learning by doing in a virtual world delivers real-world benefits

US company WTRI, led by cognitive scientist Lia DiBello, uses its FutureView Suite to create virtual reality ‘rehearsal’ scenarios across many fields, from mining to health care to financial services. Its research has found that putting people into simulated virtual environments that reflect real-world work gives them a chance to fail and then try again. Participants gain real growth in experience and, ultimately, in expertise.

“Human beings used to learn only through experience – learning by doing – for more than 100,000 years; it’s part of our DNA. Virtual worlds now offer the means to do that again, only this time without risk to actual companies or people,” DiBello writes.

WTRI’s virtual environments can host large multi-player teams and cope with large inputs of business information to simulate the real world. Companies that have used the tool include insurance giant Swiss Re.

4. Feedback loops can raise the bar for everyone

Another UTS accounting lecturer, Dr James Wakefield, says that even the simple act of adding visible scoring systems and leaderboards to an education program can lead to higher baseline success across a student cohort.

In one example, Wakefield allowed students the option to share a presentation assignment online ahead of a deadline to get feedback from fellow students. This saw eager students set an early benchmark, and a competitive instinct to match or better those standards in other students. In courses with no such optional feedback system, Wakefield found the baseline marks for a student group are typically lower.

Read more:

Fintech Innovation

By Paolo Sironi, this book explains fintech innovation, goal-based investing and the relevance of gamification to investing.

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