Can Gamification Make Us Learn?

Howdy folks,

2014-08-04-15-00-50.jpgtoday I want to share with you my latest insights about the question if gamification can make us learn. I was thinking about it again because my former lecturer told me that in her opinion, learning (especially in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)) does not need to be fun but to include top notch content.

First, for those of you who are not familiar to gamification: gamification is the application of game mechanics in non-game contexts, e.g. showing customers a leaderboard of the most-buying customers to motivate them to buy even more. So you might want to call gamification a manipulation thing using mechanics that make you feel good or try to do better in games.

The question now is, can we really be manipulated to learn something?

2013-10-11 10.45.46In my opinion, gamification can be a trigger for learning. The game-like style is likely to grab your attention and teach you a first few things in an easy way. This is supported by a good on-boarding design. On-boarding means that in the beginning, there is more help and less difficulty so that you can start smoothly and not just get scared and frustrated after the first minutes.

Gamification then can keep you for some time satisfying your curiosity to discover new things and to figure out how things work. You might enjoy yourself earning some points and achievements and making some progress.

But someday, things get boring and the question then is: What have you learned and what are the take-aways from the time spent on this gamified learning environment?

To be able to answer this question, we have to think about your original motivation why you spent this time and if your motivation changed during spending the time. In my opinion, you can only learn something in a healthy way if you are really caring about learning it. I define healthy learning as a sustainable learning which is achieved once the learner begins to ask questions and looks for answers to these questions – which leads to real engagement of the learner and application of the topic to learn.

2014-08-07-10-50-56.jpgSo if you just stumbled into the learning environment accidentally, looking for pleasure and left once pleasure became less and work became more, you might have learned a few things but they are very likely to fade away soon and you are likely to have not achieved a deep learning and understanding of the topic to learn. In short, little or no learning.

But if you came to the learning environment with questions to answer or developed an interest in the topic to learn in the learning environment, you are likely to take away much more – and maybe even stay longer or look for other learning environments.

So the point I want to make is that what matters first and most is not the design of the learning environment but your motivation to learn.

Which is the role of gamification then?

Redesign of a gamified Software Engineering course, ICL Kazan 2013(6)As stated above, gamification can be a trigger for learning. If the learner is motivated for learning (motivation is not the product of gamification!), the elements of gamification can be a great way to provide the learner with a lot of intuitive learning management tools. Think of a map which shows you the topics you could still move to. A skill tree which shows you which skills you’ve already learned and what you might want or need to work on. A quest you can give to someone so that he/she explains something to you or works on a topic you are interested in. Earning experience points for learning success and getting level-ups to find and peer with other persons of similar levels. All the tracking of your learning and the management of the topics to cover, the possibilities to work on and the communication with other persons can be enhanced and facilitated by gamification techniques so that you can spend more time on the thing you care for – learning something you are really interested in.

2014-08-08-11-44-19.jpgFinally, to answer my starting question: gamification can not make us learn in a healthy way if we are only looking for pleasure. And a last side note: It is somewhat ironic that a society which is pleasure-centered tries to cure the problems of their pleasure-centeredness (that people care more about earning money to buy more pleasure than to learn more to make the world a better place), that this pleasure-centered society is trying to cure their pleasure-centeredness problem with making learning more pleasure…

I am looking forward to learn what you think.

Have a great weekend,



7 thoughts on “Can Gamification Make Us Learn?

  1. Hello again,

    I hope you are feeling okay. And thanks for getting back to me.

    Well, I wouldn’t say that gamification really speaks to me as the first method I’d grab for when wanting to inform a bigger crowd about something important – but that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have it’s place in the world. As I suggested gamification might very well be a method to capture the attention of young people who are easily distracted with “pleasure” and easy access knowledge. The question is if they will continue to feel motivated and thereby realize a true interest in learning more, even if the socalled pleasure level drops (or they change realizing that they feel real pleasure just by learning more).

    Another area I wondered about was … believe it or not … a more therapeutic perspective. After reading what you wrote about gamification I cannot help but associate this “pleasure kick” to be something I automatically connect to being “young” or in many cases not having settled (finding our place in the world). It seems to be a way of alluring people into a new area, which (theoretically seen) should be harder the more the person is aware of his/her own limitations of interests. Allow med to give an example: I am done studying and feel happy about the focus I chose. I can claim that I’ll always be interested in learning more but I’ll still be sceptic about certain topics or generally not wish to spend my time on learning something I am clearly aware that I’ll never really put to use. But if I was younger and I wasn’t aware of where I wanted to go or even who I am – then I’d be more curious to taste a sample of every taster passing along my way.

    So I think that it could help people as a nurturing method into finding something that could potentially prove to be worth their time. And thereby one should be able to conclude that the gamification method reached it’s goal. And it could mean that the audience spent an amount of time, got to know more, and lost his/her motivation, in which case the gamification method has failed.

    I don’t think it isn’t valid as a method. And I don’t think that it isn’t interesting when it can prove to be helpful for the person who is target of the action. The question would always be with what intentions it would be used. Manipulation never has any positive sound, if you know what I mean 🙂

    All the best to you, dear C.

  2. Good morning you.

    Without being completely sure it could sound like you’re doubting the morals in what you’re learning. Combined with your latest reading of the Covey-book and the thought of basing decisions on principles, I see the question rising whether it would ever feel good if your work is to manipulate someone else. Is this what you’re thinking?

    What you’re learning clearly has its effects, and it reminded me of something I noticed not so long ago. It was a website using people’s addiction to gossip and combining it with “facts”. The purpose was to attract the reader’s attention with juicy headlines and make him or her continue reading and thereby learning. I am trying to remember where I saw it. I don’t know if this will turn into a success but personally it didn’t catch my attention for long. Parts of it weren’t interesting to me and parts of it seemed like either bad journalism or wrong data.

    When we go back to your question of what will trigger learning, I am pretty convinced that gamification could be a way to start up an interest, especially if introduced to the right audience. If you use it to target young, insecure teenagers as they have to select a path for their education, I think it could be the perfect way to ease it up for them and let them build up interest. As you noted I do not believe that the interest will continue forever without stimulation – the question is if ‘learning more’ in itself becomes a motivation? When studying I wasn’t always clapping my hands when reading for a lecture – but when it was within my area of interest, I’d willingly go borrow/buy much more literature than what was standing on my list of curriculum. And after studying I continue to read new books and articles within that field out of the motivation to understand more.

    What I am trying to highlight is that the motivation might actually be triggered – and carried through if it hits the right audience. And yet I agree with you that gamification probably wont contribute to a healthy learning if all the audience is looking for is pleasure…

    So how do you use this knowledge to change the world? 🙂

    • hello! thank you very much for your conment. at the moment i am not into education. but whenever i talk about learning or gamification i use this knowledge. so iuse this knowledge like in standby mode. but i might get back into education again one you have any suggestioms how to use the knowledge?

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