The principles of gamification have been used for decades in customer loyalty programs, with the most well-known example being the cards we all have in our wallets. These cards allow us to accumulate points on each purchase and offer us rewards like special discounts and gift cards. Other everyday examples of gamification include mobile apps linked to physical activity bracelets or those used for studying languages.
The education community’s interest in using gamification has increased in the last few years, as it has been presented as an alternative to increase student motivation and commitment, while promoting the development of cross-disciplinary competences such as collaboration and creativity. It consists of using elements and mechanisms from games such as challenges, aesthetics, and narratives in the teaching and learning process.
The advantages that gamification applied to education offer students notably include the freedom to make mistakes with minimal consequences, so something new is learned with each try. This way, mistakes become learning opportunities, encouraging students to explore and giving rise to discovery-based learning.
This desire to play multiple times offers teachers the opportunity to distribute learning across multiple sessions, which encourages more effective retention and recovery of lessons in the long term. In addition, going from one level to another with growing difficulty serves as a framework for student progress, as it allows them to develop skills that will be necessary to reach the end goal.
Gamification also provides students with the opportunity to experience new identities and roles, as well as to practice behavior observed in a safe and controlled environment through the use of virtual models or avatars.
Any innovations that we introduce into the classroom must be in line with a specific purpose and well-founded. Incentive-based gamification (points, badges, and leader boards) is easy to implement, but perhaps it is not the most appropriate solution for the instructional problem at hand. Therefore, training or research must be done that allows the teacher to design the most appropriate gamification experience for each case. In general terms, in order for gamified projects and activities to be effective, they must make sense to students, be in line with the desired learning outcomes, demonstrate an appropriate difficulty level, and allow students to make decisions that influence results.
One successful gamification project is the Personal Competence Trainer course for post-bacc students at Universidad Europea. Five of the competencies most highly demanded by international employers are developed through training cycles: leadership, emotional intelligence, ethical values, entrepreneurial spirit, and international mindedness. Each cycle has four phases: raising awareness, i.e., reflecting on how we personally develop in each of these areas; approaching the challenges that will help us expand our comfort zone; learning effective techniques to apply to each of them and applying the knowledge and skills acquired; and reflecting on the results obtained. All of these are accompanied by a number of elements whose purpose is to support and encourage students to stay engaged. This course just received an honorable mention in the e-Learning, Academic Division of the 2018 International E-Learning Awards given by the International E-Learning Association (IELA).