Applying Gamification to Enhance the Universal Design for Learning Framework

Applying Gamification to Enhance the Universal Design for Learning Framework

Mourad Majdoub
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9561-9.ch013
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In today's classrooms, several students are confronted with situations where access and meaningful learning opportunities are a daily ordeal. While the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework can be used to proactively design and develop lessons that address the individual needs of a range of learners, more research into the mechanisms that would facilitate the implementation of the UDL principles is needed. Gamification and game-based learning have risen as a promising tool to provide accessibility to a wide range of learners through game features. Drawing on the UDL principles, this study reviews some key gamified design features that would allow full access to the general curriculum for the broad range of learners found in today's diverse classrooms. Teachers, educators, and learning material developers can take away some practical ideas that can help inclusive lesson plans involving game-based learning.
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We can’t deny that teachers around the world face challenges in responding to ever-increasing levels of learner variability. Learner variability applies to all learners and includes several features that affect how they experience schooling (Rao & Meo, 2016). To meet the needs of all students, teachers should consider collaborative practices and accessible options in designing and developing learning materials. In this context, the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an effective framework for designing flexible lesson plans and proactively integrating strategies that address learner variability through the use of three principles, advocated by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), which include multiple means of representation, engagement as well as action and expression (CAST, 2021). For example, according to Smith & Harvey (2014) ‘‘the combination of audio, video and text has the potential to provide students, especially those with disabilities, with greater access to curricula. Likewise, in the real-time nature of synchronous learning, teachers have the increased ability to monitor student progress with immediate access to performance data’’ (p. 223). In theory, such strategies allow teachers to customize instructional materials to each student’s unique learning needs. However, The UDL framework alone does not appear to provide the necessary instruments to apply its principles. As a result, other instructional frameworks are needed to further explore the full potential of the UDL approach.

As gaming becomes more popular among young people in our society, enthusiasm among scholars from different disciplines have led them to explore the potential of this phenomenon and its impact on education and learning. In this regard, the use of games in general and gamification in particular has been believed to be a novel instructional method to motivate and engage students during their learning processes (Millis, Forsyth, Wallace, Graesser & Timmins, 2017). However, the use of games is not the same as gamification; whereas a game or game-based learning implies the design of fully fledged games, gamification presents a different approach whereby game elements (both mechanics and dynamics) are used in the design of teaching and learning experiences in order to harness the users’ motivation and engagement (Deterding, 2011). In line with this, most of the experimental research studies on gamified learning have reported improvements not only in students' motivation and engagement, but also in their learning achievement (Zainuddin, Chu, Shujahat & Perera, 2020). Within the sphere of user-centered research, many researchers have considered the gamified learning approach for its accessibility to a wide range of learners through game features, such as appealing visuals, interactive opportunities, or a compelling narrative (Schwartz & Plass, 2020). By applying the Universal Design Principles introduced by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), this paper highlights some key gamified design features that would allow full access to the general curriculum for the broad range of learners found in today’s diverse classrooms. The article begins with a brief overview of the UDL framework and the gamified learning approach. We then describe how game elements can help teachers develop instructional materials that address learner variability with the UDL guidelines.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Universal Design for Learning: An educational framework based on research that opens up content and curricula for a wide variety of learners.

Engagement: Broad term referring to all student behaviors related to course-based prompts to develop knowledge, skill, and disposition of the content.

Motivation: A term to describe underlying reasons to explain human behaviors. Scholars have differentiated two types of motivation, such as intrinsic or extrinsic.

Self-Regulation: Theoretical model for explaining individual capacity to engage in tasks without close supervision or coercion. Typically including functions of planning, monitoring, and reflecting.

Gamification: The application of game design principles and the inclusion of game elements in non-gaming contexts.

Feedback: Communication between students or between student and professor focused on evidence of demonstrating learner outcomes.

Game-Based Learning: The use of digital or non-digital games with the aim to fulfill one or more specific learning objectives.

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