Benefits and Disadvantages of Utilizing Gamified Learning in Higher Education: A Systematic Analysis

Benefits and Disadvantages of Utilizing Gamified Learning in Higher Education: A Systematic Analysis

Ahmed Karam Yousof (East Stroudsburg University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1306-4.ch021


The chapter presents the results of a systematic analysis of published works on utilizing gamification in higher education. The analysis sheds light on the positives and challenges of using gamification in education. The author investigated the studies that tackled the use of gamified learning in various educational environments and contexts. Although the literature has focused on the general use of gamification, previous research did not highlight other positives and negatives that may result from the use of gamified learning in the classroom. In addition, there was minimal focus on the role of gameplay elements in promoting and/or hindering the use of gamification in higher education. Results of this systematic analysis showed that the use of gamification in higher education is associated with three main elements: pedagogy, design, and behavior. Benefits and challenges of utilizing gamification in the classroom are discussed in light of those elements.
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Gamification is defined as the use of game design elements in non-game contexts (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). Bogost (2015) provided a more detailed definition of gamification as “the process that involves the adoption of simple, repeatable, scalable feedback systems such as points, levels, badges, and other rewards” (p. 223) Gamification is a relatively new field when it is associated with education. The adoption of game elements and gamified application in education started in 2010 (Deterding et al, 2011). Nevertheless, the elements that constitute the gamification concept are not new. Ranking in gamification has been a game element that allows players to monitor their progression by observing a leaderboard that displays their position in the game. From a social perspective, social comparison theory predicts that individuals compare themselves to others in order to validate opinions, make judgments, and reduce uncertainty. Thus, badges and ranks have long been used in the military. Besides, readings from the English literature show that Shakespeare in the 18th century referred to the use of ranks in plays like Macbeth.

Because of its potential to shape users’ behavior, gamification has been utilized in different fields such as management, training, and marketing. Businesses are eager to create gamified or loyalty programs to motivate shoppers and users to gain more badges and points to obtain certain discounts or shopping privileges. Such programs are considered examples of successful gamified mass-market products. Google Maps provides another example in which users’ ranks increase as local guides when they give reviews to places, take photos of locations, and answer questions about businesses and receive votes for their answers. In education, online educational platforms - such as - use game elements to better engage users. The more courses and lessons that users complete, the more badges they earn. Players race against time to solve problems correctly. Each answer is immediately scored right or wrong. Correct answers get happy faces and accumulate points. Mistakes get round yellow sad faces, but the user/player still has to get the answer right before progressing to the next problem. The positive feedback builds on itself cumulatively, so the stakes increase with each correct answer. Instead of fading or zoning out, users get more engaged and determined as their streak increases and they have more to lose. Therefore, gamification within Khan Academy context is used to develop users’ motivation and have them measure their progress in learning and practicing mathematics.

The definitions of game-based learning in empirical and conceptual research have mostly been instrumental. Every definition has covered one of the purposes that games is used for in learning and education. Therefore, the nature of gamification and education has remained equivocal and broad. Coffey (2009) has linked game-based learning to instruction and described it as an instructional method that incorporates learning materials with the goal of entertaining and engaging learners. This description has partially been challenged by Hamari, Shernoff, Rowe, Coller, Asbell-Clarke, and Edwards (2016) who defined game-based learning as an instructional method that has a sole purpose of educating and training. Thus, they perceive game-based learning and gamification as a form of serious play that is developed more for education rather than entertainment or leisure. This serious play could be achieved by the design of competitive activities that challenge the learners and help them acquire new skills. Similarly, Erhel and Jamet (2013) stated that the activities must have clear learning objectives that promote learning and cognitive skills.

Game elements has also been associated with learning skills. Kim, Park, and Baek (2009) suggested that gaming and learning skills are overlapping and both are simultaneously used by learners to gain knowledge. In using gamification within educational contexts, learning and gaming strategies are the primary factors behind the high achievements in both learning and gaming. This implies that higher scores in learning and gaming require better problem-solving abilities, which require, in turn, well-chosen strategies for both learning and gaming (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gamification: The use of game elements within non-gaming context.

Performance Graphs: They provide information about the players' performance compared to their preceding performance during a game.

Game Play: Free movement within rigid structure. In game play, free movement stems from the strategies that the player adopts during the game in order to meet the winning condition of the game.

Leaderboards: Leaderboards rank players according to their relative success, measuring them against a certain success criterion. As such, leaderboards can help determine who performs best in a certain activity, and are thus competitive indicators of progress that relate the player's own performance to the performance of others.

Systematic Review: review of the literature according to an explicit, rigorous, and transparent methodology.

Badges: Visual representations of achievements and can be earned and collected within the gamification environment.

Learning Outcomes: The objectives that students should achieve by the end of the instructional period.

Pedagogy: The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

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