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Hello there, fellow learners and educators! Today, we’re diving into an exciting topic that’s transforming the way we approach education. We’re talking about gamification in higher education.

Now, you might be wondering, “What exactly is gamification?” Well, at its core, gamification involves integrating game elements and mechanics into educational pursuits. The goal? To make learning more engaging, motivating, and effective.

Imagine earning badges for mastering a complex concept or racing up a leaderboard as you complete tasks. These game-like elements tap into our innate desire for achievement and progress, making us more eager to learn.

And this isn’t just a passing trend. Gamification in education is expected to grow by an average of 28% every year until 2030. That’s a revolution in the making!

So, whether you’re a student looking for a more engaging way to learn or an educator seeking innovative teaching methods, this post is for you. Let’s explore the world of gamification in higher education together, shall we?

The Power of Gamification in Higher Education

Gamification, a strategy that applies game elements in non-gaming contexts, has been gaining traction in various sectors, including education. In higher education, it’s not just another buzzword but a powerful tool that can transform the learning experience.

According to an article on Scavify, gamification in higher education can increase student engagement, improve recall rates, and enhance learning outcomes. It can also foster a sense of community among students, promoting both collaboration and competition.

In a similar vein, the University of Chicago highlights the similarities between gaming and learning. Both involve exploring new worlds (or subjects), quests (or learning objectives), points and badges (or grades and awards), and social interaction. By gamifying education, we can make learning as engaging and fun as gaming.

Gamification in higher education can be applied in various ways, from simple in-class activities to complex, multilevel schemes that provide students with an immersive experience. For instance, educators can grant students extra-credit awards, promote in-class team competitions, or implement complex multilevel schemes over a longer period to give students an immersive experience.

Gamification in Action

Gamification activities can be categorized based on their technical complexity and duration. Here are some examples:

Short duration, low-tech: Trivia or jeopardy-style review games using tools like Canvas Quizzes, Quizlet Live, or Kahoot. These activities are easy to implement and can be intellectually challenging and socially engaging for students.

gamification in higher education

Medium duration, medium-tech: Pre-packaged games for language instruction, such as the City of Words game offered by the Goethe Institute for German Instruction. These games can provide students with an immersive learning experience.

Long-distance, high-tech: Role-playing games like Reacting to the Past (RTTP). In RTTP games, students are assigned character roles with specific goals. They must devise their means of expressing those ideas persuasively in papers, speeches, or other public presentations. This gives students more control over their learning process and extra motivation to continue learning outside the classroom.

According to Hurix Digital, gamification in higher education can increase learner motivation, improve student engagement, enrich the overall experience, and increase attention span. They suggest several ways to gamify learning in higher education, such as implementing gamification in grading, using a point-based rewards system, promoting quests, creating competition within the classroom, and encouraging teamwork.

In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into these strategies and explore how they can be effectively implemented in higher education.

Strategies for Implementing Gamification in Higher Education

There are several strategies educators can use to implement gamification in higher education. Here are some of them:

Reward System 

This involves awarding points, badges, or other forms of rewards to students for completing tasks or achieving specific goals. This can be a powerful motivator for students, as it taps into their reward-seeking behavior and makes learning more enjoyable.

Friendly Competitions

Competitions can be a great motivator for students. You can leverage leaderboards, team games, and interactive work to engage students in the learning process. However, it’s important to ensure that the competition remains friendly and supportive.

Incentivizing Participation

You can incentivize participation in various activities, both in and out of the classroom. This can include participating in discussions, completing assignments, or even logging in daily study time.


Storyboarding involves creating a narrative or story arc that links the course material. This can make the subject matter more relatable and engaging for students.

Gamifying Existing Learning Tools

Existing learning tools, such as flashcards, can be gamified to make them more engaging. For example, you can turn flashcard activities into a group game or part of an award-based structure.


Encourage teamwork by offering rewards for collaborative work. This can help foster a sense of community among students and promote collaborative learning.

According to a study by Sergi Villagrasa et al., gamification can significantly increase student motivation and engagement. They developed a tool called GLABS to assist in the gamification of the classroom and found that game elements can effectively drive a student’s learning behavior, leading to better results in the learning process.

Another study by José-María Campillo-Ferrer et al. found that the use of the online gaming platform Kahoot significantly improved students’ perception of certain concepts in social science teaching, increased their active participation in the lesson, and motivated them towards learning in a more interactive and stimulating environment.

In the next section, we’ll look at some case studies that illustrate the effectiveness of gamification in higher education.

The Impact of Gamification on Student Engagement and Motivation

Gamification in higher education, the application of game elements in non-game contexts, has shown promising results in increasing student motivation and engagement in higher education. One of the most common game elements used in education is badges, which are rewards given to students when they achieve predefined requirements.

A study conducted by Alejandro Ortega-Arranz and colleagues examined the impact of badges on student engagement in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The researchers found that students who were active in earning badges generally showed positive behaviors that were significantly correlated with their engagement in the course. These behaviors included viewing course pages, submitting tasks, and posting in forums. Interestingly, students who reported high motivation from badges at the end of the course showed a higher engagement level than those who were not motivated by badges.

Another study by José-María Campillo-Ferrer and colleagues investigated the use of the online gaming platform Kahoot in higher education. The researchers found that integrating this game-based student response system into the teaching process improved students’ perceptions of certain concepts, increased their active participation in the lesson, and motivated them towards learning in a more interactive and stimulating environment.

gamification in higher education

These studies suggest that gamification, particularly the use of badges, can significantly enhance student engagement and motivation in higher education. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of gamification may vary depending on the specific context and implementation. Therefore, educators should carefully consider how to best incorporate game elements into their teaching to maximize their benefits.

The Impact of Gamification on Learning Performance

Gamification in higher education has been shown to have a significant impact on learning performance in higher education. This impact is often measured in terms of grades, motivation, quality of assignments, attention and participation, and emotion.

A Study on Gamification

A study conducted by Rincon-Flores and Santos-Guevara used a system of rewards, badges, avatars, and a leadership board as components of gamification. The superpowers narrative, which took its cues from superheroes and held that every person possesses superpowers in the form of knowledge, attitudes, and values, served as the foundation for the rewards system. The badges used in the study included:

  • The Flash badge: Earned by answering a challenging quick-response question. The goal was to attract the attention of the class.
  • The Stark badge: Earned by answering a more challenging question or placing first in a Kahoot.
  • The Captain America badge: Recognized students who performed their activities on time, correctly, and well organized. The goal was to acknowledge positive attitudes.
  • The Spider badge: Recognized students’ progress, for example, when they improved in a second assessment.

Findings of the Study

The study found that gamification based on the mechanic of rewards has proven to be a useful teaching tool to engage students, particularly in online environments. It analyzed the performance of university students from the Engineering School and the Economics and Social Sciences School, showing the similarities and differences between both schools in terms of motivation, quality of assignments, attention and participation, emotion, and academic performance.

The study used a mixed methodology of the QUAN-Qual (with a dominant quantitative element) to integrate quantitative and qualitative information to better understand the main research question at hand. The variables were established: grades, motivation, quality of assignments, attention, participation, and emotion. In the qualitative part, the variables were: the emotional effects of academic confinement; effects of gamification in calculus class within academic confinement; and advantages and areas of opportunity of online classes.

Correlations and Results

The results showed that the correlations were positive in both courses. It can be seen how the Calculus for the Engineering course shows stronger correlations than the Economics and Social Sciences course. It is also interesting to note that the lowest correlations in the Engineering group were Quality of Assignments with Grades, while in the Economics and Social Sciences course, they were Emotion with Grades, though both courses’ correlations between Emotion and Grades were low.

In the case of the Engineering course, high correlations can be seen between Motivation and Quality of Assignments, emotion and attention participation, quality of assignments and attention participation, and emotion and attention participation and quality of Assignments and Attention-Participation, and between Emotion and Attention-Participation and Quality of Assignments. In other words, the greater the recognition of the quality of assignments, attention, and participation, the greater the motivation and emotion. The Grades variable had the highest correlations with Motivation and attention participation, although they did not show strong correlations.

gamification in higher education

On the other hand, the correlations in the Economics and Social Sciences course did not exceed p = 0.5. The highest scores were for Quality of assignments, attention, participation, and motivation. As in the Engineering course, the higher the recognition for the quality of the student’s assignments, attention, and participation in class, the greater the motivation. Contrary to the Engineering course, the Emotion variable is the one that showed the least correlation with the rest of the variables. As for the variable Grades, the highest correlation was with the variable’s Quality of Assignments and attention participation. Both courses coincided in attention and participation; that is, the greater the attention and participation in the class, the higher the grade.

gamification in higher education


In conclusion, gamification has a positive impact on learning performance in higher education, particularly in terms of motivation, quality of assignments, attention, and participation. However, the correlation between these factors and grades is not as strong, suggesting that while gamification improves the learning experience, it may not directly translate into higher grades. This highlights the importance of using gamification as a tool to enhance the learning process rather than solely as a means to improve academic performance.

Gamification vs. Traditional Learning Formats

Comparing Gamification and Traditional Learning

When it comes to comparing gamification with traditional learning formats, the debate is quite intriguing. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between the two often depends on the specific learning context and the learners involved.

A Study on Gamification and Cognitive Load

A study conducted by Domínguez et al. compared the effects of gamification strategies on students’ cognitive load levels and achievements with traditional learning methods. The study found that the group of students who were trained using gamification strategies had higher achievement scores than the group trained via traditional procedures. This suggests that gamification can indeed enhance learning outcomes, making it a powerful tool in the educational landscape.

However, it’s important to note that the same study also found that the cognitive load levels of the students trained with gamification were higher than those of those trained with traditional methods. This suggests that while gamification can enhance learning outcomes, it may also demand more cognitive resources from learners. This is an important consideration for educators, as it’s crucial to strike a balance between engaging students and not overwhelming them.

Gamification and Student Motivation

Another study by Hanus and Fox found that students in a gamified course had lower motivation, satisfaction, empowerment, and achievement scores than students in a traditional course. This highlights that while gamification can be beneficial, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and may not work for all students or in all learning contexts.

Gamification vs. Traditional Methods: A Comparative Study

In a different study, Marcos, Domínguez, Saenz-de-Navarrete, & Pagés found that while gamification increased student participation, students trained by traditional methods were more successful. The researchers attributed the success of traditional approaches to the competitive nature of the gamification applications and the student’s overall familiarity with traditional methods.

In conclusion, while gamification has shown promise in enhancing learning outcomes and engagement, it’s not without its challenges. It’s crucial for educators to carefully consider these factors when deciding whether to incorporate gamification into their teaching strategies. It’s also important to remember that what works best may vary depending on the specific learning context and the learners involved.

The Future of Gamification in Higher Education

The future of gamification in higher education is promising. As technology continues to evolve, so does the potential for gamification to enhance the learning experience. The integration of gamification in education is not just about making learning fun but also about improving student engagement, motivation, and academic performance.

In a study by MDPI, gamification was found to significantly improve academic performance at the university level. The study suggests that the nature of rewards or punishments, characteristic of gamification, could play an important role in the expected results. The study also highlighted that gamification is beneficial for academic performance, even though intrinsic motivation does not change.

Moreover, the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in gamification is also on the rise. 

A study published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education detailed the development of an interactive and augmented reality-based application for orientation week at a higher education institution. The application was designed to help freshmen learn about the institution’s environment, degree program, and course curriculum before school starts. The study found that the application was successful in reducing the fear of failure among students and preventing educational withdrawal.

As we look to the future, we can expect to see more innovative uses of gamification in higher education. With the integration of emerging technologies like AR and VR, gamification will continue to transform the educational landscape, making learning more engaging and effective for students.


Gamification in higher education is more than just a trend; it’s a powerful tool that can enhance the learning experience, improve student engagement and motivation, and lead to better academic outcomes. The use of game elements in non-game contexts, such as education, can create a more interactive and engaging learning environment.

While traditional learning formats have their strengths, gamification in higher education offers a fresh approach that can cater to the digital natives of today’s higher education landscape. It’s not about replacing traditional learning methods but rather enhancing them with elements that can make learning more enjoyable and effective.

The future of gamification in higher education looks bright, with advancements in technology paving the way for more innovative and effective uses of gamification. As educators, it’s important to embrace these changes and explore how gamification can be used to enhance our teaching methods and improve student outcomes. After all, the ultimate goal of education is to provide the best learning experience for our students, and gamification is a tool that can help us achieve that goal.


Campillo-Ferrer, J. M., Miralles-Martínez, P., & Sánchez-Ibáñez, R. (2020). Gamification in Higher Education: Impact on Student Motivation and the Acquisition of Social and Civic Key Competencies. Sustainability, 12(12). Link

Domínguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L., Pagés, C., & Martínez-Herráiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392. Link

Hanus, M. D., & Fox, J. (2015). Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance. Computers & Education, 80, 152-161. Link

Hurix Systems. (n.d.). How to Gamify Learning in Higher Education. Link

IGI Global. (n.d.). The Use of Gamification in Higher Education. Link

International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education. (2018). Interactive augmented learning for orientation in higher education. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 15(1), 1-20. Link

Marcos, J. M., Sanchez, E., Tillema, H. H., & Segers, M. S. (2016). Promoting effective cognitive processing in computer-supported collaborative learning: An examination of social interaction and two modes of guidance. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(6), 1112-1130. Link

MDPI. (2020). Gamification in Higher Education and STEM: A Systematic Review of Literature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12), 4465. Link

Ortega-Arranz, A., Er, E., Martínez-Monés, A., Bote-Lorenzo, M. L., Asensio-Pérez, J. I., & Muñoz-Cristóbal, J. A. (2019). Understanding student behavior and perceptions toward earning badges in a gamified MOOC. Universal Access in the Information Society. Link

Rincon-Flores, E. G., & Santos-Guevara, R. (2022). Gamification as a Teaching Tool in Higher Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Education Sciences, 12(1), 49. Link

Scavify. (n.d.). Gamification in Higher Education. Link

The University of Chicago. (2021). Introduction to the Use of Gamification in Higher Education Part 1. Link

Zainuddin, Z., Chu, S. K. W., Shujahat, M., & Perera, C. J. (2021). The impact of gamification on learning and instruction: A systematic review of empirical evidence. Educational Research Review, 33. Link

Richard Campbell

Richard Campbell is an experienced English professor in South Korea with over 20 years of teaching experience across all levels of education. With a doctorate in education, Richard is passionate about promoting language learning and using innovative approaches, including AI writing tools, to inspire his students.

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