Since the majority of students play video games at home, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 70% of teachers saw an increase in student engagement when using educational video games. Have you ever tried playing games in class?  Since nearly 80% of learners said they would be more productive if their learning was like a game, maybe you should give it a try in your class!

If you are a professor thinking about adding gaming to your curriculum, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of gaming in the classroom is important. The information in this article should be able to help you with your decision. Many instructors have led the way in researching this topic and are using games to motivate students in their classrooms.

An Overview of Gamified Learning

Gamified learning is a teaching methodology that creates a game-like scenario around the course curriculum and the objectives of the course. The purpose of theses game systems is to promote student engagement and motivate students to participate in the course activities. The concept of gamified education had become extremely popular with a wide range of companies that have created game platforms for many different subjects.

If used properly, many professors have found that by using games as a motivator in their classrooms they have improved course assessment results and have students that are attentive and productive. Research and science-based games are even working on real-world problems by motivating players to help.

Critics claim that gamification is a fad that doesn’t help teach students anything meaningful and many professors scoff at using games in their college classrooms since they do not see it as serious learning.  While it’s true that gamification has become a large part of K-12 classrooms, there are many opportunities for using games with adult learners as well. There is enough research on both sides of the argument to support either view so here are some pros and cons to help you determine if a gamified classroom is right for you.

Pros of the Gamified Classroom

  1. 1. Increases Student Engagement
  2. Studies have shown that students are more likely to spend time playing a learning-based game if you are using a reward system. Badges and points help translate the work the student is completing into a tangible benefit. By increasing engagement you’ll also see a rise in learning retention as students will be able to relate to the content easier through practice than just reading or watching a lecture.

  3. 2. Creates Enthusiasm
  4. Gamification can be used to foster feelings of enthusiasm towards the subject-matter, especially in subjects that students struggle with, like math. In my classes, I have struggled to try to get students excited about computer programming or concepts of computer science.  By creating a gamified system with rewards, I have been able to see a difference in my classes and students are becoming excited and competitive while learning.

  5. 3. Provides Instant Feedback
  6. Most gamification systems allow for instantaneous feedback such as leaderboards and dashboards, which students can use to see where they stand among their peers. This information can push a student to try the quiz or activity again to get a higher placement and creates motivation for further lesson engagement.

  7. 4. Makes Social Connections

In higher education we often find that students have trouble creating social connections with other students in their courses. Gamified classrooms, seated and virtual, help students who have trouble with social interaction and give them a reason to work together. This is especially true if you create team competitions that require students to collaborate on challenges.

Cons of the Gamified Classroom

  1. 1. Decreases Student Attention Span
  2. Critics of gamified learning believe that the fast pace and immediate feedback creates a problem with student attention span. Students may begin to expect the same kind of responses from all parts of their education and won’t find it, leading to frustration.

  3. 2. Cost
  4. The costs of gamified learning are varied based on the type of system you are using. There may be equipment costs, software costs, and training costs for instructors. Sometimes these costs are passed on the students through registration fees and course codes that must be purchased, creating a higher barrier for entry into the classroom. There are often support or maintenance related costs for system that are delivered online or are hosted in your campus environment.

  5. 3. Student Assessment
  6. When choosing a game it is not often clear how the results of the game will tie into your course assessment. While most games have a built-in way to track progress, you will need to find a way to translate the student’s game progress into fulfill objectives. It is not always easy to find a good fit between the games on the market and your course materials so this can be a time-consuming process.

  7. 4. Game Logistics

Many times, setting up a game for your course requires a lot of prior planning and logistics. Questions you need to ask are: Will students be able to play the game at home? Is there an additional cost if they use it outside of the classroom? Are there are enough computers available for students to play the game in class?  Do I want to use class time for students to pay the game? Most of the time you will need to sit down and play the game yourself all the way through, which can take about 40 hours, before you fully understand the game and objectives.


While the topic of gamified learning has been around for years, it is just now hitting it’s stride in higher education. The gamification industry is expected to grow beyond $2 billion by the end of this year and $5.5 billion by 2018. There are many opportunities for new and exciting games that will help us increase student engagement in our seated and online classrooms.

These pros and cons are important ideas to consider when choosing how games could support your college classroom. If you love the idea of motivating your students through points and badges, gamified learning may be for you, but if you struggle to prioritize your time when it comes to course development, gamification may not be the right choice. Starting small and giving yourself lots of time for planning is the key to success.

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