The tools and technology we have available in education today is wildly different from a decade ago. For higher education in particular, advanced technology, such as connected mobile devices and ultra immersive visuals, has been widely spread, embraced and adapted into the school system. So much so that curricular design, pedagogy, delivery modes, instructional activities and assessments are being shaped by these new technologies and as a result, gamification in academia has emerged.
What is Gamification in Education?
Gamification simply means placing gaming principles and designs within a context that does not normally have them. The idea of making learning fun and engaging to increase student interest and interaction for better retention of materials is nothing new to educators. However, now in 2015, we have the technological schema in place to fully leverage gaming concepts into curriculum. With constant integration and use of network-enabled devices, specifically ones at the forefront of advanced mobile technology, the need to intrigue students is being quenched via this congruence of gaming, technology and learning.
A Game Changer for the Post-Secondary Landscape
Gaming in education has mainly been a focus in grades K – 12, but college and universities have also begun to take more serious consideration to utilize the greater learning potential it holds. Those currently pursuing post-secondary education fall right into the demographic that’s grown up with technology and naturally use it in almost every part of their life with expert knowledge and ease. Principles in games align with the same concepts that must be met at a college-level in order to prepare for professional careers. For example, the elements of progression, investment and cascading information (e.g., mastering a particular subject/expertise before moving on) all can be promoted and executed through games. Gaming in the form of mobile applications filled with leadership boards and badges to gauge progress as well as visual simulations and augmented reality give students the interaction necessary to understand a lesson/course or perfect a practical task—this implementation is taking effect in the post-secondary world of education.
Higher Education Gaming Proving Effectiveness
Joy, stress relief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe and wonder, contentment and creativity—all of these are ways to cure a lack of engagement in a post-secondary student’s life and not so coincidentally, gaming can address each of the aforementioned.
One game that’s already made a huge impact in within academia is Foldit. Developed by the University of Washington, the game lets students studying in the field of science contribute their research through virtual protein folding. The key to game rides on resiliency, instilling drive into these budding scientists and developing their proficiency at solving complex protein structure prediction and design. Participating student work has even been published in scientific journals—proof is in the papers, and this higher education game has proven its value.
Urgent Evoke is another example of digital gaming in academics that works for the social-studies inclined. It uses a rich, interactive format (inspired by Grand Theft Auto) to provide a simulated platform where students can solve social problems in ways that also lead to sustainable lifestyles, thus teaching social entrepreneurship. These complex games address complex topics taught in universities and it’s just the start for the future of gaming in education.
Here to Stay
The tech industry is in top-gear mode of producing innovation after innovation and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Powerhouse processors, like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon graphics processing units and chips built into device hardware, are responsible for ensuring a smooth and immersive gaming experience—one that now includes serious games played on a college student smartphones, tablets and laptops anywhere and at all times to ultimately help them learn and land a job after school. With a great momentum going, full-blown gamification of higher education will begin to take place at every school across the nation and continue to solidify its place in continuing education.