GAMIFICATION IN EDUCATION
, Nadezhda Angelova
, Lina Yordanova
Today's learners are digital natives. They grew up with digital technologies. Teachers have to solve important issues related to the adaptation
of the learning process towards students who have different learning styles and new requirements for teaching and learning. Gamification is
one of the educational approaches and techniques that increase motivation and engagement of learners. The aim of the current work is to
study and present the nature and benefits of gamification and to provide some ideas how to implement it in education.
Key Words: e-learning, gamification, LMS, Moodle
Today's learners are digital natives and have new profile. They grew up with digital technologies and have
different learning styles, new attitude to the learning process and higher requirements for teaching and learning.
Teachers are facing new challenges and have to solve important issues related to the adaptation of the learning
process towards students’ needs, preferences and requirements. Teachers have to use different teaching methods
and approaches that allow students to be active participants with strong motivation and engagement to their own
learning. Modern pedagogical paradigms and trends in education, reinforced by the use of ICT, create
prerequisites for use of new approaches and techniques in order to implement active learning. Gamification in
training is one of these trends. The aim of the current work is to study and present the nature and benefits of
gamification and to provide some ideas how to implement it in education.
2. NATURE OF GAMIFICATION
According to Kapp gamification is “using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage
people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.” (Kapp, 2012)
Gamification is the use of game thinking, approaches and elements in a context different from the games. Using
game mechanics improves motivation and learning in formal and informal conditions (GamifyingEducation.org).
Various definitions overlap and can be summarized as follows: Gamification is an integration of game
elements and game thinking in activities that are not games.
Games have some distinctive features which play a key role in gamification:
users are all participants – employees or clients (for companies), students (for educational institutions);
challenges/tasks that users perform and progress towards defined objectives;
points that are accumulated as a result of executing tasks;
levels which users pass depending on the points;
badges which serve as rewards for completing actions;
ranking of users according to their achievements.
2.2. Differences between Gamification and Serious Games
There are some terms and concepts that have similarities - gamification, game inspired design, serious games,
simulations and games. The boundaries between them are not clearly defined.
Game inspired design is the use of ideas and ways of thinking that are inherent in games. Game inspired design
does not express in adding game elements, but rather in using of playful design.
Gamification is the use of game metaphors, game elements and ideas in a context different from that of the
games in order to increase motivation and commitment, and to influence user behavior (Marczewski, 2013).
Serious games are games designed for a specific purpose related to training, not just for fun. They possess all
game elements, they look like games, but their objective is to achieve something that is predetermined.
Simulations are similar to serious games, but they simulate real-world things and their purpose is user training
in an environment resembling real life.
Games include everything mentioned above and they are designed for entertainment.
All the above-mentioned concepts have one thing in common – they use elements that are inherent in games and
their purpose is to support learning and to improve users’ engagement.
3. GAMIFICATION IN EDUCATION – WHY?
According to Gabe Zichermann, cited by (Giang, 2013), the use of game mechanics improves the abilities to
learn new skills by 40%. Game approaches lead to higher level of commitment and motivation of users to
Trakia University, Faculty of Economics, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, email@example.com
Trakia University, Faculty of Economics, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, firstname.lastname@example.org
Trakia University, Faculty of Economics, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, email@example.com
activities and processes in which they are involved. Game mechanics are familiar to consumers as most of them
have played or continue to play different games. Although this conclusion applies to companies and their
employees, it is unconditionally true for education.
The main problems in modern education are related to the lack of engagement and motivation of students to
participate actively in the learning process. Because of that, teachers try to use new techniques and approaches to
provoke students’ activity and motivate them to participate in training. One possible solution is to reward the
efforts and achieved results by awards, which leads to increased motivation for participation and activity. That
decision is based on the use of game elements in the learning process.
Gamification in education is the use of game mechanics and elements in educational environment. E-learning,
based on modern ICT, creates favorable conditions for the implementation of gamification – the processes of
processing students’ data and tracking their progress are automated and software tools can generate detailed
Implementation of game elements in education is logical since there are some facts that are typical for the games
and training. Users’ actions in games are aimed at achieving a specific goal (win) in the presence of obstacles. In
education there is a learning objective, which has to be achieved by performing specific learning activities or
interaction with educational content. Tracking the players’ progress in games is an important element, because
next steps and moves are based on their results. In education tracking the students’ progress is essential to
achieve the learning objectives. Students’ learning path is determined by the achieved levels of knowledge and
skills (Glover, 2013). Collaboration in education is a milestone for the effective implementation of active
learning. Unlike training games possess a strong competitive element. The focus in learning process should be
rather towards developing skills for collaboration and teamwork and responsibility for the performance of the
group instead of competition between students.
Gamification is not directly associated with knowledge and skills. Gamification affects students’ behavior,
commitment and motivation, which can lead to improvement of knowledge and skills (W. Hsin-Yuan Huang, D.
4. GAMIFICATION IN EDUCATION – HOW?
The development of an effective strategy for the implementation of gamification in e-learning implies a depth
analysis of existing conditions and available software tools. The main steps of the strategy include:
1) Determination of learners’ characteristics
When teachers implement new approaches in learning process it is essential to define students’ characteristics
(profiles) in order to determine whether the new tools and techniques would be suitable. The key and decisive
factors are the predisposition of the students to interact with the learning content and to participate in learning
events with competitive nature.
It is essential teachers to establish and take in mind what skills are required by the participants to achieve the
objectives – whether the tasks and activities require special skills by learners. If tasks are very easy or difficult, is
possible demotivation of learners and negative outcome.
Students’ motivation to participate in training depends on the context of learning process and what follows from
their achievements (W. Hsin-Yuan Huang, D. Soman, 2013).
2) Definition of learning objectives
The learning objectives have to be specific and clearly defined. The purpose of education is to achieve the
learning objectives, because otherwise all activities (including gamification activities) will seem pointless. The
objectives determine what educational content and activities to be included in learning process and selection of
appropriate game mechanics and techniques to achieve them.
3) Creation of educational content and activities for gamification
The educational content should to be interactive, engaging and rich in multimedia elements. The training
activities should be developed tailored to the learning objectives and allow (Simões, J., R. Díaz Redondo, A.
Fernández Vilas, 2013):
Multiple performances – the learning activities need to be designed so that students can repeat them in
case of an unsuccessful attempt. It is very important to create conditions and opportunities to achieve
the ultimate goal. As a result of repetitions students will improve their skills.
Feasibility – the learning activities should be achievable. They have to be tailored and adapted to
students’ potential and skill levels.
Increasing difficulty level – each subsequent task is expected to be more complex, requiring more
efforts from students and corresponding to their newly acquired knowledge and skills.
Multiple paths – in order to develop diverse skills in learners, they need to be able to reach the
objectives by various paths. This allows students to build their own strategies, which is one of the key
characteristics of the active learning.
4) Adding game elements and mechanisms
The key element of gamification is the inclusion of tasks that learners have to perform. The performance of tasks
leads to accumulation of points, transition to higher levels, and winning awards. All these actions are aimed at
achieving predetermined learning objectives. Which elements will be included in training depends on the defined
objectives (what knowledge and skills should be acquired as a result of the task). Activities that require
independent work by students bring individual awards (such as badges). Activities requiring interaction with
other learners are the social element of training, they make students a part of a big learning community and their
results are public and visible (such as leaderboards) (W. Hsin-Yuan Huang, D. Soman, 2013).
5. SOFTWARE TOOLS FOR GAMIFICATION
There are many tools for gamification. Some of them are web-based (cloud services) and do not require
installation of special software and allow access at any time and from any location. Among the most popular
gamification tool are: Socrative, Kahoot!, FlipQuiz, Duolingo, Ribbon Hero, ClassDojo and Goalbook.
BadgeOS™ and its add-on BadgeStack is a free plugin to WordPress that automatically creates different
achievement types and pages needed to set up badging system.
Mozilla Open Badges Project is a project which goal is to enable the identification and recognition of acquired
knowledge and skills of students outside the classroom – results of informal learning. Via Mozilla's Open
Badges project anyone can issue wins and display badges through shared technical infrastructure (Mozilla Open
5.1. Gamification and LMS
Educational institutions use LMS to manage the learning process and offer a variety of electronic courses with
learning resources and activities. LMS allow integration of Web 2.0 tools which improves their functionality and
responds to the new educational paradigms and the necessary for collaboration and cooperation between all
participants in learning.
LMS are suitable environment for gamification because they have tools for automatic tracking of students’
results and progress. It is possible to retrieve data about the time that students spent for viewing and interacting
with content. Learners are encouraged to be active participants in discussions, forums and blogs, to take part in
developing learning content by creating wiki pages.
Recently, part of LMS offer new functionalities related to gamification. Docebo offers Gamification App which
allows administrators to create badges or awards that learners can win for completing activities inside the LMS
(Docebo Help & Support).
Accord LMS offers many social features that foster cooperation and team building. Leaderboards and badges
reward students’ contributions and accomplishments (AccordLMS).
Blackboard has an achievements tool and allows students to earn recognition for their work. Rewarding learners
can keep them motivated and engaged in courses. Teachers can indicate criteria for issuing badges and
5.2. Gamification in Moodle
Moodle is one of the most popular learning platforms that allow teachers to manage online learning. Moodle is
among those LMS which develop and offer features aiming to facilitate gamification of the learning process.
Some of Moodle gamification capabilities are (Muntean, 2011), (Henrick, 2013):
User’s picture/avatar. User profiles contain field for uploading a photo, so students can add a photo or
avatar to their profile.
Visibility of the students’ progress. Progress helps users understand that their actions, that may
initially seem unrelated and small, are connected in a greater whole and lead to the achievement of a
certain goal (The Beginner's Guide to Gamification). Moodle offers opportunities for visualizing the
students’ progress in e-courses by Progress bar (Figure 1). Progress bar is a Moodle plugin and visually
shows what activities or resources students have to complete and their progress in the course. Tracking
progress is possible thanks to the option Completion tracking.
Display of quiz results. The results of quizzes or assignments that measure the level of acquired
knowledge and skills by students can be visualized in additional block in course – Quiz results. Quiz
results block can contain top results – students with the highest grades and/or the lowest grades or group
results (Figure 2) and adds competitive nature of the learning.
Levels. The Level up! Block displays the current level of students in courses and the progress towards
next levels. Level up! is a Moodle plug-in that automatically captures and attributes experience points
to students’ actions according to pre-defined rules. Teachers can set the number of levels, the
experience required to get to them, the amount of experience points earned per event. There is a
possibility to display the ranking of the students (so called ladder) (Moodle).
Feedback. The instantaneous and positive feedback is the main reason that makes users to feel
motivated, engaged and encouraged in their actions. Tests and assignments, as well as all other
activities in Moodle provide opportunities for feedback – general, specific, for correct answers or for
wrong answers. Feedback can be used as a correction of students’ actions and can be a stimulus and
motivator to their further activities in the learning system.
Figure 1. Progress bar (Moodle block). Figure 2. Quiz results (Moodle block).
Badges. Badges can be given to learners upon completion of a number of activities or for achieving a
certain level of knowledge and competence. They can be used to display students’ achievements and
rewards. Learners can share and demonstrate their badges and achieve social recognition (The
Beginner's Guide to Gamification). Moodle has completion tracking feature that can be activated for
each course. This option allows teachers to reward students for each completed activity as one possible
award is a badge. MoodleBadges Free is a library of badges that can be given as a reward for achieved
knowledge, skills and learning experience. MoodleBadges are designed to work in Moodle 2.5, Moodle
2.6 and Moodle 2.7, on web, tablet and iPhone, and also can work with Mozilla Open Badges (Moodle).
Leaderboard. Ranking Block is a plug-in for Moodle that allows and shows leaderboard of students
based on their points. Ranking Block monitors included activities and accumulates points to students
based on course completion feature. Leaderboards are visible to all users and they are a way of
obtaining recognition from other learners. Students can see where they stand and compare their results
and achievements to their colleagues. Leaderboards encourage competition between learners and
motivate them to be more active participants in the learning process.
In addition Moodle supports Conditional activities to restrict access to learning content in e-courses. Teachers
can set multiple activity completion conditions/criteria which must be met by the students in order to access the
activity. Conditional activities are a tool that creates prerequisites for setting learning objectives that must be met
by the students in order to continue to the next activities.
In conclusion, there are different ways to implement gamification in Moodle. The system features – automatic
data processing and tracking of students’ progress along with completion tracking and conditional activities are
the base for gamifying it.
E-learning is suitable for easy and effective integration of gamification. Game techniques and mechanisms can
be implemented in the learning process as activities which purpose is to achieve certain learning objectives,
increase learners’ motivation to complete them and engage students in a friendly competitive environment with
Gamification is an effective approach to make positive change in students’ behavior and attitude towards
learning, to improve their motivation and engagement. The results of the change have bilateral nature – they can
affect students’ results and understanding of the educational content and create conditions for an effective
AccordLMS. (n.d.). Retrieved from AccordLMS: http://www.accordlms.com/smart/gamification
Blackboard. (n.d.). Retrieved from Blackboard: https://help.blackboard.com/
Docebo Help & Support. (n.d.). Retrieved from Docebo: http://www.docebo.com/knowledge-base/how-to-manage-the-
GamifyingEducation.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from GamifyingEducation.org: http://www.gamifyingeducation.org/
Giang, V. (2013, September 18). “Gamification” Techniques Increase Your Employees’ Ability To Learn By 40%. Retrieved
from Business Insider: http://whttp://www.businessinsider.com/gamification-techniques-increase-your-employees-
Glover, I. (2013). Play as you learn: gamification as a technique for motivating learners. World Conference on Educational
Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications. AACE.
Henrick, G. (2013, October 10). Gamification - What is it and What it is in Moodle. Retrieved from SlideShare:
Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: game-based methods and strategies for training and
education. John Wiley & Sons.
Marczewski, A. (2013, 03 11). What’s the difference between Gamification and Serious Games? Retrieved from Gamasutra:
Moodle. (n.d.). Retrieved from Moodle: https://moodle.org/plugins/
Mozilla Open Badges. (n.d.). Retrieved from Mozilla Open Badges: http://www.openbadges.org/
Muntean, C. (2011). Raising engagement in e-learning through gamification. 6th International Conference on Virtual
Learning ICVL, (pp. 323-329).
Simões, J., R. Díaz Redondo, A. Fernández Vilas. (2013). A social gamification framework for a K-6 learning platform.
Computers in Human Behavior, 345-353.
The Beginner's Guide to Gamification. (n.d.). Retrieved from Technology Advice:
W. Hsin-Yuan Huang, D. Soman. (2013, December 10). Gamification of Education. Toronto: University of Toronto.
Retrieved from Inside Rotman: http://inside.rotman.utoronto.ca/behaviouraleconomicsinaction/files/2013/09/