Motivating learners with gamification and rewards

Necessity is the mother of invention. YEE-HAW!

Did you hear the one about the company that has started having editorial meetings in Red Dead Redemption, the popular cowboy video gameI kid you not. Apparently, they do this because “Zoom sucks” and “It’s nice to sit at the campfire and discuss projects with wolves howling out in the night.” This is just another stellar example of how games – not just game theory and mechanics, but actual games can be applied outside their intended scope and open up a whole new world of possibilities that keep students (or employees, or wannabe cowboys) motivated and engaged 

Look, admittedly the cowboy campfire meeting is a happy accident, the game designers didn’t intend for their game to become a meeting platform, it just evolved that way organically out of necessity. But, when it comes to motivating learners with gamification and rewards, there are other games, Minecraft: Educational Edition to name but one, that has deliberately evolved to fill a niche created by the current state of the world.

A most unlikely sage

It was Homer Simpson who said, “Anything this bad has to be educational” but it needn’t be so. Minecraft: Educational Edition is just like regular Minecraft but with an educational twist. It’s still as much fun – for the same reasons – and students are motivated to learn because being in the game environment is a rewarding experience. The best way to encourage students is to provide a reward – something that motivates them to work toward a certain goal. If you cannot provide extrinsic, tangible rewards, you can always fall back on the intrinsic motivators of feeling good and being part of something larger.

Sometimes, the experience is the reward

These days, with a computer screen and many, many miles separating students from their educators, it is much more difficult to keep learners motivated and engaged. The traditional reward mechanisms of grades, class presidents and being in the top tenth percentile still exist (10 points to you if you correctly identified these as points, badges and leaderboards), but students find these  are getting a bit long in the tooth and as mentioned, they are strained by distance. Also, it’s not like you can hand out a candy-bar for work well done anymore, so how can gamification provide the rewards that will stimulate students’ interest in the subject and keep them interested in learning?

Creating a rewarding learning experience

Celine Berger, one of the most influential women in gamification said “My goal is to use gamification to create a fun friendly environment where people feel safe and confident in learning and collaborating together. An environment where we can share meaning, goals, and rules that are transparent and the same for everybody, where it feels ok to question and make a mistake, where we can experiment and learn from feedback and improve.”

That’s a great sentiment and it sets out all the boxes that need to be checked in order to provide a rewarding learning experience.

  • Create a fun, friendly environment – if you haven’t seen what Minecraft looks like, what rock have you been living under? Check it out here, it doesn’t get much more fun and friendly than that.
  • Safe and confident – the virtual environment is the great leveler, without being physically present, learners can present as they imagine themselves, resulting in boosted confidence and less anxiety about asking questions.
  • Collaborating together – on a level playing field, competition takes a backseat to collaboration every time. And when humans work together, great things can be accomplished.
  • Share meaning and goals – Teamwork makes the dream work. Stepping back and marvelling at what has been accomplished is a massively rewarding experience. When students work toward a common goal, they all feel part of that accomplishment.
  • Transparent rules for everyone – there are no favourites here. Students achieve success in their own way, choosing their own path of discovery within a framework that applies to everyone involved.
  • OK to questions – Through the process of discovering the gamified learning environment, learners can formulate their own questions, particular to their subjective experience. In this way, no-one is left behind because they are too shy, or just too lost, to ask questions that will have meaningful answers.
  • Experiment and make mistakes – The simulated, game environment makes it all but impossible to break something or cause an irreversible situation, which in turn stimulates and rewards creativity.
  • Learn from feedback and improve – Feedback is inherent in all gamified and game-based solutions. The wealth of data that is generated in the background can be mined extensively (see what we did there?) for all manner of beneficial insight. This allows for improvement, refinement, and a virtually tailor-made experience, based on what the feedback is telling you. Gamification can do all this.

Gamification teaches skills not just facts

Just as the modern office has been forced to evolve out of necessity, so too has the modern classroom and lecture hall. It is no longer about the learners simply receiving information. By creating a gamified learning environment that accommodates individual learning styles, with several avenues that arrive at the same outcome, you create a space that empowers your learners and allows for ‘doing’ rather than ‘receiving’.

Modern learners cannot rely on rote memorisation, they need additional skills like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, creativity, and communication.

And these are all skills that games can help with.

Interested in creating a learning environment that’s not only fun but also promotes collaboration and creative thinking? We can help you with that, and all your gamification requirements. Contact us today!

 

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