How Gaming Might Be the Solution to Increasing Student Retention

What is gaming in online education?*
Gamification of e-learning essentially involves incorporating game aspects into online courses to motivate and engage students. This can mean utilizing achievement badges, leaderboards, awarding points, level progressions or quests. The games will teach a specific skill or guide students to reach a learning objective, but having the concrete progression visible and the fun game-like aspects keep students engaged and motivates them to return.

How does it help with retention?
There are many different ways in which gamification of e-learning can help improve engagement, maintain student retention and even get better results long term.
Better Learning Environment

Adding games or game-like aspects into online courses adds an element of fun and achievement into the learning process, which makes students look forward to progressing instead of dreading the process. Reinvigorating students can be a challenge, but when they are engaged and enjoying the courses, they are more likely to complete the course. It gives the brain a sense of reward, which is extremely satisfying for students and prompts them to keep returning.

Better Information Retention
There is significant evidence to support the idea that people retain information much more quickly and for a longer time period when they are able to actually do something, versus just reading. Games or simulations are the number one way to incorporate this into online learning. Because the students are more engaged and retain info better, this leads to better results overall and encourages them to continue.

Instant Feedback
In addition, games offer the opportunity for instant feedback on how students performed and what their score was, giving them the chance to improve or providing instant gratification for a job well done. If students know their standing and how they are progressing, it is motivation to keep going.

Prompt Behavior Changes
There is even evidence that gamification can help change the behaviors of students. This is not only because of the concrete goals, leaderboards and points awarded, but also because of the science behind how we learn best. Our emotions actually play a huge role in how we learn and retain information, so making learning fun and engaging means that people are more likely to enjoy learning and want to keep going and progress. Combine this with the principles of spaced repetition and repeated retrieval, and you’ll see some amazing results.

What impact does this have on learning outcomes?
A higher level of engagement, enjoyment of learning, concrete goal posts and instant feedback all lead to overall better results for students. One reason for this is that learning takes place in a meaningful context, meaning that it has more meaning to students, feels more relatable and has an understood application. Because of the structure of games, if a student struggles with a certain concept or section, they can keep trying until they succeed. Instead of just getting a bad grade and moving on, they can practice the skill until they perfect it, ensuring a deeper understanding. Additionally, it is logical that more engaged students will perform better because they are putting forth real effort, so maintaining engagement is key to keep performance high.

Professors at the University of Stanford cited the benefits of “collective intelligence” in using gaming to teach. It requires engagement and community which leads to better overall results. It also allows professors to measure learning in a completely different way by teaching additional life skills like decision making and patience.

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