Blog 5: Gamification in Education

With educational technology on the rise in the past decade, one area of edtech is developing quite rapidly – educational gamification.

While educators using games in the classroom is not a new idea, bringing digital games into student learning can be rather controversial. Video and digital games have a stigma of being a useless waste of time. Meanwhile, according to The Nielsen Company (2014), average 13+ U.S. gamer spent 6.3 hours per week playing video games, and this number grows with each year. While it is arguable whether gaming in itself is beneficial for developing children, we cannot deny the fact that they enjoy the gaming process and are drawn into playing week after week.

Motivation is likely one of the main contributors to the success of lesson gamification. 67.7% of undergraduate students more or much more motivated in a gamified course rather than a traditional one (Chapman & Rich, 2018). Gamification very often provides extrinsic motivation through peer competition, points, badges, etc. Moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation requires more effort from instructors because students then need to be interested in the content itself and understand the personal benefits of learning this content.

Scot Osterweil, a research director at MIT, describes gamification as four freedoms (2007):

  1. Freedom to experiment – the gaming process is open-ended and learners are free to make choices that will affect their gaming experience and their learning in general.

  2. Freedom to fail – learners must have a chance to fail and try again, as this is one of the pillars of learning.

  3. Freedom to try on different identities – learners are not limited to their context or physical abilities. They also have the freedom to see their environment from a completely different perspective.

  4. Freedom of effort – learners need to have the freedom to choose how much effort to put into the gaming process.

Osterweil argues that these four freedoms are innate to every other type of play. “If these freedoms are not respected, the play experience is severely compromised or even ruined” (DeKoven, 2009).

One of the most important factors in employing gamification is making sure that it solves the valid problem. This requires careful planning and full curriculum integration. Too often, educators just throw in a couple of games for student engagement, without considering their relevance, effectiveness, or student abilities. In this regard, we need to think of gamification along the same lines as educational technology tools in general. It needs to be purposeful, planned, and available.


Bernie DeKoven, funsmith: Four freedoms of play. (2009). Retrieved October 20, 2018, from

Chapman, J. R., & Rich, P. J. (2018). Does educational gamification improve students’ motivation? If so, which game elements work best? Journal of Education for Business, 93(7), 314–321.

Jen Groff. (n.d.). Scot Osterweil – The 4 Freedoms of Learning. Retrieved from

Multi-Platform Gaming: For the Win! (2014). Retrieved October 20, 2018, from