Jesse’s talk last Monday brought home the message that education has not changed it’s mindset much in recent years. To me it also brought home that while education didn’t move on, entertainment did. Farmville now has more players than Twitter has accounts and World of Warcraft players amassed a total of 5.93 million years play time. However, rather than simply thinking of these forms of entertainment as competition, we should look at them for inspiration and start the gamification of education.

The gamification of education does not mean students will be playing video games to learn. It means we look at the mechanics that make people want to invest 22 hours a week into games such as World of Warcraft, and implement them within education. These Mechanics like levels, achievements and points are already widely being used in areas like marketing in order to boost the compulsion to engage.

Lee Sheldon, who taught a class in the Indiana University, showed how education could be gamified. In his class he renamed everything to fit within a Warcraft context. Students gained experience points (XP), instead of grades. By gaining XP they could level up. Their level at the end of the year corresponded to their grade for that module. Students responded enthusiastically and Sheldon found it to be an effective tool. Simply by renaming the grading system, he turned it into a progression bar and a level up system. Making every assignment feel like it was helping them progress towards levelling up. Level systems are one of the key components that make some video games so compelling.

In a way, all Sheldon truly did was rename the excising system. No bonuses or achievements were attached to levelling up. In order to increase engagement, he could i.e. have given students a bonus if they performed well on three assignments in a row or maybe get an achievement for being the first student to hit level 10.

Gamification can be found in many aspects of life nowadays, and it is slowly starting to seep into education. Imagine if all the students’ goals changed from passing the test to getting the high score and if working on your dissertation was as compelling as milking cows. Gamification is not about playing games, it’s about playing life.