Gamification as Enabler of Deep Learning

Published by


"Play is the highest form of research"
Albert Einstein

I am a keen advocate of enabling engagement with learning through play. When one researches learning products for young children, game-play is prevalent. Think back to your time in infant/primary school for example, a large part of your tutoring was carried out via games. But as we've all aged and progressed through education and then employment, the learning experience gets much more serious and game-play is (in the main) lost. I recall reading an article some years ago that highlighted academic research which proved that game-play in adulthood has enormous benefits to mental and physical health. If you're interested, the National Institute for Play is a great starting point for how and why 'play' in adult education including corporate development, is key. Read more on the subject here.

There is a great French language e-learning gameplay-based example that I found recently, found at Digital Dialects.com. You can try any of the courses for free. The courses that I tried varied in graphical complexity and sophistication but in the main used bright colours and unusual animation to assist learning. We should always carefully consider the use, and impact of, colour and animation styles within any gamification graphic design work.

In further researching this field I found a slightly contradictory and challenging blog post from 2015 which questions whether 'game-play' stimulates learning, or just having 'fun' does; 'playification' not 'gamification' if you like. The author, Marek Hyla, Senior Manager at Global TD&L Innovation Center, Lead in Accenture Capability Network, questions the process of awarding points and achievement badges etc. in e-learning games. He states that the novelty effect of these schemes will wear off after a short time. He also raises the interesting point that games inherently create losers - is this a healthy concept to nurture? Marek goes on to state that:

"There are many activities which introduce us to the process of heavy engagement and concentration and which intrinsically force us to do things. They have nothing in common with points, badges, and leaderboards, and sometimes they are quite far from the 'game' idea:

  • Why do you enter into the flow process while playing with your son with LEGO?
  • Why do you like to play piano?
  • Why do you lose control of time while watching the next, long awaited part of Star Wars or reading the next Harry Potter book?
  • Why do you like to color the coloring book?
  • … or to play Solitaire?
  • … or to play basketball? (OK – some of you maybe do it for points and winning the game, but I like to do it just for the pure fun of playing)."

Whilst some of Marek's suggestions are open to interpretation and opinion (for example you may find playing the piano fun - but you would still benefit from a gamificated e-learning course to teach you how to better play the piano), he makes a good point about 'play' versus 'game'. Games should not be about gaining points, league table positions or indeed about creating winners or losers - but about engaging learners in play and enabling fun. 

Interloc, a University of East London initiative took the concept of gamification one step further - it's not just about points and league tables, nor is it necessarily about 'having fun'. It's about creating opportunities for collaborative research and discussion with your peers.

"Interloc realises Digital Dialogue Games for learning and thinking through combining synchronous group interaction and personal activities. The dialogue games promote critical and creative discussion, reasoned dialogue and collective inquiry within the digital landscape. The approach has proven educational value that has been demonstrated through over ten years of research within the Learning Sciences."

Interloc states that critical thinking is essential to learning and also to Professional Development. The software on offer gives structure to the learning of these skills through interpersonal and personal tasks.

This does make me consider that learning is not an activity to be carried out in isolation. Gamification should definitely act as an instigator of shared and collaborative research and learning and should not create a culture of winners and losers.








« Back to articles