Sung Hee (Sunny) Park
The Cross-Cultural Community Services


Today’s education involves digital platforms as learning tools and digital natives as learners. Since the pandemic, institutions switched their instruction to online or hybrid models and dealt with a range of challenges such as choosing the right digital tools, motivating students to stay on task, and educating staff and students on the digital platforms. Teachers have to come up with effective online tools and strategies to motivate students who have different learning styles and new expectations for online learning. While gamification and game-based learning are gaining ground in business, marketing, and corporate management, their application in education is still an emerging trend. Gaming elements in learning can introduce goal setting, interaction among students, feedback, problem-solving, competition, and fun learning environments in education. Moreover, it increases learner engagement and sustains motivation to stay on task. This chapter of the book discusses the difference between gamification and game-based learning, the pedagogical values these two strategies can bring to instruction, learning theories, strategies, and the advantages of implementing gamification in the online education curriculum.


Gamification, Gamification in Education, Game-Based Learning, and application of Gamification and GBL, Gamification and GBL in Online Curriculum, Learning theories in Gamification and GBL.


Although teachers continuously seek creative instructional approaches, it is largely agreed that today’s schools face major problems around student motivation and engagement (Kim et al., 2018). The use of gamification and Game-based learning (GBL) as a learning tool is an innovative approach to teaching concepts and knowledge but also reinforces important skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and communication. Various online education sites use game elements to better engage users and the gamification trend in online educational settings is becoming prominent. Playing games during class offers remarkable motivation and encourage students to be engaged in class with the joy of playing and the possibility to win. Nevertheless, creating a highly engaging, effective instructional game is not an easy task, time-consuming, and costly. In addition, their effective classroom adoption requires certain technical infrastructure and appropriate pedagogical integration (Kim et al., 2018).

Gamification and GBL are similar in that both promote engagement and sustained motivation in learning. However, gamification and GBL can also be usefully distinguished. Gamification, according to Kim et al. (2018) is defined as the use of game mechanics in a non-game environment. It integrates game elements like point systems, leaderboards, badges, or other elements related to games into learning activities in order to increase engagement and motivation. GBL, on the other hand, involves designing learning activities so that game characteristics and game principles are embedded in the learning activities themselves. In short, gamification applies game elements or a game framework to existing learning activities whereas GBL designs learning activities that are intrinsically game-like. Incorporating gamification has a lot of advantages in education.

Background Information

The research applied to gamification and GBL in education is a demanding area that motivated qualitative systematic literature reviews. Thus, the present study and its methodology are based on other studies that ensured systematizing the literature with research topics related to gamification and GBL. In the first stage, all abstracts, literature reviews, and final considerations were read and a document was created to contain the most relevant information extracted from those sections of each article. Subsequently, a chart was developed to present all subjects’ approaches and the main conclusions. Finally, the contents were divided according to the main area to create a summary that could explain the main theoretical approaches for each subject related to Gamification and GBL applied to the teaching-learning process, and the conclusions had been drawn.

Figure 1

Gamification (Dreamstime, 2022)

Learning Theories for Gamification & GBL.

Various learning theories support gamification as an effective learning tool. Instructional designers can consider intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, Motivation Theory, Social Constructivism Theory, Social Learning Theory, and feedback to design motivational strategies for gamification in lessons (Deci et al., 1991).

Motivation Theory is one of the most important factors that can influence the success of gamification and GBL (Hansil, 2021). Intrinsic motivation is a motivation type that can be caused by an individual’s pleasure, curiosity, or interest. Some researchers have found intrinsic motivation to be more important than extrinsic motivation in academic achievement (Deci et al., 1991). However, not all students are intrinsically motivated in certain learning situations. Because of this practical problem, educators should consider using strategies for extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is reward-driven behaviour influenced by external factors such as praise, money, pressure, or punishment. The extrinsic motivation factor is built-in Gamification to attract the learners to be more engaged in learning by using badges, winning, and prizes. However, instructors need to balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation because a student’s motivation may not continue when the environmental or external factor disappears. Also, extrinsic motivation can decrease intrinsic motivation (Deci et al., 1991). Thus, educators should be cautious when using gamification and not overuse gamification in learning to motivate their students.

Social constructivism theory is another significant psychological condition to experience growth. Students can be more intrinsically motivated when they perceive relatedness from their teachers and peers (Deci et al., 1991). When perceiving supportive and warm behaviours from teachers and peers, a student can feel positive relatedness and be motivated, resulting in effective learning. The researchers argue that the social construction of knowledge and social interaction can promote cognitive learning and provide an authentic learning environment which can be achieved by incorporating gamification.

Social learning theory points out that people can learn by observing others, their behaviours, and the results of the observed behaviours (Deci et al., 1991). As explained by SLT, learning incorporates social interaction as well as cognitive processing. Thus, creating a learning environment that provides opportunities for students to observe peers in groups is important in social learning. Simulation games are another good example of such learning materials. Within the games, players can learn by interacting with other players or game characters. While playing games, players communicate verbally or through chat to exchange information and share strategies to win the game, therefore promoting social learning theory in gamification.

Applications (Gamification and GBL in the online education curriculum)

In education, teachers must motivate their students. Especially nowadays, instructors have to be aware that traditional teaching methods are not always appealing to students the most. Countless digital learning tools are available to supplement teaching, especially in online learning however, teachers feel bombarded by all the platforms available and need strategies to motivate students. Over the years, there have been attempts to apply game-based learning to education to stimulate students to be engaged and active learners. Instructors are hoping to attract students to participate in all activities in various learning areas by using teaching aids that appeal to students (Hansil, 2021).

Competence in Gamification & GBL

To instill competence using gamification, teachers need to consider a couple of factors. First, check if a student has difficulty in conducting the task, the teacher can scaffold the solution to the student instead of providing an immediate solution. When provided a direct answer, a student is more likely to lose competence. Also, many researchers mention that while positive feedback on a student’s performance can promote competence and intrinsic motivation, giving negative feedback without constructive feedback can do the opposite (Deci et al., 1991). Thus, educators should be cautious in the way they provide students’ performance feedback.

Figure 2

7 Reasons to try out Game-Based Learning

Figure 2: 7 Reasons to try out Game-Based Learning

Positive and Negative Effects

Some of the positive effects of gamification is recognizing student improvement in categorized skills by offering badges and rewards. Having gamification in between modules not only motivates students but gives a nice break for students to review what they have learned and even promotes competitiveness and interest among students. Some of the negative effects of gamification is playing games that don’t offer in-depth content related to the learning theme. Unless instructors define the learning purpose of the game, it will serve as an icebreaker or trivia activity in the lesson. In addition, continual use of extrinsic motivation such as ranking and badges may result in students withdrawing to learn from the game.

Student Engagement

Student engagement in gamification activities may be divided into three major components, called behavioural, cognitive, and affective (Manzano-León et al., 2021). Behavioural involvement is the positive behaviour shown by students who take part in learning activities exhibiting effort, persistence, attention, and no sign of negative behaviour (Manzano-León et al., 2021). Teachers can plan the lesson with the right balance of lecture, practice, game, and assessment for students to stay focused, practise the skills learned, and demonstrate their learning by participating in the game. Cognitive involvement refers to students’ investment in mastering a certain subject (Manzano-León et al., 2021). For example, students can play game-based activities such as SCORM(Sharable Content Object Reference Model), H5P (HTML5 Package) to scaffold and master the skills learned. As for affective involvement, it has to do with students’ positive attitudes to perform the tasks that have been assigned to them. By participating in game-based learning students can maintain their interest and positive attitudes toward learning. To implement the above-mentioned theories in gamification, instructors need to develop the right content and rewards to motivate students through gamification.

Gamification Strategy

As much as gamification can be an important part of online learning, without the right balance, content, and learner engagement strategy, it can become a meaningless activity in the learning process. Therefore, teachers need to be aware of the right way to implement gamification when planning lessons.

An effective strategy for implementing gamification in online learning requires a depth analysis of existing conditions and available software tools. Firstly, teachers need to determine the target learners’ needs, objectives, and characteristics to determine whether the new tools would be suitable for the learners. Teachers need to determine what skills are required by the learners to achieve the objectives as well as difficulty levels. If tasks are too easy or difficult, it would demotivate learners and result in negative outcomes. Students’ motivation to participate in training depends on the context of the learning process and what follows from their achievements (Karlna et al., 2021). Secondly, the learning objectives have to be specific and clearly defined. The purpose of education is to achieve the learning objectives, otherwise, all activities including gamification activities will seem pointless. The objectives of learning determine what educational content and activities are to be included in the learning process and the selection of appropriate game mechanics and techniques to achieve them (Karlna et al., 2021). Thirdly, the educational content should be interactive, engaging, and rich in multimedia elements. The training activities should be developed according to the learning objectives (Karlna et al., 2021).

Multiple performances and multiple paths are other important elements in gamification. The learning activities need to be designed so that students can repeat them until the desired outcomes. In addition, the learning activities should be achievable so that students can reach their potential skill levels.  Increasing the difficulty level as the progress of the game is a great way for students to challenge themselves and put in more effort to practice their newly acquired knowledge and skills (Karlna et al., 2021). Lastly, the key element of gamification is the game elements and mechanisms that learners have to perform. The performance of tasks results in building points, reaching higher levels, and winning awards. All these actions are designed to achieve the learning objectives teachers planned.  Activities that require independent work by students bring individual awards such as badges. Activities requiring interaction with other learners enable students to be a part of a big learning community and improve social competence (Karlna et al., 2021). Teachers are to be aware of the above-mentioned strategies when using gamification in the lessons to instill various learning theories in the lesson.

Figure 3

Gamification development strategy in Curriculum (Karlna et al., 2021)

Figure 3: Gamification Development Strategy

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

Incorporating games, gamification, or game-based learning into your teaching doesn’t require a monumental shift in your teaching. Many activities or active learning strategies instructors already use likely contain some of the game elements with some modifications. The lesson plan can be modified into even more effective learning tools and at the same time, gamification and game-based learning should not be implemented in a casual manner but should be thoughtfully integrated into a course. There are still disagreements over the effectiveness of gamification and GBL on learning and education. However, many researchers have investigated the effects of gamification/GBL on learning and education and found a positive relationship between gamification/GBL and desired outcomes. The application may differ according to the learner’s profile such as age, educational level, availability of technology, educational needs, and personal interests. Various literature on gamification points to gamification has become more and more an object of scientific research but needs expansion, especially on the topic of application of gamification for various learners. This chapter’s main contribution is to systematize the literature on gamification and game-based learning, filling in a gap as regards summarizing main basic theories and proposing an area of further research. In future research on gamification and GBL in online education, attention should be paid to the quantitative research on the demographics of the participants, content for each demographic, and the development of implementation strategies according to the defined demographics. With more detailed studies with evidence in the above-mentioned area, educators in each field can apply gamification more effectively and reach the maximum potential of gamification in online education.


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Appendix A: Gamification and GBL Application

  • Duolingo (2022) – gamifying language learning by having students complete drill-and-kill grammar and vocabulary exercises while receiving experience points to gain levels and access more difficult exercises.
  • Minecraft (Microsoft, 2022) – a vernacular game that has been adapted for learning environments by giving students a sandbox to build and construct their own virtual worlds.
  • Second Life (Linden Research, 2022) – a virtual world where students can create their own avatar and embody a 3D space, which can in turn promote easier communication through text and reduce anxiety to speak.
  • Coursera (2022) – a platform that provides free educational courses for anyone who is interested, but to promote interactivity and retention, badges and other reward systems are implemented for participants.
  • Brainscape (Bold Learning Solutions, 2022)– improved flashcards that promote retention of knowledge using what they call “confidence-based repetition”, designed to be more appealing and fun to use to also assist in retention.
  • Kahoot (2022) – a classroom response system that is free to use and doesn’t require student sign-up; simply create a game of Kahoot, enter in questions, and supply the provided pin to your students, who will then use their phones or laptops to play the game and answer questions.
  • Credly (2022) – an open-source badge-making tool to create badges for tasks in your course, with the ability as well to distribute badges to students as well.
  • OpenBadges (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2022) – another open-source badge-making tool, like Credly, but is more complex to create badges with.
  • Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) (Epstein Educational Enterprises, n.d.) – the IF-AT provides immediate feedback to learners on multiple-choice questions by having a card that learners scratch to determine the correct answer; allows for collaboration when answering questions and provides a sense of excitement when scratching the card.
  • TopHat (Tophatmonical Corp, 2022) – a classroom response system, like Kahoot, that allows students to provide responses to questions in the class anonymously; unlike Kahoot, this has a fee associated with it, but it allows for better integration in the LMS for grading purposes and has a tournament mode to encourage competition in-class


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2022 Copyright © 2022 by Sung Hee (Sunny) Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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