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The Impact of Gamification on Learning: Real-World Applications

Jun 21, 2024
The Impact of Gamification on Learning: Real-World Applications

Why are elementary school classes more fun than college courses? It has a lot to do with the lesson structure. Learning through play is common in elementary school, whereas college classes rely on lectures and independent study. 


Gamification in education aims to enhance the learning experience, increase lesson participation, and improve information retention. By participating directly in learning through play, gamification immerses students in course materials rather than simply feeling like a spectator to the information. When students unlock achievements, they may be more motivated and excited to continue learning.


As a professional in instructional design, games are a hot topic. You may find instructional design online courses entirely devoted to gamification in education! Consider this our mini-course on all things learning through play.

What is Gamification in Education?

Gamification in education uses gaming elements and techniques to encourage learning, participation, and problem-solving. Gaming elements such as badges, leaderboards, and points help students learn course material and practice real-world applications.


Gamification involves several psychological learning theories, too.

  • Operant conditioning is a learning style that uses rewards and punishments to encourage certain behaviors.
  • Self-determination theory claims that gamification meets the psychological needs of competency, autonomy, and relation to others. 
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are types of motivation encouraged by gamification. Intrinsic motivators include curiosity, desire to master a subject and enjoyment. Extrinsic motivators include rewards and score rankings.

Strategies for Gamification in Education


Instructional designers create activities and tasks that reward points or scores to students. Different point levels may encourage students to work harder to retain information and apply knowledge to tasks. 



Badges are symbols of achievement students receive when accomplishing certain milestones or completing tasks. Badges are a powerful motivator, especially for students with a high drive for recognition. Peloton, the popular indoor cycling and fitness program, awards badges for completing challenges and fitness programs displayed on users’ profiles.



For competitive students, leaderboards are an effective gamification strategy for encouraging participation and achievement. Leaderboards display rankings between participants, creating a friendly competition. Leaderboards combine aspects of points and badges.


Community Competition

Instructional design games would be missing a level of motivation without friendly competition. Allowing students to compete with each other in both large-format competitions and one-on-one challenges motivates students to perform at a high level. While competition isn’t suitable for all students and learning environments, it’s often well-received in online environments.


VR/AR Simulations

Like many digital and video games, virtual and augmented reality place participants in a simulation. Here, they can practice their skills and knowledge in real-world applications. Role-playing and simulations are among the strongest ways to teach material, as students must think critically and practice applying learned skills to behaviors.

Examples of Gamification in Education


Duolingo's well-known language learning app is one of the most famous examples of learning through play. Duolingo’s gamification elements, such as points and levels, encourage students to practice learning new languages consistently. It also includes gamification with competitive play, as users can challenge friends or join clubs.


Jeopardy in the Classroom

When it comes to instructional design games, Jeopardy is a classic! Classrooms that use the Jeopardy game show format to teach and test knowledge have fun with and motivate their students. Like flashcard training and studying, Jeopardy encourages teamwork and motivation, involving leaderboards and points scoring.


McDonald’s Till Training Game

McDonald’s used a till training game, a simulation of the new till system, to teach its employees how to take orders and deliver the best customer experience. 85% of crew members believed the training helped them understand the new system, and the game was the most popular employee portal page ever launched.

Perfecting Instructional Design Games

If you’re ready to dive head-first into designing instructional design games for your students, you’re halfway there! IDOL Academy will teach you everything you need to know about learning strategies and gamification in education—and even more!


Enroll in IDOL Academy, and after 24 weeks, you’ll be certified and armed with the knowledge to enter into your instructional design career. You’ll get lifetime career support and access to freelance and contract positions available only to our IDOLs. With an entire portfolio and real-world experience, our IDOLs go on to work at some of the most popular brands in the world, such as Microsoft, Pinterest, and Amazon.


What are you waiting for? The game is ready to start! Apply for the next IDOL Academy cohort to begin your new career today! Or, try a 14-day free trial to see if IDOL Academy is right for you. (And we think it is!) Or discover IDOL On Demand, our self-paced Bootcamp.