Gamification is the future of learningBy Malcolm Woodside September 23, 2019
Games have always been a part of learning. In today’s digital world, incorporating games and gamification is essential to contemporary learning. Monash University’s Professor Yeh Ping-Cheng has argued that ‘gamification is a must have teaching tool, because “students have grown up with videos and find it hard to concentrate on anything that isn’t a game”.’[i] These students, known as Digital Natives, have always lived surrounded by ‘digital’. Thus, to be effective, Army instructors should possess the relevant behaviours, attitudes, skills and knowledge (BASK) to select and implement appropriate gamification across their learning programs.
Army uses an array of games to learn and develop intended BASK. Role-playing games put learners in positions to apply the BASK to achieve required learning outcomes. The rivalry of well-designed team and individual competitions facilitate constructive learning. Deliberate gamification tends to improve engagement, motivation and productivity. It can teach soft skills essential to team work, such as collaboration, problem solving and resilience.[ii] Four terms used in this discussion are: games, serious games, gamification, and simulation. How are they different?
Games, serious games, and gamification are variations of the same approach.[iii] The term ‘games’ is used for those activities which apply game mechanics and can be just for fun, but without any specifically intended learning value. Discrete ‘serious games’ provide game-based-learning.[iv] They apply game mechanics and require the learning of rules specific to that game. The rules must be followed to facilitate success in the game. These rules may take time to learn and may introduce frustration to the novice user who wants to quickly begin playing the game effectively. Serious games may tend to hamper learning if their design, selection and application are not well appreciated.
Gamification is the application of game mechanics within conventional learning activities. Gamification can be as simple as incorporating a ‘drag-and-drop’ activity as a formative assessment or to reinforce a teaching point. When gamification is applied, there are few ‘new’ rules to learn before the learner can effectively participate in the gamified learning. However, effective gamification requires careful design to be relevant to the intended learner cohort. Effective instructors discern their learners’ individual characteristics and needs. Learners can be motivated by different rewards.[v]
Learning through gamification works better when intrinsic motivations and extrinsic rewards align.[vi] Different motivations and rewards can fall into the four groups of status, access, power and stuff.[vii] Gamification can take one of two forms: structural gamification (which incorporates a variety of game mechanics into conventional learning activities), and content gamification (which changes the appearance of the learning to look more ‘game-like’).[viii]
Simulations mimic real world situations. They can incorporate games or gamification, but neither is essential. Simulations provide authentic experiential learning that demonstrates benefits and consequences, in a failure-safe environment.[ix][x] Army has long practised simulation using ‘bull ring’ activities (often low technology) and mechanical training devices (medium to high technology).
ADELE (the Australian Defence Education and Learning Environment) is equipped with a broad range of gamification tools. These include drag-and-drop, image pairing, Virtual Tour (360), branching scenarios, quizzes, hotspots, and memory game. The common benefits of serious games and gamification are to: motivate learners, apply newly learned BASK, incorporate competition and to facilitate mistake-driven learning.[xi] Effective mistake-driven learning relies upon immediate feedback. Feedback can be made available in most online learning, like in ADELE.
It follows that Army instructors must adapt to appreciate and apply a range of advanced BASK. This applies to the design of effective diagnostic, formative and summative assessments. Successful contemporary instructors need to develop effective, efficient and relevant learning material to elicit the appropriate cognitive processes. Well-designed gamification increases the success of learning.
[i]Monash University, 2015, Gamification considered the future of education, viewed 06 September 2019, .
[ii]Lillicrap EM, 2019, Gamification in Education: The future of soft skills development, University of Sydney, viewed 06 September 2019,
[iii]Bhasin K, 2014, Gamification, game-based learning, serious games: Any difference? Learning Solutions, viewed 06 September 2019,
[iv]Pappas C, 2017, Gamification and serious games: Differences and benefits eLearning pros need to know. eLearning Industry, viewed 06 September 2019,
[vi]Zichermann G & Cunningham C, 2011, Gamification by Design—Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA, cited in Bhasin
[vii]Bhasin K, 2014, Gamification, game-based learning, serious games: Any difference? Learning Solutions, viewed 06 September 2019,
[viii]Lillicrap EM, 2019, Gamification in Education: The future of soft skills development, University of Sydney, viewed 06 September 2019,
[ix]G2G3, 2016, The difference between gamification simulation and serious games, viewed 06 September 2019,
[x]Designing Digitally, 2017, Gamification, serious games and simulations: the differences, viewed 06 September 2019,
[xi]Pappas C, 2017, Gamification and serious games: Differences and benefits eLearning pros need to know. eLearning Industry, viewed 06 September 2019,