How to use gamification in education

8 minutes
Written by: Natalia De la Peña Frade
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Genially offers a wealth of resources to apply gamification, a strategy to enhance learning and teaching. Want to get rid of  boredom and a lack of motivation in your classes? Follow the tips we offer you to create a successful gamification! At the end of the post, you’ll find a selection of great templates you can use.

What is gamification?

Gamification consists of applying game-specific elements in any other context to achieve certain goals. The objectives can be varied, but, in general, it’s a matter of getting someone to perform a certain behavior or action. For example, getting answers from a survey, facilitating understanding of complex concepts, or simplifying tasks.

This methodology is used in different fields, including education.

The power of games is something we should never underestimate. Football, for example, is a game but also a billion dollar industry capable of influencing people. Football drives fans into the stadium on holidays, or even when it’s cold and raining, just to see their team. Another good example? The hugely popular game, Pokémon Go, led millions of people – who otherwise might not have gotten out of the house – to travel miles and miles in pursuit of virtual animals.

Gamification uses the incredible power of games as motivation to achieve certain goals, and has been proven effective in improving the learning experience for people of all ages.

There are great examples of gamification in the classroom. In the genially we’ve shared below, you can see that it’s possible (and easy with Genially!) to create a resource that helps students to have fun while they learn. Later in this post, we will discuss the elements of successful gamification using this example.

Why use games to teach?

If talking about the benefits of gamification is new to you, you may be questioning its effectiveness in the educational world. The more traditional approaches to teaching consider play unproductive, an activity that should be kept separate from lessons and classrooms.

Games are for fun and entertainment, right? For the same reason, they are also a powerful educational resource. The explanation lies in our brain: When we play a game, we produce dopamine, a substance that relates to learning and memory. When we experience pleasant sensations such as solving a problem or getting a response right, we release dopamine. The interesting thing about this is that we tend to repeat any action that provides  satisfaction because it is essentially a reward.

Conversely, when we are wrong, the level of dopamine drops, and this is unpleasant for us. Therefore, the brain learns to make an effort to avoid what is wrong and repeat what is right so it can continue to receive the pleasant sensations. That’s why reward systems are so motivating and so important in learning.

For a game to have the ability to engage us, we need more than just a reward system. If it were that simple, good grades would become an addiction, and the reward of getting a high score would be enough to keep students motivated. But as we know, that’s not enough.

Beyond rewards, games are attractive because they take place in a fictional environment. The person who plays can more or less control the situation, and decide whether or not they want to play. The structure of the game, the way in which rewards are earned, also functions like a magnet. There is an artistic part and a scientific part in the creation of a gamification.

Returning to the Pokémon Go example, the people who enjoy the game are able to decide whether they want to play or not, and whether they want to go out searching for pokémons or not. But they never know when they’re going to get the reward. This aspect, known as the variable reward system, boosts the release of serotonin and as a result, motivation

This explains (at least in part) why we like to play and also why the possibilities of gamification go far beyond attracting students with games: As you can see, numerous scientific explanations show that this strategy enhances learning and teaching.

Is gamification the result of the digital age?

No, it has been practiced since ancient times, and it’s impossible to put an exact date on the history of gamification. There are many examples of fully analog gamification.

In fact, reward-based loyalty systems are an example of gamification. However, the term “gamification” was not coined until 2002, when internet use was already widespread.

The relationship between gamification and technology is evident: Technological advances offer far more possibilities to develop this strategy. In addition to giving rise to impressive content, there are also numerous tools to connect people and share.

Academia Genially ilustration

You may also be interested in this free course from the Genially Academy.

Board games

Goals of gamification in the classroom

Loyalty, motivation, and reward are, in essence, the goals that gamification helps us achieve, allowing us to improve the results of teaching and learning. In practical terms, this translates to:

  • Facilitating understanding of complex concepts
  • Improve students’ skills
  • Reward certain behaviors, actions, or achievements

These goals have to be aligned with the previously established educational objectives. Gamification can cover an assignment, a subject, or an entire course. In addition to helping students learn theoretical knowledge, it’s also effective in promoting team dynamics or values such as collaboration and altruism.

How do you achieve these goals?

Through games, children seek to obtain validation of their skills and abilities, build relationships, and make independent decisions. For the gamification to succeed, the experience must be designed with this in mind. 

Taking full advantage of this strategy involves developing a complete system. It’s not about creating a single game, but a whole environment that combines different aspects of gameplay: rewards, feedback, levels, even a little competition among students.

A structure with effective mechanisms to meet needs such as self-expression or seeing their achievements being recognized will engage students and make them want to continue playing.

For example, giving choices such as the ability to choose the character or the environment satisfies the need to make decisions independently; setting up group dynamics helps them build relationships; creating a point system helps measure their progress and validate their abilities; making the rest of the class’s progress visible is motivating; creating different levels or displaying the results can also be very stimulating.

Similarly, it’s important to design feedback messages to reinforce correct answers and encourage students to try again when they are incorrect.

How to create successful educational gamification in 5 steps

1. Define your goals

Create a list of your goals as a teacher. What do you want your students to learn? What values would you like to instill? In the example genially, the teaching goal is to learn biographies of famous characters.

2. Create storytelling

To do this, think about your students. What do they like? What are their hobbies? The mapa mundi in our example encourages one to travel, to explore, to discover. The key is to connect with the student body and make them feel like the protagonists.

3. Define the mechanism of play and motivation

Creating a series of exercises where they choose the answers is not gamification, even if the style of the game is based on their interests. How can you hook them and make sure they keep playing? When are they given feedback?

Again, the example genially is perfect for showing best practices:

  • You can choose between four characters and you can also choose the order in which you want to walk the circuit.
  • Feedback is provided at each step, encouraging you to repeat the attempt if a mistake is made.
  • The reward system is complex enough to keep students engaged – they have to get five numbers to be able to open the safe and complete the challenge.

4. Find the tools and elements you’re going to use

You need a tool that makes it easy for you to create an attractive storytelling, with resources to illustrate and structure it as quickly and easily as possible.

As far as this is concerned, Genially provides everything you need, with over 70 templates specifically designed to create gamifications (question and answer games, board games, escape rooms…) available to teachers, as well as a lot of resources to make it very simple.

Genially also allows you to add interactivity and animation to your creations in a few minutes without programming knowledge, and is a perfect support for storytelling. These features make it a very powerful tool for developing your gamification. With interactivity, your students can interact with content in an immersive way, and different animations will easily capture their attention.

In addition, Genially can be integrated with Moodle or any of the major Learning Management Platforms (LMS). Therefore, resources created with Genially can be used in face-to-face, online, or mixed environments, eliminating learning barriers.

5. Make it fun!

Once the whole system is created, try to view it through your students’ eyes and make sure you’ve built a fun learning experience.

Best gamification templates and examples

Perhaps the most important advantage of using pre-designed templates is that they save time. In addition to the templates available in the Genially repository, there are many other reusable geniallys in the “Inspiration” section. If you don’t want to spend too much time on your creation, simply use the resources that already exist. Replace the questions and answers with your own, and just like that – in only a few minutes – you have created a gamification resource!

It’s important to remember that templates are fully customizable, and can be adapted to any subject or pedagogical need.

Resources created with Genially are versatile: They can be shared via a link for students to use individually, displayed on the screen in a virtual class, or projected on any surface in the classroom mode. 

Want to start creating gamification resources? Go to Genially and create your free account. Here are some of the templates you’ll find in the gamification section:



Secret Word Quiz

Visit the “Inspiration” section, type the word “gamification,” and get ready to be amazed by the resources created by other people in the teaching community. Share them with your class! Some are even reusable.

Pokémon Let’s Go English

Recycling Sorting Game

Challenge: Order of Operations

Did you know about the incredible potential of gamification in education? Encourage yourself to start using this strategy! There are amazing benefits for both your work and that of your students. 

Sign up for free in Genially and start creating learning materials to motivate a new generation of students.

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read
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