You are running like the wind from the police, dodge left, dodge right, and hurl yourself over the edge of a building. As you hit the ground, you glance over your shoulder coyly, another successful art heist behind you. It sounds like a blockbuster or the latest videogame offering by Ubisoft, doesn’t it? Thanks to the edTech designers realizing just how useful gamification is in eLearning, scenes like this can become part of education. Grab your best Tomb Raiding outfit and strap into the cockpit to discover the role of gamification in edTech. 

What is Gamification? 

Gamification is the process of turning something that isn’t a game into a game. Next time you need to tidy up your house before the in-laws come over, grab your spouse, set a timer, and try to out clean one another. Taahdaah, you just analog gamified something! The goal of gamification is generally to make something that isn’t particularly fun more engaging. 

When Nick Pelling originally coined this term in the early 90s, he intended to gamify daily adult tasks such as ATM cash withdrawals. Since getting money out isn’t exactly a riveting activity now, I can’t say that he was successful in his quest. However, the idea caught made ripples in the pond of eLearning and education. 

In the world of edTech, there are two types, structural and content

Structural Gamification

  • Game type things are applied to how the content is learned, but there is no change to the content itself.
  • The learner can earn points. Kaching. 
  • Badges are awarded for various activities. 
  • Video game-style levels are climbed as the learning becomes more and more in-depth and builds on previously achieved levels. 
  • Leaderboards aren’t just for arcades. You can give beating Paul from marketing’s high learner score. 
  • Social elements like being able to chat as you move through the digital learning world. 

Content Gamification

  • It moves one step beyond structural gamification and alters its content to make it more palatable and engaging to learners. 
  • For example, making the course itself part of an interactive story. To learn more about hacking in the finance world, you are immersed in a storyline of corruption and money laundering. Yes, you want to learn to fulfill the requirement on anti-money laundering laws, but you also want to know what will happen in the story. 

edTech and Gamification

The past 15 years have seen digital devices become attached to our fingertips from morning to evening. Social Media pushes constant dopamine buttons and becomes addictive to our neanderthal-style brains. Apps and phone games surround us with points, leaderboards, and badges until conventional chalkboard-style lessons can no longer keep even the most studious learner engaged. 

Gamification: The Good

EdTech needs to keep up with daily life, and this is where gamification enters the scene. Research has shown that gamification will help:

Gamification: The Less Good

Gamification to promote learning isn’t exactly a new concept, but as with everything out of the ordinary: there are some serious critiques to consider. 


Good gamification involved in well-designed edTech is worth its weight in gold. Your learners will look forward to learning more and are more likely to retain information and build both team spirit and healthy competitive spirit. Like everything in the educational sector, it is not a one size fits all solution, but it is worth exploring if endless online learning is getting your learners down in the dumps. 

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