Arrow and a piece of paper with the word Gamification

Motivating adult learners in continuous and interactive studying is considered as a crucial part in learning process and in distance learning. Therefore, Gamification helps the academics to turn something otherwise dull to an interesting and fun learning experience, tailored to the student’s needs.

Let’s start with the main question: What does Gamification mean?

Gamification is the use of game elements in a non-gaming context to motivate an individual in an activity (Deterding et al., 2011). This applies in many contexts, such as enterprise, advertising and marketing, education, as well as health and fitness and many more. However, it should not be confused with game-based learning, an instructional technique that has the learner or user play a game and learning happens as the game is played out.

Gamification Types

Gamification is broken down into two different categories according to Kapp (2012):

  • Structural Gamification

This is about the structure of a unit and gamifies the framework and rules of the unit, with no alteration or changes to the content itself. The primary focus behind structural gamification is to motivate the learner to go through the content and to engage them in the process of learning through rewards, such as gaining points for completing an assignment.

  • Content Gamification

On the other hand, this gamifies the learning content of a unit, including class activities and assessment to make it more game-like. For example, adding story elements to a course, or starting a course with a challenge instead of a list of objectives, adding quests or levels. Adding these elements makes the content more game-like but it doesn’t turn the content into a game.

Game Elements

Gamification provides a lot of game elements and mechanics that can be used within a class directly as an out-of-the-box solution, but there is also a risk that this may overshadow the learning experience in favour of a game.

Gamification on any context is achieved by incorporating components from game contexts directly into the non-game context at hand (Ntokos & Lamprinou, 2020). These components are called game elements, as shown below:

The PBL Triad

Werbach and Hunter (2012) analysed more than 100 gamification implementations and found that the most used game elements are points, badges and leaderboards (PBL), due to their simplicity in implementation.


The Points element provides visual and immediate feedback to students. In games, the higher score we have (and thus the more points we have) the better we are performing. In a typical assignment or learning activity, the tutors could award students more points proportionally to the achievement of the learning outcomes (Ntokos,2021).


An illustration showing badges
Badges in eLearning

Badges are the second component of the PBL triad. This is another way to provide visual indication that a student is good at, fast, or accurate at a very specific task. Badges are also closely tied with the concept of achievements in video games (Ntokos,2021). Achievements are awarded to players for satisfying specific requirements of difficult tasks. They typically have clear conditions that players need to meet.


Leaderboards originate from old school arcade games, which had players competing on various video games, getting high scores so they could appear on top of the leaderboards. Learning scenarios benefit from this as well, with learners competing for mastery, improving their feeling of autonomy, competence, enjoyment and presence (Bowey et all, 2015). Leaderboards can motivate people if implemented in an appropriate way.


Gamification gains more and more ground in Higher Education. Many universities now use game elements in their platforms, such as digital badges, points, progress bars and leaderboards. This technique makes the learning FUN and with the correct framework it can be implemented in many educational environments.

If you want to learn more about Gamification, visit the Linked Learning (LiL) course ‘Gamification in Learning’ by Karl Kapp and have a look at a gamified Thinglink we created for the VLE Awards 2022. A new blog post will also follow about the player archetypes. So, stay tuned!


Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011a). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification”. Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments (pp. 9-15). New York, NY, USA: ACM. Retrieved from

Bowey, J. T., Birk, M. V., Mandryk, R. L. (2015). Manipulating Leaderboards to Induce Player Experience. New York, USA.

K. Kapp. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. John Wiley & Sons.

Ntokos, K., Lamprinou, D.(2020). PBGL Framework: Personality-Based Gamification in Learning. BCS eLearning Specialist Group, INSPIRE 2020 Conference eProceedings · Jan 10, 2021. Retrieved from: (page 1) (

Ntokos, K. (2021). Gamification Toolbox for Academics: Identifying Best Practices for using Game Elements in Higher Education. BCS eLearning Specialist Group, INSPIRE 2021 Conference, eProceedings, Sep 21, 2021. Retrieved from

Werbach, K., Hunter, D. (2012). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Philadelphia: Wharton Digital Press.

Gamification in Higher Education

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