The value of game-based learning: incorporating it into your virtual classroom

Education as we know it is taking a full 180. COVID-19 impacted the way educators interact with students and has opened up a conversation about what it means to teach. There is no time better than now to rethink how we structure our education system. It is time to get creative. But how? One way educators are changing up their classrooms is incorporating game-based learning. According to this study, 54% of teachers agree that game-based learning is a must-have and 94% would like to use it in the future.

What is game-based learning? Game-based learning is game play with a defined learning outcome. Game-based learning methods are designed by teachers to allow students to explore the learning context in a risk-free environment and practice real-life behaviors and thought processes. Not to be confused with gamification, which is the incorporation of game-based elements like a point system or competition to increase student engagement and motivation. Examples of gamification include a “badge system” where students earn a badge every time they unlock a new level. Examples of game-based learning, on the other hand, include stock market simulators or mock trials.

Benefits of game-based learning

1. Improved motivation, productivity, and retention

Game-based learning methods improve motivation, productivity, and retention in students. According to a study done by eLearning Industry, 79% of university students said game-based learning environments would improve their motivation and productivity. The competitive and reward elements of games motivates students to work towards new achievements. Additionally, game-based learning provides students with instant feedback on their performance, letting them know where they did well and where they can improve. This feedback motivates students to continue learning and improving themselves.

2. Increased performance and retention

On top of improved motivation, the same study above showed that 14% of students scored higher on skilled-based assessments and experienced a 9% increase in retention. Game-based learning encourages students to think critically about the material they’ve learned in order to find the best solution to the problem presented in the game. For example, in a mock trial, political science students must get creative with the way they understand laws and regulations to help them win their cases. The real-world application of the class material improves the students’ retention and ability to recall the material on exams.

3. Overcome fear of failure

Introducing games into your lesson plan helps students overcome their fear of failure. In the current grade-based education system, students are given one chance to perform well on an exam or assignment. They receive the grade and often don’t have the opportunity to try again. Receiving a bad grade often hurts the student’s self-esteem. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social, 80% of college students base their self-worth on their academic success. Students begin fearing failure because the current system tells them that it determines their worth and they can’t do anything about it.

On the other hand, a game-based learning model counter the grade-based learning system. With games, failure is not a setback or outcome. Instead, failure is seen as a learning opportunity and area of improvement. It indicates that more work is needed to achieve a certain level of mastery or unlock a new level. Therefore, incorporating more games into your lesson plan as an alternative to formative assessments will help students overcome that fear of failure.

4. Development of soft skills

Depending on the type of game you choose to play in your virtual classroom, game-based learning can help students develop important soft skills. Game simulators like the mock trials can help students practice their public speaking skills, communication skills, and time management. A 2017 study found that game-based pedagogy improved the oral and written communication skills of undergraduate engineering students. Team-based games that require cooperation can improve teamwork and leadership skills. Incorporating games allows students to practice these soft skills that are often overlooked in traditional classroom settings that prioritize memorization over real-world applications.

Create your own game

The beauty of game-based learning is the ability to get creative with the game creation process. Different types of game-based learning include:

  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Word games
  • Video games
  • Simulations
  • Role-playing games
  • Puzzles

Popular examples of game-based learning used in classrooms include mock-trial in political science classes, stock market simulators in economics classes, or game-show styles like Jeopardy in history classes.

If you’d like to create your own game, consider using Poll Everywhere Competitions for a live trivia game. For more ways to gamify your virtual classroom, download our back to school guide! This free guide breaks down the challenges and benefits of distance learning and includes expert tips from educators from the University of San Francisco and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Download the guide