Farmville. Candy Crush Saga. Words with Friends. The rise in the popularity of social media over the last decade has brought a subsequent rise in the popularity of online games. Public leaderboard rankings allow for fun competition, and in-game chat opportunities provide a feeling of camaraderie and interconnection that an old-fashioned newspaper crossword or Sudoku puzzle can’t.
Now, if only freeing wide-eyed cartoon kittens from colorful bubbles offered more in terms of personal or professional growth.
Combining online games with education, on the other hand — that blend can bring fun as well as edification to participants. That’s why some nurse educators are turning to gamification as a tool to instruct students and staff on clinical content, especially Millennial nurses who have practically grown up on digital games.
Gamification is a fancy, multisyllabic term for a rather basic concept: making learning entertaining by using games. A recent article in Nurse Educator points to the appeal of gamified learning among younger nurses.
“These digital natives … are immersed in an ever-present technology-rich environment. They may become bored when engaging in traditional passive classroom learning that uses routine teaching methods such as lecture, discussion, and visual projections of content slides,” write authors Meagan White, MSN, RNC, senior program analyst at the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and Teresa Shellenbarger, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, nursing professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“These students seek experiential activities, teamwork, and active learning. In addition, they are intimately connected to their social group and rely heavily on communication technology to access information while expecting instant gratification and rewards.”
In short, they write, gamification engages participants and transforms the learning experience into a positive one.
Incentives for achievement are essential for gamification success. Just like the Scouts award physical badges for skills mastered and social fitness apps play up digital exercise leaderboards, gamification uses digital badges to motivate learners.
“Digital badges may be recognized by learners as rewards,” the authors explain, “and this may impact motivation, especially when adding social elements of competition through leaderboards.”
Just how digital badging is used varies, with some educators basing such awards on points, levels, or scores attained. Others choose to use more broad-based badges that correspond to learning outcomes.
Digital badges should be used with some caution, however. The authors report that badges easily awarded to all participants lose the ability to effectively motivate learners. At the same time, digital badges and leaderboards that fuel a competitive edge in some students may inspire stress, discouragement, and even frustration to the point of distraction in others.
For that reason, educators are recommended starting small, with a tailored digital badging program that grows with use. With time, the badges can be expanded expertly and appropriately.
“Despite limitations in evidence related to digital badges and gamified learning,” the authors write, “potential benefits remain strong.”
Are you willing to give gamification a try? You just might bring home a win for the team.