Using gamification as an adaptive learning strategy

The very word ‘games’ evokes pleasant feelings in our minds. We closely associate gaming with fun and relaxation. We are also well aware that gaming and learning are like day and night. At best, problem solving is the closest you can get to learning. But this assumption is so yesterday. If you are not surprised, then you can already guess what gamification is and how it works as an adaptive learning strategy.

Adaptive learning is essentially computer-based learning that creates a personalized learning path to address individualistic needs. Gamification is not an integral part of adaptive learning. However, since adaptive learning aims to increase engagement in learners to improve learning outcomes, gamification can be successfully deployed as an adaptive learning strategy.

Love Gummii? What about Alleyoop? If you are familiar with these popular math learning apps then understanding gamification as an adaptive learning strategy is a piece of cake. Gamification is basically deploying the game mechanics (which is fun and exciting) in non-game environments (which are dull and boring) to motivate and engross participants. When gamification is used as an adaptive learning strategy, the participants are aspiring learners. The best examples are the aforementioned math learning apps.

The underlying principle behind gamification is participation and reward. Gamification makes effective use of our innate desires for Competition, Achievement and Status. Let’s take Alleyoop for example. Alleyoop is an adaptive learning platform for middle school and high school learners focusing mainly on math. It calls the user’s profile ‘DNA’ where all the data is saved. The math games are called ‘missions’ and there is a virtual currency called ‘Yoops’ which can be spent on activities like one-on-one tutoring and video content. With cool names and engaging games, Alleyoop dissolves the prejudice that math is dull and difficult.

Gamification as an adaptive learning strategy is a much sought panacea. However, the problem arises when we look at what learning methodology gamification tries to reinforce. Gamification techniques tend to overstress getting things right and getting them right in the least time and in the fewest attempts possible. This rewarding system based on right/wrong summative feedback may kindle intrinsic motivation and competitive spirit and drive learners to accomplish more. But it can also misfire. The right/wrong paradigm can unintentionally encourage learners to search for the shortest and cheapest means to pick out the right answers.

It is essential that the learner not only notices his errors but also understands his erring pattern and rectifies prospective errors. The probable solution: Coupling summative feedback with formative assessment. This combination can strengthen retention capacity in learning without compromising the enjoyment aspect.