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Gamification in Higher Education

‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.’

 – Benjamin Franklin

While most, if not all, students can effortlessly memorise all the complex rules and steps of video games and the lyrics to their favourite songs, they tend to struggle to memorize academic knowledge (you know, all those legal principles, case facts, maxims, etc). So the question is, how can the higher education system help in improving the learning outcomes among students while keeping it fun and engaging


According to a Forbes article (The Intersection of Learning and Fun: Gamification in Education), “Worldwide, we spend more than 3 billion hours a week playing video and computer games. Approximately 26 million people harvest their virtual crops on FarmVille every day.  More than 5 million people play an average of 45 hours a week of games, and nearly one-third of high school students play 3 or more hours of video or computer games on an average school day. Given this fascination with games, adapting some of the same principles found in gaming for entertainment to gaming for education- “gamification”- offers tremendous potential to impact teaching and learning.

Thus, it can be seen that in recent years the power of gamification as a form of learning tool has been gaining popularity especially with rapid new developments occurring in its field. With us here for this article, we welcome back Ms Puteri Sofia Amirnuddin to share with us on this topic of gamification and how Taylor’s Law School have incorporated gamification into their teaching pedagogies for the benefit of their students’ learning experience. 

How would you explain gamification to someone who is new to the term? When did you start delving into the field of gamification and what inspired it?

Gamification in simpler terms means the application of gaming principles in a non-game based context. It is just like where students play Call of Duty to get legendary rankings, Dota 2 or Fortnite to acquire the highest points to win the leaderboard. Gamification in learning law encourages students to participate in discussion and also to motivate students to learn in class. I first encountered the term ‘gamification’ back in 2013 but I wasn’t sure how to embed gamification into law-teaching. When I was assigned to teach the Legal Skills and Methods module in 2018, I realised that students tend to take the module lightly as compared to other modules such as Contract, Tort or English Legal System. Hence, I decided to turn things around to make it more interesting for the students. 

What are the benefits of gamification for both educators and students? Is gamification applicable to all areas of studies?

I have received similar questions from other educators on the benefits of gamification. The generation of students that we are teaching now is very different from how we learned last time. They are more tech-savvy and can lose interest in a particular area within a matter of minutes. Hence, educators need to think creatively on how to sustain students’ attention and interest throughout the duration of the lesson. By gamifying the topic, lecturers will be able to get students to engage in a discussion or activity as opposed to just imparting knowledge in class. Students will be able to share their understanding and perception as compared to just listening to the whole lecture for 1 or 2 hours without much thinking. Gamification encourages students to think creatively under pressure. Although in the beginning they will feel uncomfortable to be put into a spot which requires them to answer the questions immediately, over time they enjoy the competition element of gamification as they themselves can see the development in their confidence level and to solve complex problems creatively.  Hence, gamification is a good technique to adopt in order to encourage all students, including the more reserved ones to participate in the discussion. Gamification enhances students’ experience in learning that module, increases their attention span, awakens their curiosity, fosters competition amongst students and creates a sense of control. Anyone who wants to give gamification a try can do so for any module!

Could you provide some examples of how gamification has been adopted in the teaching pedagogies by Taylor’s Law School? Have you seen these benefits manifest among the lecturers and students in Taylor’s Law School?

At Taylor’s Law School, we are fortunate to have a good team of academics who are creative and innovative in their own set of ways. I had the opportunity to observe Dr. Tamara’s class where she brought Nerf guns to class! She encourages students to work in groups to discuss conflict of laws. For my modules, I introduced the concept of ‘speed-dating’, ‘augmented reality learning’, ‘learning using toothpaste’, ‘learning using pictures’ to get students immersed with learning law. Students will then be awarded with ‘points’ and the highest points will receive a prize sponsored by various generous sponsors! In the past, I managed to get a few sponsors providing a token in the form of Kielh’s facial products, Bliss body products, water bottles, books, notepads and temporary tattoo stickers! The concept of gamification is still relatively new amongst academicians teaching law but I have hope that one day other law lecturers will start gamifying their lessons. 

What would you tell a fellow educator who is sceptical towards the effectiveness of gamification? How would you encourage more educators to take on gamification into their teaching pedagogies?

Telling would not work, honestly. I have conducted a number of workshops and sharing sessions but it is difficult when lecturers cannot envisage how it will work for their modules. So then, I altered my strategy by getting those who are interested to learn to join my class instead. Due to COVID-19 pandemic where learning takes place online, I can share the class link with anyone who is interested to learn. I will share a secret, even Tan Sri James Foong, the former Federal Court judge, has joined English Legal System class to experience how classes are being run online. He doesn’t want his presence to be revealed but he was there amongst the students! If a former Federal Court judge can also take interest in the new teaching pedagogies, I have no doubt that other educators can also take the challenge just to try, at least for one session, to gamify their class. 

Marc Prensky, the founder and Executive Director of The Global Future Education Foundation and Institute, who coined the term ‘digital natives’ said that, “They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games … and all the other toys and tools of the digital age,” - So, considering that some lecturers are digital immigrants and their students are digital natives, do you think it will be more difficult for them to effectively implement gamification?

I believe once they are exposed to the gamification by attending classes conducted by other lecturers, they will realize that it is not that difficult to gamify the lesson. Sometimes it does not require the use of technology. All that is required is for lecturers to be imaginative or adopt what they have seen from their favourite TV series into their class. It is as easy as that!

Could gamification be a stand-alone teaching method, or could it only co-exist with more conventional teaching methods? If it could be a stand-alone teaching method, how would such a teaching plan be put in place? 

For gamification to work, it is best if it can be implemented into your module. Because gamification requires the adoption of game principles into a non-game based context. If it becomes a stand-alone teaching method, it will then be a game-based learning where students will be immersed with the game itself rather than the concept of gamification. For example, when the module requires students to learn using Minecraft, the students will then need to design their own game or story board. For learning law, it is possible for lecturers to adopt using game-based learning but it will take some time before any of us, including myself to be familiar with the programme. 

Some scientific studies have shown adverse outcomes based on the student’s preferences, and it is still an open question in terms of the characteristic links among those students – to what extent would gamification be something that every student can benefit from? 

I wouldn’t say ‘adverse outcomes’ but rather mixed reviews. Some students are generally positive on the introduction of gamification in their lesson whereas there are some students who prefer to be spoon-fed. It really depends on how the module is being designed, the type of gamification used, the characteristics of the students and other various factors. Lecturers will always give their best when it comes to delivering his or her lesson and we also try to re-strategize or tweak our delivery for the upcoming semesters depending on the students’ feedback. 

Currently, there are no implementations of any guidelines on gamified designs – in your opinion, do you think there is a need for it? If yes, what types of guidelines do you think should be included?

Gamification is more like a technique where lecturers can adopt. It would be great if more lecturers try to gamify their lessons but of course there are also other teaching pedagogies which are as effective as gamification. I personally believe that we should let educators feel free to decide on the teaching techniques that they feel comfortable doing. Some may prefer case-based learning, authentic learning or problem-based learning, so it is good to have a variety of teaching techniques so that students will also be able to experience other types of innovations or pedagogies introduced by other lecturers. 

Moving towards Industry 4.0, in your opinion, when would gamification be accepted and implemented in educational institutions in Malaysia in the near future? Would it be a hefty cost to the institutions and students for gamification to be put in place?

The more sharing sessions done to promote gamification, the more chances for educators in Malaysia to implement gamification in their respective modules. In Malaysia, there is an institution called ‘Game Development Council of Malaysia’ which was established under the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education to develop talents in the Malaysian Game Development ecosystem. The Chairperson of the Council is rigorous in promoting various webinars relating to ‘Gaming’, ‘Game-Based Learning’ or ‘Gamification’ to advocate on the gaming concepts to educators and industry players in Malaysia. Because gaming is not limited to ‘gaming’ per se but it can be adopted in businesses to promote its products and services and also in education to encourage learners to learn outside-their-box. Recently I have been invited to provide a sharing session on gamification to all educators in public and private universities in Malaysia. It is something that the Ministry of Higher Education is encouraging other educators to adopt or supplement in their teaching modules but not necessarily to be made compulsory. It doesn’t need to involve any cost because it can be made free. But it depends on the creativity of the lecturers on how they can best gamify their lesson. There are some lecturers who are way more advanced than me when they have their own ‘game platform’ to teach their module. It definitely requires investment on part of the education institution but as long as the lecturers can justify the need for the platform, then why not use it. 

Lastly, with your passion for gamification, have you ever thought of developing your own original gamification software in the future? 

Haha, yes! Something is brewing in the oven and it will be revealed soon! The first cohort that will be experiencing this new innovation will be the March 2020 cohort so stay tuned, everyone ☺

Quoting the professional motto of  Scott Herbert, a Tedx Speaker on “The Power of Gamification in Education”, “Would you want to be in your classroom?” - perhaps this could be a different point of view that educators in higher education may want to take into consideration on exploring new tools such as gamification in their teaching pedagogies. 

On that note, the Taylor’s Lexicon Team would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Ms Puteri Sofia Amirnuddin for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her knowledge and experience on gamification. Thank you again, Ms Puteri Sofia, we hope to have you back again for our future articles!

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