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Report, 2016

Gamification in higher education

Langendahl, Per-Anders; Cook, Matthew; Mark-Herbert, Cecilia


This report explores gamification as a pedagogic approach to engage and motivate students in higher education. Gamification is understood here to be the use of game elements in non-game contexts. Here game elements correspond to the characteristics of games, and context is defined as the activity and setting gamified. Gamification is deployed in various contexts such as running, shopping and learning and is therefore an open and multifaceted concept with multiple applications. The report develops a contemporary understanding of gamification with a focus on (higher) education in particular. A framework is derived from literature that categorises game elements as follows: 1) surface elements, 2) underlying dynamics and 3) gaming experience. This framework is used to analyse three teaching activities in marketing and sustainable development disciplines. Case study research was followed to collect data, which were analysed using a template approach. The analysis shows that gamification is not alien to higher education. Rather, game elements and dynamics associated with the gamification concept are found in higher education. Four game elements are deemed salient in higher education to engage and motivate students in particular, namely: narrative, challenge, progression and feedback. Narrative is the use of stories to engage students in learning, e.g. case study or real-world situation. A challenge is the use of a task that is both challenging and fun. Progression refers to the flow of activities (e.g. tasks) that engage students and maintain their motivation through a learning activity. Feedback is the use of frequent and targeted feedback that encourages students to learn. Based on these insights a framework was developed to illustrate how gamification might play a role in the development of cognitive capacity, analytical capabilities and normative ambitions of learning. The report concludes that gamification can usefully be deployed in higher education and form a part of the mix of pedagogic approaches. Game elements can be used in teaching sessions to activate students and to motivate proactive engagement in learning activities as well as enjoyment over them. Gamification may not, however, make teaching more efficient and reduce the workload. It may rather help create more effective teaching and contribute to student learning outcomes as well as their overall experience from the university.


active students, case, feedback, learning by doing, pedagogical role, playful, student engagement and teaching

Published in

Working paper series / Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
2016, number: 2016:6
Publisher: Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Langendahl, Per-Anders
The Open University
Cook, Matthew
The Open University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

UKÄ Subject classification

Business Administration

URI (permanent link to this page)