Is Play the Thing for the Future of Learning?

  • 3 Min Read

Game-based learning helps to keep students motivated and engaged. Here’s what you need to know.

Learners in this century have grown up with the Internet as part of their cultural experience. The very fact that screen time is now a consistent part of the social experience means that students understand the language of the screen. They understand emojis, icons, apps, memes, gifs, social media, and of course, games. Computer technology has been in classrooms for decades but teaching and learning have evolved to accommodate new models that embrace the interactive and immersive world of the digital user experience. This is where game-based learning becomes of interest to educators and students alike.

In short, game-based learning is comprised of a set of tools that integrate with a learning management system (LMS) that allow students to interact and engage with educational material in a way that is more commonly associated with video gaming. The result is an education experience that is fun for students, but also provides educators with greater insight into their student’s learning behavior.

How game-based learning works

Much like an immersive online game, game-based learning begins by creating a unique environment. It is extremely user-friendly and graphical, so students will immediately find it familiar to online sites they use in their spare time. Students can create profiles, customize their avatars, and begin exploring the environment right away. Course content can be conveyed as locations on a map where students are encouraged to explore. As the student (or player) progresses through the experience, they can unlock content based on scores and achievements. By choosing their own adventure, students can self-pace and have fun while learning. They can experiment, repeat activities, interact with other learners, all in a safe and risk-free place.

Tracking progress on a leaderboard

Because each student’s progress can be monitored and updated in real-time, it’s a great idea to provide students with a leaderboard to show their individual achievements and those of their peers. A leaderboard provides an exciting way for students to see their points level, and a compelling reason to want to achieve even more. Consider this example from the way that exercise apps encourage users to push themselves using badges, leaderboards, and automated recognition. provide students with a similar experience using virtual rewards that celebrate learning and engagement.

So who wins in the end?

As students progress though the game (or story) they can be monitored and assessed by using short, interactive quizzes. This will help teachers to ensure that students are meeting their goals. By monitoring participation, teachers can get insight into whether students are engaging with material. Teachers can take action and deliver immediate feedback, providing students with real-time advice and help, suggested resources, and encouragement. And because all these interactions feed directly into the LMS, it’s easy to see progress on a daily level, across all students, classes, and programs. In the end, everyone wins with a game-based learning model. Teachers and administrators are able to provide a more compelling and engaging course offering, and students are likely to feel more involved with their learning material.

Contact us about your interest in game-based learning. We’d love to show you how D2L can provide all the tools and services necessary to set up a graphical, user-friendly game-based learning experience for your school.

Get in the game! Download the guide to learn more about game-based learning tools