How Students Benefit from Games and Gamification

Using games and gamification when teaching marketing and other courses can offers substantial benefits in enhancing student engagement, comprehension, and overall learning experience.

As you may have guessed from the broad array of games and teaching activities and exercises on the Great Ideas website, I am fan of using games, tasks, tools, mini cases, and interactive exercises in the classroom.

This is not to say that I only used games – far from it – I used a mix of different activities and formats to ensure that I met the different learning styles of students. But… in every session there was at least one game, such as Kahoot that can be played within five minutes or so.

In this article, I will outline the main advantages of using games and gamification in the classroom and why you should do too. Let’s get started…

Enhanced Engagement and Motivation

In my teaching experience, the use of games in the classroom has significantly enhanced student engagement and motivation. I think is because games tap into the student’s desire for entertainment, interaction, enjoyment, and competition.

Games, by their very nature, make learning more engaging. They introduce elements of fun, challenge, and interactivity that traditional lectures and/or learning tasks sometimes lack.

Even when using relatively simple quiz games like Kahoot in my larger lectures, I noticed a very high percentage of  student participation – somewhere around 95%. This was amazing, particularly given that it is relatively easy to “opt out” in a large lecture situation.

Often I used Kahoot for an end-of-lecture revision quiz, and being in a university, students had the option to get up and leave the lecture at that point. But virtually all students stayed and competed in the Kahoot quiz.

For those unfamiliar with Kahoot, it is a multiple-choice question competition, where the questions are shown on the screen and students answer the questions on their smart phones. They can see their names climb up the leaderboard.

And by playing around with the results and adding some comments along the way, it created a lively atmosphere that was both fun and conducive to learning.

Helps Meet Diverse Learning Styles

As we know, students learn in different ways. Some like to listen, some like to read, some like to talk and discuss, some like to do and interact, and so on.

Games can meet an array of learning styles at the same time. This is because, often, games are played in teams competing against other student groups. And to be successful in the game, it requires a mix of listening, discussing, reading, and doing.

And of course, games also fit in very well with the high level of digital game and app usage by students. It is part of their normal lifestyle to be involved in tasks and entertainment that have an element of gaming within some form of gamified environment.

Improved Retention and Understanding

This is a very important point and probably one of your primary goals in any education setting. I found the games and other teaching activities have been very effective in improving learning and understanding.

The reasons for this improvement builds upon the two points above = greater engagement and better fit to individual learning styles – but also because the games and activities tend to be more memorable and more interactive.

This is opposed to a long discussion or explanation, where it is difficult for students to retain all the information. Likewise, when reviewing a textbook that has substantial detail, it is also challenging for some students to either recall or truly understand the material.

From a marketing perspective, games usually involve decision-making and choices. That’s what many marketing students will go on to do in their careers. They will need to make decisions, relative to competitors, in order to improve the brand of the company’s performance.

In many ways, the sales and profits of the company are reflective of points earned in a teaching game. Therefore, marketing students, by using games, will get the understanding of making a decision and then getting feedback and then fine-tuning and revising that decision – just like in a real-life marketing job.

Develops Problem Solving Skills

in simple terms, games and other similar teaching tools and activities, require that the student to “think”. Obviously, students are thinking all the time – but often in a classroom situation they are simply observing or repeating information. They not necessarily thinking about it.

When we move to games and other decision-making activities, the students need to think, consider, reflect, and discuss. This combination of activities requires the students to “problem solve” – which again is a very important skill for their future marketing careers.

However, while it is possible for students to participate in a game without really thinking – that is, making basic decisions without consideration – most of the games I structured on Great Ideas are designed to reward the students in group to make the right decisions. This usually motivates the poor performing teams/students to become more engaged in the game as it progresses – due to the pressure of competition.

Practical Application

While students are not necessarily making decisions in a real -like business environment, they are applying their knowledge and theory to some form of simulation and/or game. This means that they have to practically apply the information they have gained, rather than simply memorize the material.

As we know, any application of theory and information not only aids in retention but also helps prepares students for real-life challenges in their future marketing roles.

Helps Develops Critical Thinking

Another aspect where games are quite helpful is with the development of critical thinking.

For example, on Great Ideas I have multiple marketing simulation games, where students need to make key marketing business decisions. Depending on the game, these decisions had to be carefully thought out, considering market conditions, competition, and budget constraints.

And, of course, there is a “feedback loop” in games that aids in developing critical thinking skills, as students get  immediate feedback on their decisions.

This allows students to see the impact of their actions and then think about alternative strategies. This immediate feedback helps students learn from their mistakes and refine their problem-solving strategies in real-time.

Great for Team Building

The collaborative aspect of many educational games plays a great role in building teams and relationships between students. When students work in teams to overcome challenges or compete against each other, they learn to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and work collaboratively.

And for budding marketers, this team-based problem-solving approach is invaluable in preparing students for their future professional environments – as marketers need to engage across the business to make things happen and to successfully implement their marketing strategies and plans.

Provides Immediate Feedback on Learning

As we know, feedback is a critical component of effective learning. But normally feedback is usually delayed, often coming days or even weeks after an assignment or test.

However, not with most games on Great Ideas, as they offer students instant responses to their actions and decisions. This “feedback loop” allows them to quickly understand what concepts they have mastered and where they need more practice.

For example, in the Digital Escape Rooms on Great Ideas, if students solve a problem correctly, they advance. If not they need to try again.

Another positive aspect of feedback in games is the motivational factor. When students know they will receive instant feedback, they are more likely to engage, as the anticipation of immediate results creates a sense of excitement and engagement.

This is common when I use some of the marketing simulation games on Great Ideas, where students could not wait to see the results of that round and how they were performing.

Creates Peer Learning Opportunities

Team-based games also provide an opportunity for students to learn from each other. Peer learning is an ideal method for enhancing student learning. Not only from the students receiving the information, but more significantly by the students giving information.

No doubt you had situations where you’ve asked your students, “do you understand?” – and they all nodded their heads that they do. However, asked one student to explain it to the rest of the class and suddenly they’re not really sure about the material.

Obviously, this is embarrassing for the student in the overall class – but peer learning often occurs in small groups – and games and teams allow peer learning to flourish. This is because the team wants to perform well, so some of the students will explain and discuss the concepts to their fellow students – enhancing knowledge for all.

Adds Variety to the Learning Experience

Most students are, indeed most people, like variety. If the class or lecture is repetitive – with the same format over and over – then students become less engaged and even bored with the learning experience.

By adding games and other activities, variety is created in the classroom and students will be more likely to enjoy the overall experience – and more likely to learn and retain information.

I remember one of the best “compliments” I got from a student – where I was running a specialist unit in a Marketing Masters degree. Because the course was exclusive to students with work experience in marketing, classes ran from 6pm to 9pm in the evening.

At the end of one class, I said, “it’s now 9 o’clock, time to go home”. To which, one of the students (who had been working all day as a marketer) responded with, “well, time flies in this class, it seems like just got here”.

I consider that a great compliment because the students were clearly engaged, interacting, and even having fun – for them not to notice that three hours had passed so quickly.

Reduces Anxiety and Stress of Participation

As we know, there are some students who feel uncomfortable participating in the overall class or with a wider audience. The use of games – which are usually team-based and often provide competitive fun – is very effective in making students feel more comfortable and becoming more involved.

I have seen students virtually transformed by a game or some form of activity in the classroom. Normally quiet and shy students who will never volunteer to answer a question, suddenly become engaged, directed and focused leaders of their team.

It can be absolutely amazing to see that turnaround. And once that happens, you have a better understanding of how the different students learn and how to tailor future materials. Obviously, if you had a regular small class of students, then this is easy to do – but if you have larger and multiple classes (as I do in a university setting) – then this insight on students and their personality and learning style is very helpful.

Encourages Creativity and Innovation

Fostering creativity and innovation in students is a crucial aspect of education, particularly in the marketing discipline, where marketers are expected to be “creative types” in the workplace.

A student’s ability to see themselves as creative and innovative, usually gets down to self-confidence. You will have some students who clearly see themselves as creative, while others are concerned about their future marketing career because they feel they are lacking in that particular skill.

But in the marketing world, creativity takes multiple forms. For example, marketers may be creative with analytics. They could look at some data and results and see opportunities for a marketing strategy or tactic. That is being creative. In marketing, creativity doesn’t have to be a fancy ad or creative message on social media.

Creativity extends to strategy, marketing mix planning, finding marketing insights, better understanding consumers, finding a different way to segment the market, unique positioning, and so on.

This all means that educational games, often require students to think outside the box and approach problems in novel ways, are really effective tools for building a student’s self-confidence in being creative and being innovative. As I mentioned above, I have seen students transformed in the classroom when becoming engaged in a teaching game.

And of course, adding to this point, creativity requires an environment where ideas (good or bad) are accepted and encouraged – not dismissed or even ridiculed. That’s why one of the rules in brainstorming sessions is that every idea is a good idea.

Nothing shuts down creativity more than the fear of a negative reaction to the idea. Games and similar teaching materials, encourage creativity and even bad ideas.

And that, again, is another one of the challenges of real life marketing, we usually what we see implemented in the marketplace by brands has been evolved through multiple iterations. A good example of that is the original Apple iPhone, which went through so many variations of design, including a physical keyboard like the Blackberry phone. As is well known, innovation is a key part of Apple’s success – but that comes with time, effort, and a suitable environment to make mistakes.

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