The Shift to Gamification in Education and What It Means for Web Developers

The Following is a guest post by Ainsely Lawrence

Education has gone through a technological revolution in the last few years. This is largely due to the increased demand for remote learning. The need for remote learning has promoted rapid growth in EdTech as teachers and school boards have been forced to rethink their lesson plans and curriculums in response to the pandemic.

But, even as classrooms return to normal, many teachers have found a new ace to keep up their sleeves: gamified learning experiences.

Gamified learning experiences are great for classroom engagement and help take the strain off overworked teachers. They’re also delivering new opportunities to web developers who can fill the demand with quality learning experiences for all age groups.

What is Gamification?

Gamification has become a buzzword amongst future-oriented thinkers. However, simply put, gamification refers to the application of game-like elements to any non-gaming activity.

Gamification doesn’t necessarily have to happen in an education setting; it doesn’t need to utilize digital tech, either. Keeping a tally of sales in an office and rewarding the “winner” is a classic gamified experience. You can also gamify your day-to-day life by rewarding yourself for eating healthier foods or drinking your fill of water.

Digital gamification builds on the basic analog blueprint and provides a video-game-like experience. Language learning and habit-building apps are great examples of digital gamification. Apps like SuperBetter have helped thousands of users improve their lives and learn new skills. However, gamification is particularly effective in an education setting where engagement is a crucial part of success.

Gamification in Education

Gamification is one of the top trends reshaping education today. This is largely due to the fact students have greater access to technology as schools across the nation are equipped with tablets and personal computers. Gamification is also in demand due to the heightened importance of digital literacy. Digital literacy ensures that students today have the basic IT skills they need to help them find success later in life.

Gamification can help students pick up the digital skills they need while teachers deliver more traditional lessons in classes like Languages and the Humanities. For example, a student in a gamified Spanish class can use a video-game-like app to achieve basic learning outcomes like conjugating verbs or learning new vocabulary. At the same time, that student can further their digital literacy skills by learning to navigate a simple operating system.

Still, gamification does more than teach hard skills. According to Dr. Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research at the Institute for the Future, thinking like a gamer changes the way students progress in life. It makes them more resilient and creative while fostering greater self-efficacy and reflection. These soft skills are vital for success in an unpredictable, tech-driven world. 

Tablets and Phones

Gamified learning experiences are typically hosted on tablets or phones. As a developer, you need to ensure that you can design and maintain cross-platform education apps. Most tech gaming apps use Javascript as it is relatively easy to manipulate and suits your needs well when designing a basic game.

You can learn Javascript by building classic retro games. Tutorials like Ania Kubów’s are perfect if you are already familiar with basic concepts like functions, variables, and loops.

Once you’ve copied a few classic games like Space Invaders and Connect Four, you’ll want to start customizing your script to build games that are appropriate for learners of different abilities and ages. Understanding user experience (UX) is key to creating an appropriate gamified educational app.

You can improve your UX skills by learning to adapt your app to suit various mobile devices and tablets. Adaptability is particularly important in EdTech, as many tablets are specifically designed to be child-friendly and don’t have the same specs as an iPad or Microsoft Surface. You’ll also need to collect some quantitative data before rolling out your educational app and should be familiar with the basics of mobile app user behavior.

Ideas to Get Started

Gamification in education is a huge opportunity for established web developers. Top performing apps like MentalUP record up to 100,000 downloads every month as teachers, parents, and students try to improve upon the learning experience.

However, the growth in educational tech and gamification means that the industry is becoming increasingly competitive. This can make it difficult to create a niche app that catches the attention of learners and teachers.

Despite the competition, it is important to keep it simple when creating a game for children. Svitlana Varaksina, a tech researcher at Mind Studios, recommends creating games that have a rich plot, setting, and characters. The younger your target age group, the more you can get away with railroading your educational game.

Varaksina also recommends using syllabi as a starting point. Keeping a syllabus close at hand ensures that each lesson contained in your game is age-appropriate and relevant to the learning objectives and goals that teachers have for their students. 


The shift to gamification in education is a boon for web developers looking to expand their skill set or launch popular apps. You can take advantage of the increased demand for gamified learning experiences by learning Javascript and creating a few basic games with simple plots, characters, and level designs. Just be sure to work with a real-life syllabus when planning your game, as this will ensure that your game’s learning outcomes are relevant to students.


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