Gamification vs. Education (Round 1)

Gamification Education

Why have degrees, when you can have badges!

There has been a lot of buzz around education the past couple of weeks. And no, it’s not Apple’s entrance into the textbook market; it’s the gamification of education!

On Jan.8 2012, The Chronicle had a post “Badges’ Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas”. There were interesting points made in this article that speak to the future for gamified training and education.

Take the growth of Codeacademy, an ed-tech startup, for example.

Codeacademy is a startup that uses interactive online lessons to turn anyone into a computer programmer. This past new years it had 97,000 people enroll in classes within 48 hours, and has had 1,000,000 people register to date. Users can learn Javascript for free, and this will soon include other computer programs.  Back in October 2011, Codeacademy raised $2.5 million, led by Union Square Ventures. It has gamified elements like:

  • earning points for completing tasks
  • achieving badges
  • leveling up
  • sharing scores with friends
  • making work fun
  • tracking your progress
  • …all while learning to program and code!


Here are some of the valid concerns, that once address, will break down the barriers to adoption and recognition of open source, non-accredited, gamified learning.

  • Would people falsify badges?
  • Who is going to create the standards?
  • Will it overload resumes?
  • Will it create an endless pursuit of badges instead of learning for the experience?
  • And, as Audrey Watters pointed out, will you actual learn something?


There are many benefits of gamifying learning, benefits that trump the negative, and speak to how people want to be educated now:

1.      Finally give more detail about what skills you have

Ever put down your degree on a resume and think to yourself, will the HR person even know by looking at the degree that I possess X, Y, and Z skills? After you complete a course, you should get a badges that say you’ve mastered a certain skill, and badges should be given out for other in-class learning not reflected in the name of the course like leadership, team work, and organization.

2.      Exciting way to learn complicated skills

If you’ve ever dreaded or even avoided complicated classes like physics, you’re not alone. Not only is the content a bit dry, but the teachers of these classes usually add to the dissatisfaction. Imagine being as engaged in and excited about Physics or Accounting as WOW (World of Warcraft).

3.      Better prepared for the future

Do we even know what the future of education will be? (See Kevin Robinson’s Ted Talk on the subject) It seems well documented that the current public education system is slow at keeping up with technology and a changing job environment to better prepare students for the real world. (Who’s classes have tablets?) As Cathy Davidson, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University and author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, “We live in a world where anyone can learn anything, anytime, anywhere, but we haven’t remotely reorganized our workplace or school for this age.”

According to Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, schools need to reflect “that memorization is no longer important, group learning is superior to outmoded individual learning, and co-constructed knowledge by members of the group is superior to lengthy and complex books.” (From A Wikipedia Reader) EnGaming couldn’t agree more.

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