Gamification in the Adult Classroom

Do games have a place in the adult learning environment? Certainly, games can be fun. They can be engaging, make you smile, create competition, help you learn in a shared environment, and of course pass the time. Yet, when it comes to digital gaming in the classroom, I wondered about their merit. Today, we are inundated by digital everything. Students cannot survive for long without their Smart Phones, iPads, iPods, not to mention all the free apps and games they use to pass the time. I also considered that digital games are often played solo – by individuals on their own.


I believe gaming is a healthy activity at any age. I’ve participated in Jeopardy type games at professional development sessions (great post-assessment/learning tool), enjoy playing  wii games, love to play crib and other card games, attended Girl Guides and collected all sorts of badges as I mastered new learning, and of course the list goes on and on. So, why I ask do I feel hesitant about digital gaming in the classroom? I dug in and did a bit of research on game-based learning solutions and discovered a number of great benefits to using technology and games to assist adult learners in mastering course content. Authors of the article “Do game-based solutions need to be digital?” make a strong case for technology to be used because of the benefits of:

1. Efficiency: Less manpower needed (of course for someone like me this would require a fair bit of prior work, but once the game was up and running could be much more efficient)

2. Analytics ~ I am thinking a high end sort of game – where the instructor serves as the “administrator” of the game could easily run analytics and see who’s participating, what level they may be requiring assistance with, how they are progressing

3. Digital is where most younger adult learners are at!

In the dental hygiene world of education, technologies are being used to gamify students’ learning experiences in a way that promotes critical thinking in the “virtual” world. I located a presentation reporting on a research project that utilized avatars to teach cross-cultural competency (knowledge and understanding) among 71 dental hygiene students. You can read more on the study here:

Students “gamed” with avatars during the dental hygiene assessment of female clients of either Asian or Arab ethnicity. Results of the study indicated that the use of the avatar-mediated case scenarios and content introduced a level of cognitive dissonance. This challenged students to resolve the conflict between two differing yet valid paradigms of treatment related to culture.

While I don’t believe we should gamify every bit of content in post-secondary education, I have come to a decision on gamification in the classroom. I absolutely feel that there are definite benefits to adding creative digital learning opportunities into the mix for adult learners. I would really like to offer dental hygiene students some of these creative and less threatening learning experiences within the dental hygiene curriculum. Now, I just need to write a grant and be awarded some funding to get started…


Draeger, N. (2014, May 30). Do game-based solutions need to be digital? Ronin Studios & Consulting. Retrieved from:

Newcome, T. et al. Avatar-mediated case scenarios to evaluate cross-cultural knowledge and understanding: Retrieved from


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