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Playing the learning game is the next big thing

In a world that is constantly changing from both a technological and social point of view, educational services have been exploring methods to maximise registrations and enhance retention rates. One such technique is the gamification of learning.

To come to grips  with the concept and its potential to enrich the learning process, Unisa’s Student Retention Unit (SRU) hosted a webinar on 30 June 2021, with the theme Fostering student engagement and motivation through the gamification of learning.

Image credit: Disertel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For Naseehat Dawood, Student Success Practitioner at the SRU, the webinar provided a valuable examination of the concept of gamification, as both national and international perspectives on the subject were discussed, and the presenters each shared their unique perspectives and experiences.  

Keeping students engaged during e-learning

Ebrahim Adam, IT programme manager at Varsity College, gave a presentation entitled Upping our game – increasing online engagement through gamified e-learning, in which he explored gamified e-learning as an approach to motivate students and provided theoretical and practical recommendations for incorporation into e-teaching. He explained that as the academic world is coming to terms with the shift to e-learning as a significant medium of teaching and learning, the difficulties associated with e-learning, such as lack of student engagement and motivation, are becoming increasingly apparent; the integration of gamification into e-learning could offer a potential solution.

Professor Adrián Domínguez Diaz, associate professor at the University of Alcalá in Spain, delivered a presentation under the title, The use of gamification in engineering subjects in the time of COVID-19. Diaz explained how, in a Computer Engineering course offered at the University of Alcalá, gamification was used to motivate students to participate and interact with their peers remotely by means of a gamified educational social network during the Covid-19 pandemic. Face-to-face teaching in many Spanish universities has become impossible due to pandemic, and as a result, over a very short period of time all teaching had to be done remotely; this had a negative impact on the motivation of students, who were accustomed to interaction with their classmates and teachers. Gamification in the educational context, Diaz suggested, consisted of the use of elements typical of video game design to create more motivating teaching experiences, with better results.

Mining the wealth of children’s games

In his presentation on the OERiGA (Open Educational Resource of Indigenous Games in Africa) project, Professor Dick Ng’ambi of the University of Cape Town shared information about the potential impact of the project on the gamification landscape in Africa. Focus is often placed on African arts, crafts, folklore, clothes, cuisines, music and languages, with less attention being paid to indigenous children's games. There is a wealth of children's games in Africa that are as yet undocumented, and their educational potential therefore remains unexploited. Currently, most digital games played by the African child have been designed and developed in the West and embody Western cultures, leaving the African child unrepresented. Although these games are educational in that they overtly support the three domains of learning, namely cognitive, affective and psychomotor, the educational value of indigenous games is virtually ignored in formal schooling. The OERiGA project is documenting current physical, tactile, non­‐digital indigenous games in Africa and sharing them digitally as an Open Educational Resource, making the project an invaluable educational resource in terms of indigenous games from Africa.

At the conclusion of the webinar, Dawood said that the knowledge and expertise that were shared at the webinar were extremely insightful and afforded the SRU a wonderful opportunity to draw on the expertise of leaders in the field. The ultimate goal is to develop a gamification programme for Unisa.

* Submitted by the Unisa Student Retention Unit

Publish date: 2021/07/21