Gamification in Education

Summary: Gamification describes the process of applying game-related principles — particularly those relating to user experience and engagement — to non-game contexts such as education.

Originators and Key Contributors: In 1980, Thomas Malone published the study “What Makes Things to Learn: A Study of Intrinsically Motivating Computer Games.”[1] Later, in 2002, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, based in Washington D.C., established the Serious Games Initiative to explore the application of game principles to public policy issues. From that initiative, gamification for education emerged and gradually evolved into a field of study. The term gamification was coined in 2003 by Nick Pelling[2][3]. Today, many game researchers including Katie Salen, founder of the Quest to Learn public school, Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, and Joey J. Lee, Director of the Games Research Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University, have extended serious advancements in the application of gamification (or “gameful thinking”) to educational contexts.

Keywords: gamification, education, learning, classroom, engagement, motivation



Learner-centered design

Summary: Learner centered design focuses on creating software for heterogeneous groups of learners who need scaffolding as they learn while completing constructivist activities.

Originators and Key Contributors: Elliot Soloway, Mark Guzdian, Kenneth E. Hay

Keywords: constructivism, learner-centered design, learners, scaffolding, software

Learner-centered Design

Learner-centered design (LCD) theory emphasizes the importance of supporting the learners’ growth and motivational needs in designing software[1]. In addition, since learners have different learning needs and learn in different ways, the software must be designed for the specific learner-audience.

The concept of scaffolds is central to learner-centered design. In order to support learners optimally, software should be designed with scaffolds that will support the learners as they need it. Examples of scaffolds in software are hints, explanation and encouragement to help learners understand a process, and questions to help learners reflect on what they are learning[2].

Software scaffolds that support learners best are adaptive, meaning that they change according to what the learner needs in any learning moment. When a learner needs more support, the software provides an increase in feedback to help the learner grow, stay engaged, and progress in mastering a skill. When the learner is reaching mastery, the software will provide reduced scaffolds in response to the learner’s increased skill level.

In focusing on learner-centered design, four elements must be addressed in designing the software. They are:

  1. Context: The goal, purpose, and audience of the software
  2. Interface: The front end and/or aesthetics of the software that learners interact with
  3. Tasks: What the learners will do in the software
  4. Tools: What is needed in the software to support the tasks that students will do; these can include scaffolds

Designing software from a LCD perspective keeps the learner in mind and, if done well, provides an effective and meaningful learning experience[3].

For more information on learner-centered design, read The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences.


  1. Soloway, E., Guzdial, M., & Hay, K. E. (1994). Learner-centered design: The challenge for HCI in the 21st century. interactions, 1(2), 36-48.
  2. Soloway, Elliot, et al. “Learning theory in practice: Case studies of learner-centered design.” Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. ACM, 1996.
  3. Quintana, C., Carra, A., Krajcik, J., & Soloway, E. (2001). Learner-centered design: Reflections and new directions.

Multimodality (Kress)

Summary: Multimodality is a theory which looks at how people communicate and interact with each other, not just through writing (which is one mode) but also through speaking, gesture, gaze, and visual forms (which are many modes).

Originators & Proponents: Gunther Kress[1]

Keywords: communication, design literacy, expression, gesture, linguistics, medium, mode, multimedia, semiotic resources, sign, visual literacy, writing



Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth)

Summary: Elaboration theory is an instructional design theory that argues that content to be learned should be organized from simple to complex order, while providing a meaningful context in which subsequent ideas can be integrated.

Originators: Charles Reigeluth (Indiana University) and his colleagues in the late 1970s.

Key Terms: conceptual elaboration sequence, theoretical elaboration sequence, simplifying conditions sequence




Summary: The ADDIE model is a systematic instructional design model consisting of five phases: (1) Analysis, (2) Design, (3) Development, (4) Implementation, and (5) Evaluation. Various flavors and versions of the ADDIE model exist.

Originator: Unknown.  Refined by Dick and Carey[1] and others[2].

Key terms: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation