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The Power of Gamfication in the Student Lifecycle


by Lauren Hart Piper , Vice President, Product Management and Marketing,

Gamification is proving to be a  powerful tool in higher education in driving user engagement for students, staff, alumni and even faculty.

admin-student game-1

Photo courtesey of Tulane Public Relations on Flickr

So what is gamification? Gamification is simply a new term for an old concept. Different from gaming, gamification is about technology that can motivate and engage students, staff, faculty and alumni in a non-game context. Gamification applies the elements of games and their mechanics to activities or tasks not designed as games.

Game mechanics fundamental to gamification include:

  • Point systems
  • Competitive leaderboards
  • Badges, certificates or coupons for accomplishments
  • Levels of progression

With gamification mechanics, every day or mundane tasks become engaging, and performance or completion improves. Let’s take a look at the outcome gaming mechanics can have for your institution and as an integral component of the student lifecycle.


Given today’s student who has grown up with technology, it’s important to find new and innovative ways to hold a prospective students’ interest as they begin to learn more about your college or university. For example, some institutions use gamification when it comes to the virtual campus tours. As the student begins to take a virtual look at your campus, they can earn points, level up and receive awards, such as a dollars-off coupon for clothing bought in the college store. All incentivize the student to complete the tour and become more engaged with your institution.


The admissions process is a very complex process for students. gamification mechanics can be deployed to help improve your admissions. For example, provide points and rewards along the way towards completion, even something as simple as an email notification that congratulates them for completing a step, will help prospective students navigate the process and motivate the student to complete the admissions application, which, in turn, will improve your enrollment rates.


Keeping students enrolled is a constant challenge for every college or university. Research has demonstrated that student engagement is vital to retaining students. With gaming mechanics for rewards and recognition, you can engage with your students outside of the classroom so they feel as if they’re connected and have an affinity for the institution. Using gaming mechanics to recognize students for their achievements and accomplishments outside of the classroom strengthens the engagement of students since they feel they’re more than just a number. Badges or certificates create non-curricular transcripts that recognize and reward activities such as participation in service projects, sports teams or clubs and organizations.



To encourage students to do well in their classes, gamification is about finding new incentives to guide students on their education journey. Fear of bad grades was never the best way to motivate students. Gamification can engage students’ competitive drive and apply it to learning. For instance, the professor can have a leaderboard to keep track of student achievements such as participation in the online discussion groups or class attendance. Then, maybe finish the semester with an award ceremony with token awards to those who did well.

award stand

Award Stand Courtsey of HiveSocial for Higher Education Gamification Engine



Keeping students engaged until graduation is difficult. The institution can’t control extraneous factors such as pressure that comes from family and work. But engaged students have a lower risk of attrition because their experience with the institution isn’t just to complete a course or get through the next semester. Instead, they care about the grades they’re getting and their connection to the campus and its people or community. The appropriate staff nurture and support this emotional response through gaming mechanics of intrinsic or extrinsic rewards.


With the decrease in state or government funding and the continual escalation of costs, fundraising from alumni becomes even more important. Alumni need motivation and incentives to donate to their alumni associations, and gamification can help in this effort. For example, leaderboards and points enable fundraisers to track their progress. Quests or challenges encourage competition with fellow “players.” From the alumni point of view gamification can award the biggest donors with public recognition.

These are just a few of the ways you can deploy gamification or the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage students through the student life cycle.

I would love to hear your ideas or examples of how gamification can used on your campus in regards to the student lifecycle and improve your institution’s effectiveness.  Drop me a line at


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