Similar approaches exist in the field of education. Gamified learning in the short term aims to increase students’ engagement with the subject taught (Seaborn & Fels, 2015), while in the longer term aims to instill behaviors that will favor the acquisition of knowledge and proper social interactions (Furdu, I ., Tomozei, C., & Köse, 2017; Yuan, 2017).
Gamified learning differs from educational games, as it enriches pre-existing educational activities with mechanisms borrowed from them. This of course, does not exclude the inclusion of the so-called serious games in the whole experience, which are applications designed for a clear educational purpose.
QLS-iLearn Educational Platform
The QLS-iLearn Educational Platform is an LMS (Learning Management System) that possesses all the necessary characteristics and components of a gamified learning environment. Hence it includes automatic student feedback, a point system, leaderboards, virtual awards, badges, progress bars and avatars, as well as educational games. Eventually the question arises: how can those tools help learning and why were they chosen to be included in the eLearning platform?
Increased Motivation - Increased Competency
Badges and virtual prizes are motivational assets which at the same time reinforce the feedback process, offering the student another way of tracking his level. Thanks to these, most students gravitate back to the gaming system to achieve more and earn extra rewards. Thus the 'addictive' element of games will be combined with a productive experience (Giokas, 2018). In addition, progress bars and levels, which are typical features of games, assist the marrying of theory and action through an entertaining prism (Thom, Millen, & DiMicco, 2012), while allowing the student to have control over the online course, enhancing the acquirement of knowledge.
The acquisition and establishment of knowledge is further enriched by the existence of serious games that have been developed according to the needs of EFL students. Studies have concluded that even the simplest learning game increases the motivation and interest of students, resulting in an improvement in assimilation of knowledge that eventually results in higher performance (Griffiths, 2002; Vivrou, Katsionis & Manos, 2005; Groff, Howells & Cranmer, 2010). Besides, it should not be forgotten that motivation is a key factor in the field of education, because without it learning faces serious problems (Gee, 2003). Hence, gaming has a pivotal role in the QLS-iLearn platform with dozens of educational games for the user to play.
Improvement via competition
Through the leaderboards and the point system, competition is promoted, thus influencing the learning experience, since it enhances user motivation and engagement in an attempt to climb the ranking scale. According to researchers, the competition that is being cultivated will then lead to greater enthusiasm, which will ultimately lead to increased concentration and desire for improvement in the field of teaching (Vandercruysse, Vandewaetere, Cornillie & Clarebout, 2013). On the QLS-iLearn platform, each student is able to view other people’s level and achievements. This is necessary since all those medals, badges and points in the leaderboards are only meaningful when others identify their importance, giving this way value to personal achievements.
Each user action on the platform leads to a certain reaction to which the student is instantly exposed. This feedback is necessary for productive learning, as it helps the learner to understand the subject while at the same time provides clear guidance on how to improve one’s actions, leading to the formation of a better learning curve (Giokas, 2018). According to various researches about the use of games in class, students stressed the direct and mainly personal feedback they received, unlike the conventional classroom in which the teacher is forced to pay attention to many students at the same time (Groff et al., 2010).
No action or choice is final on the QLS-iLearn platform. All of the activities are repeatable without the burden of anxiety that may be caused by the expectation of a possible mistake. Games can create a relaxing atmosphere, because the effects of unfortunate outcomes as a result of the player's selections are not final and can always be reversed by trying again (Griffiths 2002). In a gaming environment, as opposed to traditional teaching, potential failing is accepted, enabling the student to review his/her actions and choices if they did not lead to the desired result, empowering learning through either success or failure (Egenfeldt Nilsson, 2007; Klopfer, Osterweil & Salen, 2009).
Finally it is worth mentioning that the QLS-iLearn Educational Platform as well as the material within it, has been developed according to the particular needs of EFL students. Everything is custom-made based on the unique requirements of Greek students. Moreover, it is essential that the design of e-learning applications should involve the assessment of the user’s environment, desires and abilities (Nicholson, 2012).
Gamification is undoubtedly part of our daily life. Taking this into account, QLS offers its students a new, fully customized and unique learning approach. Through the QLS-iLearn platform, gamification mechanisms are utilized by exploiting their multiple benefits, granting students the opportunity to experience an entertaining and at the same time educational experience.
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