Why gamification in the classroom is such a good idea (and what Labster is doing about it)
The stats aren’t good. Science just isn’t interesting enough. Or actually, it’s not science that’s boring, it’s science classes.
About 80% of students say that they like science and find it interesting. However, less than half of those students say that they enjoy the science classes that are offered at their schools.
Unfortunately for the world, we really need those science students.
That’s why Labster set out on a mission to solve this potential upcoming world problem, and worked to come up with some viable solutions to make it better.
Mads Bonde and Michael Bodekaer (the co-founders who started it all) came up with an idea: Let’s use gamification elements to make learning about science as fun as playing a video game!
And here we are, 5 years later, and as it turns out, the idea worked!
So let us explain why.
A recipe for fun and engaging learning
Let’s start with the fact that Labster deviates from your typical teaching style. There are no textbooks. There are no blackboards (or whiteboards, if you’re a little more modern). And there are no limits for the types of lab equipment you can access.
There is, however, a virtual world of science ready for you to explore.
In this virtual world, you can test all the latest lab equipment and techniques, and conduct scientific experiments all by yourself.
A Labster simulation is built up of several ingredients:
1. An engaging story, based on awesome facts the world of science has to offer, written by a group of talented and creative scientists
2. A few interesting characters (did someone say Einstein?)
3. A mission (how about saving cancer patients, finding a cure for bacterial epidemics, or optimizing the national football team’s performance with the knowledge of metabolism?)
With the mix of these ingredients, it should be starting to look a lot like a video game.
In our experience, this means that at this point, you’ve got the students’ intrinsic motivation piqued.
Next, it’s time to add some learning, and a few more features to the mixture.
6. Give the student the role of the protagonist. Let them be the scientist in charge of completing their given mission, and let them learn at their own pace.
5. Let the student make mistakes, try, and try again. Carry out a dangerous experiment, and let it explode, without causing any injury or death.
6. Make the impossible, possible. Fast-forward time to quickly see the results of experiments.
7. Captivate the student with immersive 3D animations, which visualize life science down to the molecular level, and let them see DNA replicating in front of their very eyes.
8. Use real-life cases based on core learning goals of science courses to complete missions.
And voila! You have yourself a fun and engaging tool for learning.
3 reasons why gamified learning works
A part of what makes Labster a revolutionary tool for science classes is this use of gamification elements.
If you’re not sure what gamification is, the idea is quite simple: Take all the good things from video games and put them into something else, to make that something else a little extra enjoyable.
Like with all other games, there is the option of failing or losing. But in gamified learning, that isn’t considered a bad thing.
1. Failure leads to success
A wise man once said: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work”. That wise man was Thomas Edison, and he had a point.
You see, students learn more from taking tests than from studying for tests. Why? Because they get the opportunity to fail. When you fail, you get feedback, and become (perhaps painfully) aware of what you know, and what you don’t know.
So why don’t teachers just throw a ton of tests at students and call it a day? The answer to that is pretty simple too. It’s because in real life we really don’t like to fail. As opposed to unreal life or the world of games, where we have no problem being blown up, shot to death, eaten by trolls, or whatever counts as failure in the game in question. We just start over, reload, and play again.
And the best thing about it is that this all comes at no cost to the user (except of course the cost of electricity for using it and the initial purchase of the game).
2. Low costs
This leads us to our next point: gamified lab simulations cost very little compared to real laboratories.
Imagine for a second the cost of allowing 1000 students to repeat an explosive experiment again and again. Or buying expensive lab equipment for training that same number of students. It’s needless to say that the cost of those students’ degrees would grow exponentially.
This brings us to the core of why the holy matrimony of games and education is so brilliant: In gamified learning, we have no reason to be afraid of failing, so we keep trying till we get it right.
The result? More perseverance and more learning.
3. Hands-on experience
In addition to perseverance, the lab simulations provide practical experience working in labs. An experience that the student would otherwise not get before they were much further in their education.
As another wise man is thought to have said: “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.”
A few hundred years later, the National Science Foundation decided to prove that statement.
They showed that involving students by engaging them in active learning, as opposed to passive listening to lectures, improved grades and reduced failure among undergraduates in STEM.
The result? A significantly higher learning impact!
In case you’re still not convinced, we’re going to pull in some research and a couple of statistics of our own to prove our point:
Our study showed that gamified learning in the context of STEM education has an astounding effect.
The use of Labster’s virtual labs in teaching resulted in a whopping 76% increase in learning outcomes, compared to the textbook-blackboard-type-of-teaching.
And even more importantly, when Labster’s virtual laboratories were combined with the teacher’s coaching and mentoring, they resulted in a 101% increase in learning effectiveness.
So, if you’re a student hoping to get rid of your teacher - we’ll have to disappoint you. And if you’re a teacher - you’re welcome :)
In fact, this is particularly good news for the teachers, as the two methods combined double the science teacher’s impact with the same amount of time spent.
If you’re interested in learning more about our lab simulations and their effects on learning outcomes, we recommend that you watch our Ted Talk below - we promise it’ll be 11 minutes well spent!