The Experience Age: Gamifying Education to Create an Inclusive Environment for Student Learning

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Brief Abstract

While we currently live in the experience age, the ever-changing world created by the pandemic can often make us feel more overwhelmed and isolated than ever.

Gamifying education is one way we can work against this to foster engagement, build upon student’s prior knowledge, and create an inclusive learning environment.


My name is Chelsea Young and I am the Instruction & Engagement Librarian at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Ottenheimer Library. I have been at this library for 8 years but in this position for just over 2 years. I enjoy reading although it is hard to do so with a 3 year old and nearly 5 year old. They keep me pretty busy. I enjoy working with faculty and students across campus and hope to make learning more fun.

Extended Abstract

For college professors, teachers, instructors, and librarians alike there has only been one constant over the past couple of years, change. Switching from online to hybrid to in-person back to online to hybrid again, we never quite know what the next semester or even the next week will bring. Because of this constant change, we’ve had to learn how to be flexible, adapt quickly, and always think on our feet. However, this isn’t just a juggling act for instructors, but it’s also become a major issue for students. Not only are they having to re-learn how to learn but many students are being forced into an isolating academic career that was never built for them to begin with. While we are all doing our best to keep up in what feels like a never-ending rat race, students and instructors are experiencing burnout. So, how do we increase engagement, collaboration, and interaction in the experience age when everyone’s current academic experience seems so overwhelming?

Gamifying education is the answer our library came across. Gamification is the implementation of game like mechanics into a usually non-gaming environment, and its goal is to increase engagement, collaboration, and interaction between students. It was an idea the library had been playing around with since the beginning of the pandemic, but in the spring of 2022, it became a reality. For our Research and Information Skills Exploration (RISE) workshops, we held in-person, synchronous, and hybrid workshops through zoom. In the eight sessions we held, every workshop focused on some aspect of research but through a gamified lens.

We leaned into gamification not only because it focuses heavily on student interaction but because it also supports Universal Design for Learning or UDL. Not only is engagement one of the major corner stones of UDL but so is representation. We wanted to make sure our students feel represented and seen in our library instruction classes especially in a time when students feel more alone than ever because of the pandemic. Moreover, we wanted to make sure that students understood that their voices, opinions, and points of view matter in the classroom. Students come into college with different backgrounds, levels of knowledge, lived experiences, as well as different social and economic barriers. We wanted to encourage students that their differences, no matter what they were, added value to the classroom.

Because of this, we believe that the concept of gamification is important to librarians, instructors, and faculty for several reasons. First, it is a new application of learning that is still being explored, which means lots of room to experiment and try out new ideas. In addition, it is a great medium to create an active learning experience for students. It’s one thing to give students a worksheet and tell them to complete it together in a breakout room, but it’s another thing entirely to give student’s agency in the classroom and allow them to build out their learning experience with the instructor. Second, as mentioned earlier burnout is an increasing issue affecting everyone, students, faculty, and librarians alike. Gamifying education creates a space where students get to collaborate and engage with each other, with the instructor, and with the class content. Third and finally, no two students learn the same way; rather, every student has unique learning styles and needs. Gamification is one way of addressing this issue in the classroom and working to create an inclusive environment for all students so they can succeed in the classroom.

We knew why we wanted to begin implementing gamification into our library instruction classes but what did that look like? How could we focus on representation and pull in prior knowledge from students? What does engagement look like online verses in-person? Could we create something that was flexible that could work for any medium we needed when things are still constantly changing? What kind of inclusive space could we create for students where they felt comfortable to share themselves with others? All of these questions and more will be answered in this interactive and gamification session. Please join us in this session as we work to increase engagement, representation, and inclusion through gamified education. The game format includes Mentimeter polls, dice, colored cards, and a Heads-Up Keyword Game. 

Level of Participation:

In this session, participants will go through a gamified library instruction class in order to simulate the student experience. They’ll build on prior knowledge, learn from each other, work together in group activities, discuss their experiences, focus on creating a more inclusive classroom environment, and more. From this session, attendees will learn engaging, collaborative, and innovative ways to present information to students. Moreover, attendees will learn how they can use gaming to help students learn and develop their research skills.

Session Goals:

By the end of this session, attendees will be able to identify ways to foster engaging and interactive collaboration between students through gamification as well as prioritize building upon student’s prior knowledge to support inclusive learning. Moreover, they will be able to demonstrate how to generate keywords to create research questions through a simulated library instruction class.