Game On! Teaching Students to Harness the Power of Games to Enhance Their Own Learning Experience

Concurrent Session 3 & 4 (combined)
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Instead of teaching faculty how to gamify courses, what if we teach students to gamify their own learning? This workshop helps attendees gamify their conference experience to reap learning benefits associated with play in a format that can then be shared with students in their own classrooms.


Kim Frost has been focused on student success in higher education for 15 years at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula College. After becoming enthralled with the potential benefits of play to enhance student motivation, engagement and learning, she began the journey to transform her Masters in Education, Counseling to an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Instructional Design at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Extended Abstract

Gaming the System

What is an effective way to embrace a game culture to enhance learning, engagement and motivation in online higher education classrooms? Teaching students to gamify their own learning experiences so they can apply those strategies and techniques in every class they take throughout their education.

Why it works

America's 227 million video gamers (averaging 31 years of age) are well represented on today's college campuses by both traditional and non-traditional age students. When asked why they play, gamers say its because playing brings them joy. Neurobiologists concur that playing (all kinds of play, not just video games) does indeed result in joyful emotions. Joy is a positive emotion indicating an evolutionary advantage to playing that may be related to prepping the brain for learning by releasing dopamine.  Dopamine is a feel good,  learning enhancing neurotransmitter which assists in focusing attention, facilitating memory and learning; shunting information to the higher reasoning centers of the brain; building self-efficacy and increasing persistence in the face of challenge and failure. 

Play to Learn

What's a great way to learn to teach students to harness the learning power of play by gamifying their classes? Learn to gamify your own educational experiences and practice playing in an online environment like the OLC conference!

Game Plan

In this workshop I share sources, resources and strategies for teaching students to intentionally activate the motivating power of games to enhance learning and engagement. I'll start with a 10 minute introduction to research connecting play and learning and see examples of students responses to learning to play their classes. Next, I'll introduce 5 specific, age appropriate,  game strategies that can be taught to post-secondary students. I'll spend a few minutes introducing the science behind each strategy and modeling how these strategies can be introduced to students. As each strategy is presented, participants will apply what they are learning to create an individualized learning game to play the conference. We'll spend 10-12 minutes on each strategy. During the last 5-10 minutes of the session, participants will share their ideas for implementing this instruction into their own courses as we debrief the experience. 

Materials Neeeded

During this session, I will use share slides and video clips of student presentations. Attendees need something to write on and something to write with to create a 'game plan' for playing the conference to enhance learning and engagement.

Session Goals

This is an immersive experiential learning session. Individuals attending this workshop will leave with resources and practical strategies for teaching students how to gamify their own learning. They will be able to describe the science behind each strategy and apply the techniques to personal experience.  They will have created an individualized plan to gamify the remainder of their conference experience so they can put activities learned in the workshop into practice before sharing techniques with students.