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Tim Cliffe - Blog

Gamification in Digital Learning Assessment

01 Target Audience

(01.1) Anyone involved in e-Learning, social learning commissioning, Design, and related roles.

02 Executive Summary

(02.1) Gamification in assessment can benefit from 'Flow', where participants become immersed in a game to such an extent they are more likely to present an authentic representation of themselves.

03 Structure of this Article

  • (04) What is Gamification?
  • (05) Gamification Reliability and Validity
  • (06) And finally

04 What is Gamification?

(04.1) There are several definitions of Gamification. The word ‘Gamification’ first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary (Access the Oxford English Dictionary website definition of gamification page (External link, opens in a new tab/window)) in 2011.


(04.2) Gartner’s definition (Access the Gartner Blog Network website Gartner Redefines Gamification page (External link, opens in a new tab/window)) places an emphasis on the digital games medium, describing five key elements of Gamification:
  1. Game mechanics describes the use of elements such as points, badges and leader boards that are common to many games;
  2. Experience design describes the journey players take with elements such as game play, play space, and story line;
  3. Gamification is a method to digitally engage, rather than personally engage, meaning that players interact with computers, smartphones, wearable monitors or other digital devices, rather than engaging with a person;
  4. The goal of Gamification is to motivate people to change behaviours or develop skills, or to drive innovation;
  5. Gamification focuses on enabling players to achieve their goals. When organizational goals are aligned with player goals, the organization achieves its goals as a consequence of players achieving their goals.
(04.3) However, regardless of the definition consulted, there are common concepts – The intrinsic motivation created by the ‘Flow’ state within a game to achieve a goal.


(04.4) A Gamification solution should align an individual’s goals with the goals of the organisation.


05 Gamification Reliability and Validity

Image of people as chess pieces on a chess board. (05.1) The primary consideration, with regard to Gamification in assessment is, does it improve accuracy?


(05.2) Gamification Feedback

(05.2.1) Instead of evaluating the ‘accuracy of a given response’ (e.g. in questioning), evaluate the ‘accuracy of a response from the game’. This overcomes a criticism often levied at serious games used for assessment, namely “they cannot provide live feedback’.


(05.2.2) Such a mechanism allows for a scenario to unfold, and for the respondent to experience the consequences of their decisions/actions. The scenario evolves in accordance with such decisions/actions, allowing the respondent to evaluate, learn, and adapt.


(05.2.3) The evolving decision process of the respondent is recorded by the game, which reports in real-time, allowing assessment of learning and judgment.


(05.2.4) The challenge is the design and creation of branching simulations, the path along which the respondent follows, being determined by the respondent’s initial judgment, their reflection on the consequences of that judgment, and the modification of their decisions/actions based on the ‘feedback’ experience.

05.3 Gamification Reliability

(05.3.1) Traditional assessments are constrained by the amount of time a respondent will spend on the assessment activity, i.e. before ‘Task Fatigue’ distorts assessment results. However, gaming principles may provide an opportunity for longer, more reliable assessments.


(05.3.2) A benefit of effective game creation is ‘Flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990 (Access the Pursuit Of Happiness website Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi page (External link, opens in a new tab/window))), where participants become immersed in a game to such an extent they loose track of time, are less conscious of the assessment environment, and are more likely to present an authentic representation of themselves, rather than present what may be considered ‘more socially acceptable responses’.

Use of this Article

Any part, or all, of this article may be linked-to or copied for non-commercial purposes. Any linked or copied content to include the following...


Gamification in Digital Learning Assessment by Tim Cliffe © 1997-2020.


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