Need a reminder of part 1 of 4 of the gamification mini-series?

In part two of this gamification of learning blog mini-series we’ll look at two methods for integrating game elements into your lessons, and then discuss how you can scaffold the learning content within your game to ensure that learners are challenged at the optimal level for them to make progress.

Content vs Structural Gamification

The techniques for gamifying the learning environment can be broken down into two approaches, content and structural gamification. Content gamification refers to when elements of gamification are built into the content itself. This can be done by interweaving elements such as story, challenge, curiosity, mystery and character into the learning content. An example of this could be adding the element of story and mystery to a maths problem as students have to navigate their way through a fantasy world solving equations to move onto the next section, uncovering a small part of a ‘master’ equation for each smaller problem they solve. It’s not necessary to turn an entire lesson into one large complex game. Instead it can suffice to add elements of the gaming experience to the content that needs to be learnt in order to increase the intrigue and engagement of the learners and, critically, to support the learning objectives.

An alternative to content gamification is structural gamification. This is when the learning content is very much kept the same, but the structure around the content is gamified. A typical way to implement structural gamification is to take the scoring element of games, such as points and leaderboards, and apply it to a simple quiz or test. Students could earn 50 points for watching an instructional video or reading a chapter, then an additional 20 points for each correct answer on a follow-up quiz. The top 5 students could have their names written up on the board, with a small prize to those that get on the leaderboard two weeks in a row.

Structural gamification does not alter the learning content, just the structure around the content. This can therefore be a simpler method to implement within the classroom while you’re experimenting with gamification. However, it’s important to be mindful that simply adding points and leaderboards will only motivate students in the short term and a combination of interesting content, complemented by the additional reward systems that structural gamification can facilitate is necessary to achieve longer term engagement from students.


Within education the term ‘scaffolding’ refers to offering easier tasks with more support at the beginning of the learning process, and then gradually increasing the difficulty and removing the support as the learner improves their skills and knowledge, and are able to complete more difficult tasks. This is very similar to the concept of levels within games. To apply this concept within a gamified environment could simply involve increasing the difficulty of quiz questions with the support of a live peer or instructor/teacher. Alternatively it could involve a series of tips on level one of a game that are gradually removed as learners move towards the next level. If scaffolding is applied correctly, by the end of the game the learner will be able to accomplish tasks that would have been impossible at the beginning of the learning process.

Techniques for adding scaffolding to your gamified learning environment include:

  • Provide tips – this can be as the learner progresses, available at any time or after a set number of attempts at a question.
  • Offer the chance to narrow the number of incorrect options in a multiple-choice question (consider the 50:50 option in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire).
  • Provide options for the learner to ask for help throughout the game. Without this, learners can become frustrated and disengage from the process.

We’d love to hear your examples of how you’ve used content or structural gamification in your lessons, both concepts are used with Mathletics, Spellodrome and Reading Eggs to great effect!

Next week, for the penultimate part of this four-part mini-series we’ll look at the different formats or types of gamified environments. From racing to mystery formats we’ll cover all you need to know to understand the large variety of options you have to keep a gamified learning environment diverse and interesting!


Don’t want to wait until next week? Download the full Gamification of Learning eBook here.