Gamification: Using Game Elements in Learning

“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.”


– Chinese Proverb


In 1984, American educational theorist David Kolb proposed the following sequence of events as key to deep learning: experience, observation/reflection, thinking, and acting. His “Experiential Learning Theory”, suggests that deep learning occurs based on a four-stage cycle in which we:

1.  Receive information through an experience.

2.  Make sense/meaning of the information.

3.  Create new assumptions/ideas related to the information.

4.  Actively test our assumptions/ideas.


Experiential Learning in is Practice

The alternative?


Typical eLearning courses rely on rote memorization – a passive tell then test approach that requires Learners to read something on Screen 4 and then prove that they remember what they read by responding to questions on Screen 6? Is this the best measure of understanding? Memorization, yes. But, deep learning, no. We can and should do better.

Game-based Learning:

Game-based Learning (gamification) provides the practice environment for Learners to move through each stage of the Experiential Learning Cycle. It provides the virtual setting for Learners to encounter a variety of realistic situations, from which they can develop assumptions, actively test their assumptions through decision-making, and experience realistic consequences.

Game-based Learning is:

  • Active, rather than passive.
  • Goal-focused, reinforces specific behaviours.
  • Encourages experimentation and practice.
  • Engaging, multi-sensory, experiential learning.
  • Dope! As in fun, er… dopamine releasing.
  • Conducive to deep learning.

In our opinion, this is the best kind of learning.

Current neuroscience agrees.


brain neurons, experiential learning cycle

In his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge explains that “neurons develop strong connections to one another when they are activated at the same moment in time.” Simply put, “neurons that fire together, wire together.”


More neurons firing = strongly connected networks = more areas of the brain activated.

What’s the connection? Deeper learning occurs when more areas of the brain are activated. And, more areas of the brain are activated when learning is experiential.



Whole Brain Learning

Experiential Learning Cycle and the Brain:

experiential learning cycle, experiential learning theory, regions of the brainJames Zull, (author of The Art of Changing the Brain and From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education), explains how Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle activates multiple areas of the brain, resulting in deeper learning. In very simple terms, here are his findings…


1. Parietal Lobe | Experience:
Information is received by the sensory cortices.
2. Temporal Lobe | Reflection:
The temporal integrative cortex makes sense of the information.
3. Frontal Lobe | Thinking:
The frontal integrative cortex creates new ideas related to the information.
4. Motor Cortex | Acting:
The motor cortex (near the parietal lobe) actively tests the new ideas.

A Game of Risk and Reward
Here is an example of how game elements can be applied in Security and Privacy training.


We’re very passionate about game-based learning. We’ve had some success with it –  and we’ve learned a few things along the way. If it excites you too…

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