Exploring Gamification Strategies in Medical Education

Most people have a very specific idea of what a ‘gamer’ is; the term usually conjures up a specific image in the mind. But the reality of today’s gamer couldn’t be more different, with the prevalence of mobile games and pandemic living having a huge impact on shifting the demographics of who a gamer is.

It’s believed that nearly 3 billion people worldwide play video games – and this doesn’t include those who also play board games or role-playing games. Gamification strategies use the mechanics and elements that make gaming such a popular pastime to make training and education more fun, engaging, and ultimately, more effective.

For those in a medical education setting, gamification offers another way to use technology in order to enhance physician training and the educational experience for students. Here, we’ll discuss some of the most popular and effective examples of gamification in medical education. If you’re looking to experiment with gamification to create cutting-edge training programmes that keep your students or employees engaged and motivated, the team at Sliced Bread Animation can help. We’re experts in innovative concepts and projects across virtual reality (VR), animation and gamification, so get in touch with us today to discuss your next project.

vr in healthcare

What is Gamification?

Gamification is a training or education strategy where facilitators use gaming mechanics and principles in order to help participants or students absorb information. Training and lessons that use game-based elements make learning much more interactive and fun, so that concepts and ideas ‘stick’ more easily. Whether that’s through point-scoring, peer competitions, or creating narratives for students to work through, there are plenty of ways to incorporate game mechanics into training or syllabi.

Aside from adding more fun to lessons, gamification can also provide a lot of structure and clear objectives for students to work towards. Video games in particular see the play working towards certain outcomes or targets by way of plot points and quests; mirroring this in the way you set out lessons and courses will tell your students exactly what they’re working towards.

How Does Gamification in Medical Education Work?

Since remote learning became more prevalent following the outbreak of COVID-19, many educators, including those in medical schools, have turned to online learning and educational apps in order to effectively deliver course material and supplement learning. As students returned to in-person teaching, the apps and online tools still very much held a place in the curriculum. It’s through these apps that gamification can be most effective.

Understanding what you want your students to achieve will help you inform your gamification strategy, and the kinds of tools or mechanics you might focus on. For example, if you’re looking to build habits and diligence, quiz-based and point scoring tactics will be most effective. Mastery of knowledge and skills can better be driven by competition and setting ‘levels’ that your students need to hit. Even practical skills can be explored in a gamified setting, through narrative games and VR.

2D animated scientists, one on the computer, one thinking and a third with a lightbulb above their head

3 Strategies for Gamification in Medical Education

Gamification in medical education has become increasingly prevalent over the last 5 years, and so there are plenty of strategies that you can learn from and borrow to build your own gamification programmes for your students. We’re going to touch on three of the most popular and effective examples here:

  • Practising diagnosis with narrative games
  • Maintaining engagement through achievement hunting
  • Taking an immersive approach to education with virtual reality

Practising diagnosis with narrative games

In medical education in particular, the practical application of skills is a crucial part of learning. However, especially early on, those opportunities and experiences can be hard to come by. Narrative games, such as “Night Shift” – a training simulator designed to put students into the position of a trauma doctor – provide those practice sessions in a low risk environment.

In “Night Shift”, the student plays as the new doctor in town; assessing whether or not patients should be treated in the emergency room, or whether they should be sent on to a trauma centre. It’s a key practical skill that’s difficult to teach and get feedback on in a classroom setting.

However, the game isn’t just about the diagnosis and treatment of these fictional patients. Not only are “players” able to see the consequences of their choices and course of treatment, but there’s a whole world around the learning mechanic that makes the game that much more engaging. Blending the educational with the fun makes for an experience that students will actively keep coming back to as they try to get different outcomes by perfecting their diagnosis skills.

Maintaining engagement through achievement hunting

One of the most rewarding elements of video games is achievements. Whether it’s for completing portions of the story, finding hidden items and secrets, or doing something a certain amount of times, achievements can be a brilliant way of keeping content fresh and getting players to keep coming back for more. Introducing achievements or badges into your courses and syllabus – especially in the field of medical education – can therefore be a great way of encouraging students to keep coming back to the material.

One badge that has proven particularly effective for medical educators is a variation on the “marathon” badge, where students are rewarded for completing quizzes or similar tasks on a regular basis. Studying and revisiting material frequently, but in small chunks, is much more effective than cramming for exams. It becomes a lot easier to remember and recall information learned when studying like this, and it’s also a much healthier and sustainable habit in the long run. The marathon badge helps encourage this.

Other achievements might be around things like completing multiple modules, reaching a certain number of points, or getting a number of questions right in a row. Consider what you’d like your students to be working towards, and build badges and achievements around this.

Taking an Immersive Approach to Education with Virtual Reality

We’ve already touched on how narrative gameplay can help students build practical skills in a risk-averse, but effective way, but there are other ways to use gamification in order to support the development of clinical skills. Virtual reality is a perfect tool for medical education thanks to its ability to put students in high-stakes situations with a complete safety net; something that is almost impossible to achieve in the real world. Educators have used VR training to demonstrate mass trauma events, radiography skills, resuscitation methods and more, with a high degree of success.

The results of incorporating VR training into your syllabus really speak for themselves. Research and studies show that completing VR sessions can boost confidence, improve knowledge and knowledge recall, and improve overall presence and focus. This isn’t just useful for medical students either; practising medical professionals can also feel a lot of benefit from VR training, even after certification.

Exploring Gamification in Medical Education with Sliced Bread Animation

At Sliced Bread Animation, not only are we award-winning experts in virtual reality and gamification strategies, but we’re also well versed in medical and healthcare animation. Whether you’re looking for healthcare explainer videos, interactive educational courses or VR experiences, our specialist team can bring medical concepts to life. If you’re looking to introduce a gamification strategy into your course or syllabus, don’t hesitate to get in touch today to talk through your needs and ideas.

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