Is Gamification of Learning  Just About Computer Games?

​The anticipation I was feeling about a course on gamification of learning was not a positive force, since I have limited experience with computer games and my impression of them is of fantasy worlds that some people become addicted to. So I started doing some research on gamification of learning and realized that my view had been skewed in associating gamification of learning only with computer games, when it really refers to the application of game principles and design to learning and this may include the use of conventional card games and board games as well as computer games. Then I realized that I’ve been gamifying learning for years.
Teaching biology courses always contain a lot of content learning and finding strategies for memorizing facts is par for the course. When I used to teach grade 12 Biology, which I think is an exciting and relevant course because students learn all about the human body, their bodies, and how it works, I decided to have the students create a board game about the immune system. In groups of 2 to 4 students, they were asked to build a board game based on the anatomy and physiology of the human immune system,  incorporating as much of the content outlined in the intended learning outcomes for the course as they could. They could create a unique game format or use any of the existing ones like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. On the day the assignment was due the entire class took turns playing each other’s’ games and filled out an evaluation of their own group’s effort, their game and each of the other games. During the process of building the games some of the students grumbled about this being biology class not art class, but on the day they played the games the students agreed that it had been a great learning experience. The act of creating the games and building in all the content in realistic ways was far more effective a learning experience than simply playing the games, but even playing the games was a more engaging way of learning the content than just reading or writing it.
So, is the gamification of learning just about computer games for learning on the classroom? No, but in an online learning environment, the question now is: how can I transfer the learning potential of this board game based activity to a computer format? It would seem that the students and I would have to have well developed computer programming skills to create our own games. Maybe there are generic games available into which a teacher can insert his or her own course content. That will be the subject of my next Google search.