Game-based learning activities in a virtual classroom

In the last couple of years education as we know it has taken almost a full 180 degree turn. Therefore, the need to make classes more attention-grabbing and efficient at the same time has become an imperative. There are two ways that this happens in the teaching process – game-based learning and learning with gamification.

It is important to point out that these two terms have often been used interchangeably, but there are clear differences. Let’s take a look at them.

Game-based or gamification

The first one means using games to reach and teach specific learning objectives, whereas gamification is adding game-like elements to a lesson. In game-based learning usually the lesson content is adjusted to fit the game, while in gamification game-like aspects are adjusted to fit the lesson content. Game-based learning focuses on learning outcomes, while gamification uses points, badges, leaderboards, etc. in mostly non-game activities. 

Both game-based learning and gamification have made an impact on education, and game-based is intended to help students meet learning goals. But the important question is how can this be done in a virtual environment?

Benefits of game-based learning

Before we answer the question ‘how’, let’s see why incorporating games in the e-curriculum is beneficial in the educational process. 

There are two important points which are worth mentioning. First is that students remember the facts along with, and actually thanks to the fun and engagement they have while playing games. Second is the complete package of skills that they acquire while playing. These are: problem solving, critical thinking, following of rules, collaboration and expression. 

To continue with the benefits, game-based learning also: improves student engagement, boosts creative skills, strengthens memory, stimulates attentiveness, increases and also retains attention, provides opportunities for open and natural communication.

Game-based learning could make a big difference in the beginning of the school year because it can foster class relationships and lay the basis for collaboration later on. Another important aspect is that it provides students with time to work through a problem. They get immediate feedback which helps them know how they are doing, so that they could rethink their strategy for next time. This in turn gradually creates a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence.

Games in a physical and virtual environment

There is a process of adaptation when it comes to games in a virtual environment. Or let’s say, there are specific prerequisites for successful game-based teaching and learning, such as:

  • Audio-visual contact between participants
  • Sharing of educational content in various formats
  • Collaborative learning process
  • Possibility of switching from frontal to individual learning
  • Possibilities for monitoring and assessment of the educational process
  • Features and tools for interaction by the teacher

For most of the games to be played in an online environment, a virtual classroom should be able to provide at least: video-conferencing, interactive online whiteboard, share-screen features, audio and video file sharing, chat functionality, raise hand function and the possibility to work in smaller groups. When we have those tools in hand, we could deliver an efficient game-based online lesson and enjoy the benefits of learning while playing.

Talking about advantages and benefits would be baseless without showcasing particular examples of games that could be implemented in the classroom. Digital scavenger hunt, Virtual pictionary, Online bingo, Virtual musical chairs, Ambassadors, Geography puzzles, Class Limericks, etc. are just a small part of the numerous so-called remote classroom games.

Digital scavenger hunt

This is a game in which the teacher compiles a list of items and activities that students complete by a given time. This is an ideal game for team-building and collaboration in a remote class. Participants are asked to fulfil a particular action, such as take a selfie with their pet, color or draw something, look out of the window, perform a physical exercise, etc. 

These types of games are easy to customize, depending on the group teachers work with. Although they are given in a virtual environment, they exercise both body and mind, and thus play a significant role in retaining the attention of participants during the class. It could also be done in a way that the things participants need to find, can be searched for on another website outside the virtual classroom.

Virtual Pictionary

Pictionary has been a much loved game for decades now and this paper-pencil playing game can easily be played in a virtual classroom. For this of course you need a digital whiteboard that can be used by all participants simultaneously. First, use a pictionary generator to select a word. Then one of the members draws a picture on the online whiteboard, using the appropriate features. The other members need to guess the word for a particular time – sixty seconds.

Virtual Trivia Game

Trivia games are a fun way of team building along with acquiring knowledge about a specific topic. Participants are asked questions and they have to get as many correct answers as possible. It can be easily done through quizzes or ready-made templates for polls in the virtual classroom. 

A very entertaining version of trivia games is the so-called “finish the song” challenge. The teacher writes part of the song lyrics on the whiteboard and plays the beginning of the song, and the students have to complete them in a correct way. It’s fun, engaging and a good exercise for memory. Moreover, it easily diminishes communication barriers. Studies show that playing trivia games online can induce a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that sends feelings of joy to our brain. If you combine it with other virtual team-building and team-bonding activities and games, you definitely can’t go wrong.

Taboo game

This game is fun and easy to play in any environment and can be adapted according to the different levels and ages. In taboo game participants have to explain a word to other people without saying words that are closely connected to it. 

For example, if your word is “peanut butter”, then you can say bread, breakfast, sandwich, jelly. For each guessed word, you and your team get a point. This is a game that makes students open up to speaking and expressing themselves, and makes them laugh and enjoy the whole learning process.

There is a variety of other games that can be played online and can serve effectively, not as part of the teaching process, but as the process itself. Game-based learning is said to be a way to capitalize on the characteristics that make game playing fun and use them for educational purposes. And it really can make a huge difference if more educators try and learn to take advantage of it.

Resources used:

Game-based learning techniques to facilitate online teaching (

Incorporating game-based learning in your virtual classroom (


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