Several months ago we reported on the newer trend of gamification in higher education, and while the idea of using game design elements to learn in a university setting seemed unlikely on the outset to take root, it has been gaining steady ground. Now, more than ever, innovators are taking one of the most popular ways of spending free time and incorporating it into active learning that benefits the teacher and the student.

Excitement, creativity, and pride are just a few of the many positive effects gamers experience, and studies have shown that game-based learning makes sense. The most popular online game right now, League of Legends, has 12 million active players every day—far more than the number of daily visitors on Instagram or Pinterest. 85% of those players are between the ages of 16 and 30, making higher education a natural target market for education-furthering games.  The interest in gaming is obviously present, so now it’s up to game designers, higher ed professionals, and innovators to change how we teach and how students learn. Jane McGonigal, a game designer, author, and researcher, believes that lack of engagement is a major cause of low productivity in the workplace and school. Gaming, she says, can change that.  She believes educational gaming will become a new environment where you can learn anytime and anyplace in a world that is full of play and collaboration.

Already, games and game-based challenges have started solving real-world problems while helping engage students at the same time. Foldit is a computer game that instructs, rewards, and helps solve real-world health issues simply by taking advantage of humans’ intuitions, ideas, and competitiveness. Find the Future teaches students of all ages based on historical achievements and clues. Whatever the game, the ability to access fellow competitors or teammates at any time via a mobile device or computer means learning—and fun—are never more than a click away.

Gamification is on its way to being even bigger than just a learning tool for higher ed. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MacArthur Foundation are investing in school assessments based on and embedded in games, while social software companies are using gaming mechanics to create rewards and incentives in the workplace. All ages can benefit from game-based learning, but perhaps no group is in a better position to study, develop, and put educational gaming into action than university staff. Higher education is poised to become an incredible jumping off point for game-based learning—and, perhaps, for finding solutions to problems around the world.