Gamification Is The Key To Engaged Learning

Author: Dean
March 3, 2022

Instructional Designers and professionals in adult learning have been asking the question “How do I engage my audience?” now that the next button is becoming a participants worst nightmare. Convincing adults to actively listen to e-learning material is more important than ever before. That’s where gamification comes in, the concept of applying "video game" mechanics, or game design elements to a learners journey.

Gamification takes principles like splitting up a course into levels and providing rewards in the form of points, badges or achievements and applies them to… anything.

E-learning is a perfect match fit for gamification as many of the principles of learning work seamlessly with these gamified mechanics, like:
  • Levels – Most training is split up into themes or section, treating these as levels on a quest gets users more involved in the story of the e-learn
  • Narrative – Using a start, middle, end style adventure and inviting the user to insert themselves into that story centers the learning around them and makes them think more about their place in the story
  • Badges, Points, Achievements – Providing visual rewards serves to both let the user know how far through the content they are and enforce they are getting a benefit from engaging with the course
  • “Boss fights” –Much like a good game gives you the tools and skills you need to face a more challenging battle, a good e-learn should prepare you for a checkpoint of your knowledge
  • Competition –Introducing a leader board gives users something to talk about and a reason to go back for regular learning. It also allows them to achieve status, a natural inclination of most people
  • Avatars – Letting your employees customize an avatar to represent them immediately invests their self-expression into the activity. Being diverse in the available of avatars is also key as it re-enforces your commitment to your employees

Know how you love filling up your coffee card with a stamp each morning? Boom, that's gamification at it's finest. A more obvious version of gamification is mobile applications that focus on gamifying the experience to keep you engaged, an example of this done really well is Duolingo the language learning application. It utilises a great deal of the examples mentioned above to give you the feeling of progression.

So, if engagement is the problem, we know that gamification is one of the answers.

But how do we know that it’s worth the effort to change your style of e-learning design? Well, the principle of video games are set up to work in your favour. Gamification techniques are intended to take advantage of people’s natural desire to learn, socialize, master a skill, participate in competition, self-express and achieve status.

However, any successful learning strategy depends on how well it is implemented. An engaging e-learning module that has no gamified elements will often out perform a gamified one that doesn’t engage or takes the elements too far, in the realm of being a hindrance. You may have experienced this in your teams, the person who wants to "Gamify" everything; without thought to the learner. This is one of the pitfalls of gamification, just such the learning foundations and business models, gamification should be done correctly, and with a thought process.

Overall, preparing a strong strategy with a specific goal in mind is key to the success of implementing gamification in your e-learns.

Be wary of introducing every element, all at once or having a different measure of success and strategies for each individual e-learn. Learn from the most popular of games, live-service, that have consistent small activities that add up to over-arching story. This could look like introducing levels and small narrative to each e-learning module, something simple to start your journey into gamification.

When looking at your next e-learn and considering gamification, remember that while Australians respond well to this kind of learning you should:

  • Not introduce too many elements to the same e-learning module
  • Make sure all of your employees can be represented
  • Consider splitting features amongst your modules and LMS
  • Create a place for your user in the story of your module

And remember that no learning method is one-size-fits-all. You should consider if your corporate culture will respond well to gamified elements, and ease them into it - just like that coffee card.