Don’t add gamification until you answer these five questions

Is gamification in your online training delivering the results you want? Before you add gaming elements, you need to ask yourself how gamification will help you design great learning experiences.

board game gamification

Here are five questions you should be asking yourself.

1. What is the goal? Why are learners doing it?

This question helps you focus on what the course needs to achieve.

  • Do you need to engage the learners? Try hooking your learner in with a warmup: How many questions can they get right in thirty seconds? How many mistakes can they spot in the statement?
  • Do they need to improve their performance? Or build collaboration with other learners? Try giving them polls or scoring so they can compete on leader boards.
  • Is there knowledge or information learners need for their job? Give them a quick quiz to see how much they know, then branch to parts of the course where they’re a little shaky.
  • Do they need to develop new skills or simply need to know about some important changes in the business, new product or service developments, or new rules or laws they need to comply with? Give them challenges, quests, or problems to solve that they can relate to.

Knowing where you’re going with the course can help you settle on the strategies best suited to reaching your goal.

Related: 5 ways to use gamification in online training (that can’t be done with traditional training)

2. What is the desired outcome?

At the end of your course, do learners need to know more about a topic? If so, you might want to build a quiz at the end so they can measure their progress and see their achievements.

Or they may need to understand where they can go to get support, in which case give them a challenge to find answers by linking to other resources or websites.

Perhaps they need to become competent at specific tasks. For example, in the immersive interactive video Lifesaver, learners need to show they can perform CPR. The course makes use of the following gamifying elements:

  • Beat the clock feature – decision objects are timed to simulate the real event, where time is of the essence and making swift decisions can help save a life.
  • Levels are unlocked as you advance through the scenario by gaining points for correct decisions.


3. Who will the learner be as a game player?

Are learners better off doing your course alone or collaboratively with other learners? Is it designed for personal improvement or as an engagement activity? Can you pitch learners against each other in order to motivate them?

If your learners are lone wolves, try adding a ‘beat the clock’ feature to get them totally engrossed in the activities. For example, is this spot the fake smile challenge, learners have to keep an eye on the time while they undertake the interactive tasks.


Other gamification techniques for lone wolf learners could be opportunities to improve their score (provide an interactive quiz with scoring that they can take as many times as they like), and ways to challenge themselves (lock the next level until they get the correct response).

Or are you learners team players? Does it make sense to pitch them against others? Let your learners record their score for a quiz or collect and display badges. Use dynamic scoring to set up leaderboards so learners can compete against each other alone or in teams.

4. What does the interaction framework look like?

Do your learners need to access lots of information in your course? Can you deploy case studies that convey information in a familiar context? What tasks and actions do learners need to be able to do? Depending on your answers to these sorts of questions, you can begin looking for the kinds of interactions that will deliver a good learning experience.

Instead of giving learners information, give them scenarios in which they are immersed in real-life situations and have to make decisions in order to move to the next stage of the story.

Medieval Swansea is an example of scenario-driven elearning with branching. Learners journey through a series of stages to unlock a medieval mystery. Interactive challenges allow them to gather points and bonuses in order to tackle the quest.


5. What variables will learners choose from?

Consider the options that learners will need to weigh up.

  • Do they need to decide between objects to take on a mission? (Select job aids to help complete a task).
  • Do they need to answer a question correctly in order unlock the next task? (A yes/no question or a multiple choice question, set a rule to allow the learner to move to the next question or along a pathway).

These sorts of questions will help you anticipate what you need to include in your storyboard or how your project view may look.

Each question can lead a learner down a different pathway. You need to factor in these sequences when you design the course. Storyboarding the course with each different learning path is a good way to visualize your course before you begin to build.

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Gamification isn’t really about playing games, it’s all about designing engaging interactions that will hook learners, motivate them to continue the course, and help them get a sense of enjoyment and fulfilment on completing it.

Ultimately, you want to be asking, does this element of design make the course a better experience for the learner? And be honest, because a word game may be great if you’re teaching your learners a new language, but if it doesn’t fix a problem, go back to your storyboard and change it.

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Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold is the Chief Executive of Elucidat. He helps large companies and training providers speed up and simplify their elearning authoring.
Steve Penfold

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