Gamification is a word with a lot of baggage! Maybe you hear it, roll your eyes and think “buzzword”? Or perhaps it sounds a bit daunting to you? The truth is, there are loads of ways to incorporate games and gaming elements into your elearning. Read on to learn more and for a few inspiring examples of gamification in elearning.
- What is Gamification?
- How to use Gamification in Elearning? Best Practices
- 4 Best Gamification Elearning Examples
- The Benefits of Gamification to Businesses & Employees
- Challenges of Gamification Elearning
- Best tips for effective Gamification Elearning
What is gamification?
Gamification is the practice of applying gaming formats and tactics to boost participation and engagement in elearning activities. Gamification can help to make elearning more enjoyable, immersive and accessible, resulting in higher uptake and ongoing participation.
When we talk about gamification, we don’t just mean quizzes or polls. It can be as simple or as complex as you like, from quick fire question rounds to gamified scenario-based simulations. Ultimately the key aim is to grab (and keep!) the attention of your learners and motivate them to get involved.
How to use gamification in elearning. Best practices
When it comes to gamified elearning, it’s not usually about designing a full-blown video game. It’s about taking elements that make games engaging, motivating or educational and incorporating those into the learning experiences you design. To use gamification in elearning, it’s best practice to incorporate elements such as:
Create a compelling storyline to captivate your users and take them on a journey. Create a story that embeds users in the plot as they tackle each section of the content. This is a great way to create immersive content and keep learners engaged throughout. Incorporating characters or avatars to represent employees can add an extra layer of fun to this.
2. Visual design
Eye-catching visuals and aesthetically pleasing designs can make your elearning more appealing and draw your users in. Combine bright colours and graphics for a visually-stimulating learning experience.
Who doesn’t love a bit of healthy competition? Allow users to compete against others in their team or anonymous players, or even against themselves to keep motivation levels high. Consider including leaderboards so learners can see how they’re performing against their peers. This is especially effective for sales reps and top-performing employees, who particularly want to keep achieving more.
Reward your learners with smaller, more frequent tasks and then ramp up the difficulty level as the session progresses. This will not only help them get into the swing of things, but leave them primed and ready for more difficult, rewarding challenges using what they have learnt along the way.
Incentivising your users in the way of rewards such as badges, medals or unlocking new levels can help to boost their motivation and keep them engaged for longer periods of time.
Providing instant feedback when a learner completes a task or quiz is a great way to keep them focused and engaged as it allows them to track their progress as they move through the different stages of the game.
4 Best Gamification Elearning Examples
Here are four examples of gamification in elearning that show different ways to incorporate some or all of these gaming elements.
1. A timed quiz pits the learner against millions
If you need data but are struggling to engage users, take inspiration from this Open University example. The quiz contributes valuable data to facial recognition research, but from a user perspective a few simple features present it as a game. It manages to be fun and engaging, but also academically useful.
Why it works:
- It cleverly sets up the challenge from the outset: a “could you be…” question instantly implies the “goal” of the game
- The element of competition is also flagged early on: 3 million people have had a go – join them, maybe even beat them!
- Bold colors, simple language and eye-catching graphics draw the user in more quickly than a traditional invitation to participate in research would
- Although each question is essentially the same, the user is kept engaged and motivated to continue to the end as no feedback is given in-play
- The questions get progressively more challenging but the time available remains the same – an important game mechanic in terms of keeping people engaged
- After the score and feedback, there is an invitation to share it with (and compete with) friends via a social media button, increasing the reach of the research
2. A gamified quiz with badges to motivate
When does a quiz become a game? Perhaps when visual rewards and badges are introduced alongside basic point-scoring, or maybe when a timer introduces an element of competition. This gamified elearning example does both of those things, as well as demonstrating several different question types.
Why it works:
- Using a range of question types (all available in Elucidat), even audio questions, makes this feel more than just a quiz
- It strikes a good balance between giving the user time to think and using timed questions to add a layer of competition
- The learning journey involves two goals: to score lots of points, and to win badges (here presented as on-theme Christmas baubles)
3. Scenario + game elements = sales simulation
This demo shows how simple gaming mechanics can be cleverly applied to a scenario-based approach. The result: a realistic learning environment that really resonates with salespeople.
Why it works:
- The sense of competition and urgency created by the game mechanics is relevant to the subject, with real life scenarios reflecting a fast-paced, target-driven sales floor
- The user isn’t controlling a character; they are the character – so the stakes feel higher and the game can be more directly transferred to the workplace
- It’s a low-cost audio-driven simulation and a great demonstration of achieving gamification in corporate training without huge expense
4. A story-led life-saving game
This multi-award winning solution stands the test of time as a great example of gamified elearning. What makes it stand out is the combination of gaming principles with immersive storytelling and strong characters.
Why it works:
- This first-person game throws the user into a high-stakes situation where their decisions are literally life and death choices
- Each decision is timed, which is a common game mechanic, but in the context of this subject matter it’s also very authentic
- It’s multi-device and uses the native features of each device (practicing CPR is done via touch on an iPad versus using keys on a desktop)
- Multiple gamification techniques are used – each decision point means points to win, and in turn, levels are unlocked as the user progresses through the scenario
The Benefits of Gamification for Businesses & Employees
There are numerous benefits of gamification in elearning, both for the business and participating users.
1.Encourages active learning
Gamification encourages learners to take an active role in their learning by providing them with ample opportunities to interact with the content. Rather than passively absorbing information, learners can test their knowledge as they go and gain instant feedback.
2. Promotes continuous learning
The competitive element of gamification can spur users on to beat their score or move to the next level, which promotes continuous learning. Users are also more likely to revisit a module if they feel they can score higher, meaning they’re more likely to retain the information through repetition.
3. Improves productivity
Incorporating gamified elements into your elearning can help employees to stay engaged for longer, meaning they get through more content in less time. Instead of spending half an hour watching a training video, learners can take part in three 10-minute quizzes, for example. Research has concluded that 89% of respondents would be more productive if their work was gamified, with increased happiness levels at work.
4. Creates more enjoyable learning experiences
Not only does gamification help employees to stay engaged for longer periods of time, but it also provides a more enjoyable learning experience. This helps elearning become less of a chore and something users can enjoy getting stuck into, instead!
5. Allows companies to collect performance data (and track performance against learning objectives)
L&D teams can leverage gamified assessments to gain useful insights into employee performance and uncover topics or concepts that employees may need further training on. This can help to inform future elearning material and identify where existing modules may need improvement.
Limitations of Gamification in Elearning
While gamification has many benefits, it’s not necessarily right for every purpose. In some instances, where you’re dealing with more serious or challenging topics, such as compliance, for example, it may not be appropriate to gamify your content as it may detract from the key messages or takeaways.
It’s important to treat each topic or module as unique and set your learning objectives before you decide whether gamification will be effective. Gamified content may also not be the right fit for your company depending on your company culture and/or sector, so you should also factor this in when designing your elearning content.
The most effective elearning programs are tailored to their users and individual learning needs, so if gamification isn’t right for you, experiment with other formats. Check out our guide to elearning best practices for inspiration.
Best tips for elearning gamification
1. Start small but don’t cut corners
Rather than going all-in on a high-profile gamification project, target a particular business area, audience or programme and experiment with different approaches. Make sure you have some control data, and gather more after implementation to assess value add. Build up to more complex or widespread implementations. Just remember, starting small doesn’t mean just adding points to a task or tacking a leaderboard onto an end-of-course quiz. The game mechanics have to serve a purpose beyond ‘making it fun.’
2. Prioritise the learning, not the game
Points and competition only deliver value if they’re tied to behaviours and performance. Always get the learning objectives straight first and design game mechanics to be in service of those. It can be worth developing a hierarchy, whereby points are easily earned (maybe for completing a profile or sharing the course) and accumulate quickly, but badges are more meaningful, offered only in return for doing something that demonstrates new knowledge, competence or skills.
3. Be clear on criteria and progression
Transparency and clarity about how the game works will keep people engaged and motivated. What tasks earn points? What do points mean? Perhaps they translate into badges or unlock new content. What’s the criteria for reaching the next level or reward? What do rewards mean in reality? (Maybe they translate into tangible or financial benefits, or serve as accreditation of a skill that opens opportunities.)
4. Ramp up the challenge gradually
Learners need frequent, easy achievements to begin with. Once they’ve got to grips with things and seen that effort reaps reward, they’re primed and ready for a bigger challenge. The aim should always be for the next level to be within sight, challenging but attainable. Even better if each new challenge requires learners to draw on what they’ve most recently learnt.
5. Don’t disregard individual competition
It isn’t always feasible or appropriate to pit learners against learners on public leaderboards – but that doesn’t mean you can’t successfully gamify your content. Social polling lets an individual see how they compare to others, but anonymously. Or take FitBit: it has the community aspect, but plenty of people use it without that. There’s something intrinsically rewarding, even slightly addictive, about setting a goal and measuring your progress towards it (then hopefully achieving it!).
6. Facilitate continuous learning
Look for ways to encourage learners to keep returning and improving their score (and therefore, their skills and competence!), such as resetting leaderboards regularly or introducing new challenges or rewards periodically. Give people a reason to keep coming back rather than considering their learning ‘done’ and you’ll be supporting a culture of continuous, informal or on-the-job development.
These four examples show that including gamification in elearning doesn’t have to be daunting. Gaming elements such as points, badges and levels can – with a little thought – add an extra dimension to your online courses that will help engage learners and make your content stick.