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

Gamification is a hot topic right now, but how do you use it to create effective online training?

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If you’re simply taking a game and apply it to online training, you’re doing gamification wrong!

For example, think of gamified training that’s based around a word search or a board game. These forms of gamification can be expensive to create and often offer little value to the learner.

Instead, you need to find ways to use gaming elements to create better experiences that are not possible with traditional learning mediums.

Here are five ways to help you get started.

1. Use leaderboards to benchmark learners against other learners

Learning is motivational when it’s social and fun. You must appeal to your learners’ competitive instincts and create opportunities to challenge them against someone else rather than a computer.

Leaderboards celebrate people’s strengths and show them where they can improve. A great example of the use of leaderboards in online training is the Heineken Capability Academy. In this gamified online training, learners earn points as they progress through the activities, which pushes them up the leaderboard. Prizes are awarded to top scoring learners and teams.

2. Personalize learning experiences

Personalizing the learning experience involves creating unique pathways for each learner so that the training best caters to his or her individual needs. For the learning designer, this means abandoning the linear approach that presents learners with one route along the learning path and thinking of ways to tailor the course to each person, based on the decisions they make when posed with challenges. So, instead of giving the learner a body of knowledge to digest and then setting them a quiz, try turning that on its head by setting them a series of challenges and presenting the knowledge as responses to the choice they make.

You can take this one step further by using branching. Depending on their responses to challenges, learners branch down different pathways through the course. Scenarios pose the challenges to learners, and the decisions the learners make have consequences. There are elearning authoring tools available, such as Elucidat, that can help you to create branching scenarios quickly and easily.

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Visually show the impact of learners’ decisions in the interface by changing the screen color or the background images in response to these decisions.

3. Use multiple variables to challenge learners

To take adaptive learning one step further, you can use multiple variables in each question or challenge so that learners have to weigh up options and make tradeoffs. Working with multiple variables makes players consider cause-and-effect relationships, weigh multiple options, and prioritize their efforts.

For example, in the BBC Finance Game, users are thrown a challenge at each level and scored according to the decision they make, based on four scoring criteria: budget, staff satisfaction, and the quantity and quality of output. Dynamic scoring allows for points to be lost and won across a range of skills.

In this Fraud Prevention example by Elucidat, learners are challenged to see if they can detect a fraudulent scenario.


Learners win badges if they correctly identify fraudulent scenarios. Multiple variables are at play here – friends are involved and learners must consider how their actions might them. While there is some technical knowhow needed to build this kind of program, modern elearning tools – such as Elucidat – have these features built in. The real skill in building this type of gamification is knowing how to create scenarios and weigh the scoring.

4. Use meaningful values to keep score

Don’t just use points; instead, chose something meaningful.

For example, if you’re conducting training for your customer service team, use satisfaction level as the value to keep score. This makes it easier for learners to relate to the scenarios because the score or points system is related to their job.

Let’s look at an example by Open University called To Lie Or Not To Lie. In this game, results are delivered in an interactive graph that represents how other learners have answered the questions. This is more powerful that simply putting up a results screen with a yes or no answer.


Related: Discover how easy it is to add scoring to your eLearning with Elucidat


5. Unlock new levels when sections are complete

Like in a game, consider locking levels or chapters in the online training so that levels only open up when the learner has successfully completed a number of set tasks.

Medieval Swansea (built using Elucidat) is a rich-media instructional game that has learners take on the role of detective to solve a historical mystery.


Learners are taken through a series of stories with lots of stages to unlock in solving the mystery. They have to overcome Interactive challenges in their quest to gather points and bonuses. Each time a witness is interviewed, learners’ receive an achievement which unlock the next stage.

Related: Stay on top of the latest elearning ideas, trends and technologies by subscribing to the Elucidat weekly newsletter.


Yes, gamification in online training is a hot topic, but it shouldn’t be used as a gimmick. Instead of creating online training that mimics a traditional offline game, such as a word search, think about how you can use gamification elements to enhance the learning experience beyond what is possible in offline instructor-led learning.

Experiment with modern authoring tools – such as Elucidat – to see how easy it is to incorporate these simple gamification ideas into your next online training project.

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Steve Penfold

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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