Gamification has become one of the hottest topics when discussing learning, particularly online learning (also referred to as eLearning). It is a concept based around the application of typical elements of game playing such as point scoring and competition with others in non-gaming environments designed to encourage engagement with a product or service. According to Engagement Alliance, the gamification industry is predicted to reach $5.5 billion by 2018 as it continues to grow in stature as an innovative solution to problems in a wide variety of industries from education to finance.
We live in a high-pressure world where everyone is looking for the quickest way to become better and gain an advantage while working to tight deadlines. Learning is most effective when it is enjoyable or possesses obvious benefits for us and games certainly introduce a greater level of fun and enjoyment to learning. When participating in a game, learners are more engaged with the content, have increased motivation to complete the course and have greater levels of information retention. Gamification is certainly a rising star when it comes to engaging learners with training content.
Here are a number of ways that online learning can be gamified:
Break the content into sections
Encountering a bulk of content and material that is supposed to take you hours to work through can be daunting. Alternatively, it is a better idea to split the learning up into smaller, more manageable chunks or modules. You could include a quiz or knowledge check at the end of every section and, if they pass, award the learner with virtual badges, points or currency.
Separate the content into levels
Gamification is about making the learning journey more fun and exciting. Hiding content from the learners until they have ‘unlocked’ the next module by accumulating enough points, badges or currency will motivate them to continue with the content. The more activities and modules the learner completes the further through the course they can progress and the more content there is available for them to experience.
Track scores in each module
Everyone has the capacity to be competitive, even if it is with themselves. By introducing scores for each section a learner can see how well they are doing as they move through the course. As a result, they can work on increasing their average score or beating their score on the previous modules.
Make rewards shareable
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become a part of everyday life for most people. Learners should be able to post rewards including badges or achievements to their social media profiles just like popular games that learners might play in their leisure time. This could also be extended to internal company intranets. If someone is doing well they should be able to show it off.
Introduce time constraints
If you are using quizzes either throughout your modules or at the end of each section you could create artificial pressure by introducing time limits. This makes the learner undertake challenges with time constraints, similar to working towards deadlines, a skill that is very useful in a day-to-day working situation.
Create a story
One of the most engaging elements of modern gameplay is the overarching story that exists within a game. You could introduce the concept of a ‘quest’ that the learning is embarking on making it more memorable and engaging. Throughout the story create characters related to the content that help and hinder the learner on their journey. Furthermore, the learner could create or select a character to ‘play as’ during the course; this could even be themselves as they are personally thrust into the story. Engagement and enthusiasm levels often increase when a learner is able to personalise the activity they are undertaking.
Make it competitive
Although this can cause controversy and potentially problematic consequences such as unethical behaviour, competition can truly inspire learner engagement with content. Posting leaderboards showing learner performance across departments or offices encourages competition and collaboration because no one wants to see themselves languishing at the bottom of the table. You could take this further and incentivise the leaderboard with real bonuses or rewards to the people at the top at the end of the course.
Gamification continues to yield positive results when used appropriately and when game mechanics allow for a variety of motivational stimuli to appeal to a broad spectrum of learners. Organisations can increase the positive effects of game design by focusing on the tailoring of gamification to specific business and industry needs. By gamifying learning material effectively, companies can expect to see a marked increase in learner engagement with their content.
By Dilshad & Barinder Hothi, founders of The Knowledge Academy