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Gamification in Learning: Strategies and Implementation

May 3, 2023

Strategies and Implementation

There has been a revolution in education since e-learning took off in the 21st century. 

The growth of e-learning has been remarkable, spurred on by developments in society and world events, including:

  • The development of platforms enables content-rich, interactive learning.
  • The move away from office-based to remote working.
  • Programs that have provided computer equipment or tablets to schoolchildren.
  • A move towards continuous learning in the workplace.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic making remote learning a necessity.
  • The development of commercial mass learning platforms (Skillshare, Masterclass)

All these developments have enabled e-learning to flourish, often in combination with in-person classes and hybrid education modes. How big is the industry in 2023? Here are some statistics:

  • Worldwide online education revenue is predicted to exceed $166 billion in 2023.
  • CAGR in the online education sector is predicted at 9.37% between 2023 and 2027.
  • The predicted market size of the sector will be over $238 billion by 2027.

There is one element we haven’t yet considered, and it’s a significant factor in the uptake of online learning programs – Gamification. It’s no longer the case that e-learners complete an online exam and receive just a drab, downloadable certificate (if they’re lucky).

Instead, all the enticements and inducements from the gameplay world have been incorporated into the best online education programs. In this article, we’ll look at some strategies for using Gamification to build learning engagement and how to develop these programs.

Gamification is not the same as Game-Based Learning 

gamification in learning

First, some definitions. Game-based learning and Gamification are often confused, but they are quite different.

Game-Based learning builds educational content into a game environment. It includes a narrative, a protagonist (the learner), and an endpoint (achievement of a mission). Educational content sits around this game framework and should be seamlessly integrated. The best game-based learning shouldn’t even feel like a learning experience.

Game-based learning works best for children and young people and relatively straightforward topics. You probably can’t teach students the basics of industrial filtration engineering with game-based learning!

However, Gamification can break down even complex topics into learnable, scorable units. Gamification imports some of the mechanics of gameplay into education while not pretending that the user is primarily playing a game. It’s a matter of degree and framing.

As a recent, useful Forbes article puts it: “Game-based projects are games first. Learning is connected to game mechanics. Gamification is the application of game elements in a non-game environment or activity. Gamified projects are learning courses first.”

Here we’ll primarily be talking about Gamification for adult education, whether at home or in the workplace.

How does Gamification help Educational Engagement?

Let’s be honest – some learning can be dull. Very fact-laden or technical courses can be hard to concentrate on for long periods. Gamification adds hooks and inducements for specific learning objectives that keep the learner engaged.

They also break down complex topics into smaller units and modules, which makes it possible to take time away from the task, then return to it refreshed. This isn’t as possible with in-person learning.

What techniques are typically included in e-learning platforms?

Here are nine of the game mechanics which make modern e-learning work:

  • Progress Bars and Completion Scores
  • Graded Pass Marks and Levels
  • Badges and Level-Based Awards
  • Bespoke, Shareable Certification
  • Quizzes and Memory-Jogging Games
  • Interactive Mini-Games.
  • Image-Based or Video Content
  • Social Interactivity Between Learners
  • Shareable Results and Leaderboards

Some of these have always been a part of the learning process (certification, pass marks) but have been turbo-charged for 21st-century online learning environments. Others are relatively new innovations.

All Gamification in e-learning aims to make education fun rather than an arduous task undertaken against participants’ wills.

9 Strategies for Gamification in Online Learning 

Let’s break down those nine elements described above and give some examples of how these can be incorporated into your e-learning program or course.

1: Progress Bars and Completion Scores 

When we’re engaged in a demanding task, we always want to know how close we are to finishing. Making rapid progress or getting near the end of a lengthy task can be a real incentive toward completion.

Therefore, by incorporating a visual progress bar or percentage course completion measure, you manage expectations and encourage student engagement. Time-based measures, however, are to be avoided since e-learning is generally designed to be completed at the user’s own pace.

This simple feature is now almost universal in online learning platforms.

2: Graded Pass-Marks and Levels 

A certain kind of learner is motivated by achieving excellence. Therefore, assigning a passing mark and a grade to complete the whole program or an individual level can be helpful. That said, particularly when designing a workplace-based e-learning course, you must allow users to redo the exam sections that end modules to achieve a passing mark.

Assigning a relatively low pass grade (say 60%) can encourage users but may leave some topics not completely understood. Therefore, it’s often better to set the pass mark high (i.e., at 80%) to ensure learners absorb all necessary information while allowing them to re-take any exam relatively easily should they fail the first time.

Game players will recognize the incentivizing effect of a levels-based course. Users want to ascend to the highest level and achieve an excellent final score. If appropriate, you can combine this with a leaderboard (see element 9).

3: Badges and Level-Based Awards

As well as passing marks for quizzes, you can award badges or other visual indicators of progress, which users can share or attach to their learning records. This simple feature appeals to the acquisitive collector, who like to keep mementos of their progress.

Remember the boy and girl scout achievement badges you used to collect as a child? This is the equivalent for adults. It may sound too simplistic for some, but we are all motivated differently, so this strategy shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can also add points-based incentives, which could be traded for real-world benefits such as additional leave days, gifts, or cash bonuses. For example, that might be a good way to reward sales reps for completing their mandatory onboarding training.

4: Bespoke, Sharable Certification

Gone are the days of crudely created PDF certificates with space to write your name in with a Sharpie. Certification in 2023 can be as intricate and interactive as you like, incorporating e-signatures, photographs, pass marks, and the ability to share, send or save these certifications in a personalized e-learning record.

There’s still value in retaining some of legacy certificates’ curlicues and joined-up handwriting. People still associate those design elements with prestige, after all. Create something too lightweight, and learners may be too embarrassed to share it!

5: Quizzes and Memory-Jogging Games 

One common game mechanic in online learning programs is the quiz. Mid-module or at the end of a section, these help refresh the learner’s memory. They also remind the individual that they are supposed to memorize the course’s elements, which will later be tested.

From the course organizer’s point of view, quizzes make it difficult for a learner to fake completion by skipping through content at speed. Quizzes require interactivity, with a human choosing between options, filling in blanks, or interacting in other ways.

Here are some common quiz formats you might employ:

  • Multiple choice questions.
  • Complete the missing word in a sentence.
  • True / False questions.
  • Matching questions and answers (often by moving elements onscreen).

These are just four possibilities. Some platforms permit a lot of creativity in this area so that quizzes never become rote or predictable. Some even randomize quiz questions so that no two users get exactly the same questions in the same order. This can help reduce answer sharing (cheating).

Some quizzes allow you to see your results as you go. Others tally up answers and deliver a final score. Remember that all quiz formats should allow learners to try again to secure that all-important pass mark.

6: Interactive Mini-Games 

Explicit quizzes aren’t the only way to test learning in progress. Some learners think visually and benefit from questions that require a less text-based approach.

For example, let’s say you’re delivering a mandatory fire safety course. Rather than produce a rather dry quiz on which type of fire extinguisher would put out a particular kind of fire, you could create an interactive game.

The game might feature an office where fires of different types spring from, for instance, an untended pan of hot oil, a faulty electrical outlet, or a wastepaper bin. The player must grab and use an appropriate extinguisher to put each out. Using the wrong one produces an explosion of flame or allows the flames to spread.

The game would be relatively simple to program, requiring some rudimentary animation, but it would certainly drive home the importance of using the right tool for the job!

Whether you can implement such ideas will depend on your learning objectives, the complexity of your gamification platform, or the budget of your in-house e-learning development team, but they definitely break the monotony of endless text and question-based quizzes.

7: Image-Based or Video Content

If you can’t create miniature games, you can certainly use more visual material in your e-learning program. Some studies have shown that participants retain 90% of the information in a video, much more than they would its text-based equivalent.

This makes sense. What do we commonly do when we have a complex DIY chore to undertake? We turn to YouTube, or other video platforms, to watch a “how to” video. Instructional videos, particularly when they are no more than 1-3 minutes long, are a great way of imparting learning.

Interactive videos, in which the user clicks on an area of the screen for more information, or chooses between outcomes in a given scenario, combine the entertainment appeal of video with the addictiveness of gameplay.

If you can’t use video, then images or animations are the next best thing. You can pose questions in a piece of eLearning, then reveal the answer with a mouseover animation or a gradually revealed image. The more interactivity you can add to your course, the better.

8: Social Interactivity Between Learners

In highly competitive workplace environments, such as sales and marketing teams, you can encourage sharing results, badges, scores, and achievements via social platforms or apps that integrate with your e-learning portal.

You’ll also allow your employees to encourage one another and leverage gentle peer pressure toward completing mandatory e-learning.

9: Shareable Results and Leaderboards

Linked to element eight is the possibility of publicly posting scores and awards as a separate function or included within team progress dashboards or leaderboards.

This strategy uses the natural competitiveness that exists between team members as they post their scores, awards, and certificates. Just make sure they don’t share quiz answers!

Tips for Implementing Gamified Learning in the Workplace

If you’re thinking of adding gamification elements to a workplace learning environment, then it’s important to bear a few things in mind before committing to a platform or course design:

  • Who is your audience, and what are their motivations? Are they highly competitive? Are they typically motivated to want to learn, or are they learning avoidant? How old are your typical employees, and are they used to learning Gamification in general? By 2023, most people will be very familiar with e-learning and Gamification, fortunately, but you still need to shape it to fit their expectations.
  • How complex is the course? Does your training suit a highly gamified methodology, or is it too intricate and in-depth for such an approach? You could only add a few gamified elements to a highly technical learning program.
  • Is teamwork an important aspect? E-learning through Gamification might not suit a team-based task. There’s definitely still a place for team-building exercises and team project work as a stimulus for shared learning. However, platforms are being developed for groups, online educational games, and content. E-Learning Industry has a useful list of some such platforms.
  • How important is monitoring and metrics? You’ll want to choose a platform that allows you to monitor employee progress to an appropriate extent. Maybe you need competitive leaderboards. Alternatively, perhaps final pass grades are all that matters.
  • What level of Gamification is appropriate? The last thing you want is to patronize your audience. A course designed for 21-year-old interns with a lot of game elements won’t suit a group of senior executives. However, every course benefits from moving away from reams of text by using video, images, and interactivity.
  • How long should the course take to complete? Don’t get so enamored of all the potential of a gamified e-learning course that you create one that takes a week to complete. Make sure the complexity level of the course is matched to its intended completion time.

Answer all of these questions, and you’ll be well on the way to designing a fit-for-purpose, fun, and engaging gamified eLearning course.

Spinify Can Help

Once you implement Gamification into your learning model, you can also use Gamification to track training progress. Spinify’s gamification platform makes tracking employee training completion a breeze. With Spinify, you can create a customized leaderboard that tracks each employee’s progress. 

As they complete their training, their name moves up the leaderboard, and they earn points for their achievements. It’s like a game but with real-life benefits! Plus, you can add a bit of friendly competition to the mix by encouraging employees to outdo each other’s training completion rates. 
So, let Spinify take the burden off your shoulders and turn training completion into a fun and engaging experience for everyone involved! For more on integrating e-learning and game mechanics into your training course, check out Spinify’s blog article, or watch a product demo today.

Put those insights into practice.

Set your team up for success by improving their performance through gamification.

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