Game On: The Do’s and Don’ts of eLearning Gamification

elearning gamification

In a world where employees have more information and content flooding their devices than ever before, instructional designers are having to get increasingly creative. Learners are spending time on websites, social media, and other apps that have become exceptionally good at holding their attention and earning their engagement. So, how can instructional designers keep up and earn the same level of engagement for their learning experiences?

In the quest for learner engagement, eLearning gamification has swiftly become a focal point for both instructional designers and learners. In fact, 89% of employees said gamification increases their productivity while 88% said it makes them feel happier at work. Not only that, but 33% of employees would like more gamification in their online learning. 

It’s clear that gamification has a role to play. But, if done incorrectly, it can have a hugely negative impact on the learning experience. So, here are some key “do’s” and “don’ts” for eLearning gamification design to make sure it keeps learners engaged rather than turning them off.

What is eLearning gamification?

eLearning gamification takes the concepts of games and competition and applies them to eLearning experiences in order to increase learner engagement and enhance the performance of online learning experiences.

Gamification includes the use of points, rewards, leaderboards, stories, and other game elements to achieve a more immersive and engaging learning experience. 

gamification in elearning
Source: eLearning Industry

What are the benefits of eLearning gamification?

Many eLearning professionals have shied away from gamification. It sounds complicated, and instructional designers have enough design work on their plates without adding new and complex elements to their courses.

But adding gamification to your eLearning doesn’t need to be an in-depth design process. Designers can gradually add gamification to courses over time by starting with simple elements and working their way up. And the benefits are well worth the time investment.

Courses that incorporate gamification:

  • Make it easier to present real world scenarios to learners
  • Are more immersive
  • Increase knowledge retention
  • Achieve higher learner engagement 
  • Are highly compatible with other instructional design frameworks (e.g. microlearning)
  • Have higher potential to influence behavioral change
gamification techniques
Source: XLPro e-Learning

DO: Get learners amped up!

When incorporating gamification into an eLearning course, it’s a good idea to create just a little bit of anxiety in learners without sending them into a tailspin.

It’s a fairly delicate balance to strike, but elements such as countdown timers to answer assessment questions or complete different steps helps to encourage learners to become invested in participating and “winning.”

DON’T: Forget about the learning part

The good news is that gameplay is largely based on learning anyway. Users are continually faced with similar challenges that increase in difficulty as they move through a game. Improving performance is already part of the process.

So, while learning is an integral part of winning games, earning/losing points, and improving performance, it’s important to remember that learning is still the core goal. Courses should still be designed according to instructional design frameworks, learning objectives, and content design best practices. 

mobile elearning games

DO: Use badges and awards

Recognition and achievement are an important part of gamification. Setting the tone from the start with badges and awards increases motivation for learners to participate in the course and engage fully with the gamification elements. 

DON’T: Forget about other design concepts

Gamification should add to the learning experience, not overwhelm the entire course. Sometimes, a tendency to focus solely on gamification design means that other important elements get lost in the noise.

Don’t forget to pay equal attention to other design elements such as course navigation. All your carefully chosen gamification elements will fall flat if learners become frustrated with the rest of the design. 

DO: Start with simple elearning gamification concepts

If your learners are used to a certain eLearning format already, it might not be a good idea to throw them straight into a brand new advanced gamified learning experience. Plus, for your instructional designers, it’s a big ask. Instead, start off with more simple elements such as badges and levels within your courses.

As you start to see engagement rise and collect further feedback, you can begin to step it up on the gamification side. An Agile learning design process (as outlined in this free ebook) goes a long way towards a quick and thoroughly tested implementation of gamification.

Source: eLearning Infographics

DON’T: Overdo the competition element

While it seems like there could be nothing worse for learner engagement than a flat and boring text-based course, you certainly don’t want to overdo things when it comes to gamification.

Putting too much pressure on learners, cluttering up courses with too many elements or complex reward systems will have much the same effect as a dull online course. Your learners will soon be turned off the experience and tune out altogether. 

DO: Make it social

Ramp up the engagement by incorporating a social element into your gamification. Show off leaderboards and awards between learners. Allow for scores to be shared and discussed. For more advanced eLearning design, why not create multiplayer games so team members can play against each other within the courses themselves? 

No matter what level of gamification you choose to incorporate into your course design, follow these “do’s and don’ts” and you’re sure to see learner engagement start to rise and courses become more effective.

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Game On: The Do’s and Don’ts of eLearning Gamification