Why You Absolutely Need Gamification in E-Learning

• 7 min read

Why You Absolutely Need Gamification in E-Learning (LMS)As children, we thrived on awards, certificates, trophies, and badges of honor; they validated our work and made it fun to put in our best effort. As adults, we still find joy and satisfaction in being rewarded for our accomplishments.

Despite our adulthood, we still remain playful and enjoy interactive scenarios that trigger competition and rewards. There’s a reason when you want your children to do something, you gamify the task (let’s admit it, most of us have used The Quiet Game at some point). Most adults are not much different!

Whether it’s earning a badge on our LinkedIn or seeing fireworks on our FitBits for hitting our daily step goal, a little bit of added animation goes a long way. In addition, these accent details give audiences something to look forward to, which guarantees they will keep showing up.

There’s whimsy in being able to supplement what you’re already doing with fun rewards and interactions. Can you imagine if Instagram was a platform where you would simply scroll through pictures and there was no “like” feature. I don’t think I would be half as engaged, would you?

The experience becomes more interactive and enjoyable when you’re rewarded with likes by posting content that people enjoy or appreciate. The same school of thought can be applied to your learning strategy.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the use of game mechanics in non-gaming activities which help capture and engage your audience. It allows you the freedom to reinvent a task into a more playful and interactive experience for your learners.

We all enjoy being able to supplement our regular activities with some added excitement. A great example of this in our everyday lives was the fad ‘Pokemon Go’ (rest in peace) where folks ‘gamified’ their walks by using an app to catch virtual Pokemon. Ideas such as these show how a little added excitement can reinvent the way we experience something.

eLearning Industry describes it best: “Haven’t you always wanted to make it to the top of a leaderboard? Aren’t you used to getting points and completing levels and challenges to get to the next stage of a video game? All these components have been successfully incorporated into online training as gamification features. Elements like badges, certifications, fun competitions, gifts, and more give an extra spark to your courses”.

Brandon Hall Group suggests that gamification acts as a “positive disruption, a game changer that has the potential to level up the digital learning process”.

They also note that at its core, gamification has four key elements:

  • A challenge or a goal that establishes what a person needs to accomplish to win”
  • Obstacles or impediments which need to be overcome to achieve the goal”
  • Incentives or rewards that users receive as they overcome obstacles and objectives”
  • Game rules that define users’ interaction with the game”

This concept of taking the essence of games (enjoyment, play, openness, creativity, and challenge) and applying them to professional objectives, rather than solely entertainment, makes the objectives themselves more enjoyable. Not only does gamification in the workplace improve engagement, but it also supports learning retention as well.

Related: What Is Gamification and How Can It Boost User Engagement?

Benefits of Gamification in E-Learning

We get it. It feels risky to play games with your learning strategy. But here are some proven benefits of gamified learning that indicate why you should.

  • Learner Experience: Think about your favorite gamified apps (Nike Run Club, Uber, Starbucks, Chipotle, etc.) A lot of us have very routine brands we frequent which are reflected in our app tech stack.

Companies like these continuously play with user experience enhancements because the better something gets, the more recurrent the audience is. With strategic tools that incentivize people to revisit and even distinguish themselves on an app, your space becomes a part of their routine.

We all have that friend who brags about their Uber rating or Starbucks stars. It gets to the point where even if we are spending our own money where we normally would, there is something exciting about watching stars, rewards, and badges pile up. We eventually become conditioned to look forward to these interactions alongside our purchase or experiences. It’s like getting likes on social media in other areas of our lives.

This is exactly what you want your learners experiencing in your learning management system, because it will keep them coming back.

  • Engagement: One third of employees don’t think their training materials are interesting or engaging. That’s alarming, considering learner engagement is directly tied to the success of your learning programs and overall growth of your organization. If your learners are not interacting with your Learning Management System (LMS) or are unproductive and underperforming doing so, you never end up seeing ROI on the LMS in the first place.

The easiest way to garner buy-in and engagement from your learning audiences is to get them to a place where they enjoy what they’re doing in the system. When you have successfully captured your audience, gamification serves to further motivate people and cyclically drive employee engagement.

  • Retention: Let’s face it — it’s challenging to ensure your learners are retaining all they need to. Generally employees forget up to 50% of what they just learnt within an hour. With this in mind, it’s crucial that we think carefully about how we present information to our audiences.

Creating business impact isn’t the result of hitting your quota on your learning platform, but rather when your learners successfully take away valuable knowledge that improves their performance.

The best way to get your learners at this stage is to get them to a place where they are invested in participation. Some healthy competition with leaderboards, badges, and contests drive retention because, when we enjoy the experience, it becomes more memorable and important to us.

  • Company Learning Culture: Every company wants to be branded as a thought leader — one which values and upholds a continuous learning culture. Gamification in business and gamification in corporate training sends a message to your audience that says you care about their learning experience and you want it to be one they enjoy.

If learners are satisfied with their experience and are routinely participating in contests, conversations, and training, they are more likely to arrive at skill mastery. Not only that, but you also create hype and excitement around learning that embeds itself in your company culture.

You want your learners to be tapping into each other and taking pride in the little treasures and accomplishments they’ve been recognized for. When that happens, your learners will continue to show up and your company will continue to progress.

Gamified learning programs that take an audience from being happy, to engaged, to retaining knowledge have achieved the sweet spot and found the recipe for success.

Related: How to Leverage Motivation in Your Learning Strategy

E-Learning Gamification Tools

Here are some easy ways to implement gamification solutions that might help you jump start this initiative.

A badge is like a medal your users will gain every time they complete a particular action in the platform. To be considered the best user your learners will need to earn as many badges as they can while completing different activities.

Have fun with it and get your learners bragging by creating unique badges like “Master of the Universe”, “Course Master”, or “Total Genius”. Badges and points are pivotal to gamification in elearning.

To take it a step further, you can add more value to badges by attributing any number of points that can be given to the user along with the badge. You can use these points to establish a rewards program or leaderboards to highlight achievement and create some friendly competition.

To further incentivize your learners to collect points and badges, create prizes that can be obtained after they reach a certain threshold (think Amazon gift cards, lunch with the CEO, one work from home day, etc.). Rewards such as these will jump start your user engagement by giving learners the opportunity to win tangible prizes!

Leaderboards display the users with the highest amount of points in the platform. By creating badges with different scores or points attached to them, you can assign badges to different leaderboard positions and facilitate internal contests!

A great way to get your learners talking about your learning program is to run contests within your platform. One way to create contests for your users is by assigning goals that are to be achieved within a specific time period. The goal should be for them to earn badges or points to receive a ranking on your leaderboards for each specific contest. Some you might consider running could be “Most Course Completions” or “Scored Highest in Course”.

Related: Activating and Managing the Gamification App

Final Thoughts: Let the Games Begin

At this point in tech, most of our experiences are gamified. From shopping and eating to working out and ride sharing, we are constantly earning gold stars and rewards. This benefits those in the learning and development space because it means we already know what works — no need to reinvent the wheel!

Gamifying the learning experience with badges, points, rewards, contests, and leaderboards will keep your learners in friendly competition but, more importantly, it will keep them engaged and happy.

The best learning happens when you do not even realize you’re doing it. With your learners satisfied with their experience and routinely visiting your platform, you’ll see retention improve.

Learning that sticks is the only learning that counts, and it’s what takes you and your employees from boring click-through completions to increased job performance and satisfaction. One of these definitely sounds better than the other.

Curious how you can improve your team’s learning experience using gamification? Read this case study to learn how industry leader Cineplex used gamification to transform their learning program.