MOOCs – Gamification – Mash-Up? YES!

• 5 min read

Gamification and MOOCsMOOCs in learning

The massive rise in MOOC’s (Massively Open Online Courses) popularity is now becoming a pervasive discussion topic within corporate and governmental organizations regarding how to use them within their learning teams.  There are a few trains of thought on this.  Some organizations are looking to monetize on them whilst others are looking at using them as an alternative to traditional ‘e’ or ‘blended’ learning models to shape up their Learning and Development departments. Neither approach is incorrect, and there are business cases to be made for both approaches.

Knowledge IP is a powerful tool and being able to monetize on previous, often times expensive, challenges that your organization has overcome can be a great additional revenue source (if done correctly, without giving away your team’s secret sauce). That being said, training new employees is also very expensive and time consuming, therefore, building an internal corporate MOOC can be an incredibly effective method to quickly transfer knowledge (and retain the knowledge transfer) between senior and junior employees as well as for rising employees as they transition up the ladder within the organization.

Boredom is boring!

My main challenge with MOOCs is that often times it feels that they do not live up to an optimal level of engagement that employees find stimulating (that’s Corporate American-speak for ‘often, they are boring’).  It is a similar concept to my experience at my University’s first year Calculus Class, sitting in an auditorium packed full to capacity with 450 of my best friends furiously scribbling notes as I am watching and attempting to listen to a professor through my binoculars and audio amplification device, all the while watching the back of his head as he writes on a chalkboard. I find this method of learning about as engaging as poking myself in the eye with a very dull stick.  Many of the MOOCs I have seen follow this same approach and could benefit from the past 20 years of gains in learning theory, engagement theory, and technology capability.

We have all, probably at this point, signed up for an Academic MOOC from one of the rapidly increasing catalog of superstar Universities that seem to be giving away their collective wisdom (CourseraedXUdacity, as some examples). The big question is how many of you finished the course or, for those who managed to finish one course, how many also completed a second course?  The challenge with MOOCs, in general, is the pervasively high drop out rate with around 40% – 60% after registration from the course and with around a 10% completion rate. While the total number of completions is still astounding (if you have 120,000 students registering for a course) these numbers do not bode well for a MOOC with a smaller audience such as your organization (unless you are the UN and have numbers to spare).

Shall we play a game?

While MOOCs are interesting and have great potential for huge reach, we have also heard about the concept of Gamification.  Can we combine the two? While we have discussed what MOOCs are, we should also take some time and intersect this potentially powerful organizational method with another powerful learning strategy such as Gamification. Can we Gamify our MOOC? Is this right for our organization?

Gamification is a different animal than MOOCs, however, no less game changing. In a previous blog post I go into more detail on what Gamification is and what it isn’t. To keep it short (please read the previous article if you want more background), Gamification is the process of adding motivational elements within a learning framework or system to increase user engagement based upon sound game theory and game mechanics. While it is a very different concept to a MOOC, it is a potentially powerful method for driving user engagement.

In an effort to engage our corporate learners and to attempt to defy the staggering losses that are seen in academic MOOCs we can potentially add Gamification elements to our MOOCs (already being done by some of the academic players with positive results). While content is still going to be king and making sure that your courses are both instructionally sound and designed in a way that is engaging for your end users, it is possible to add that little extra push that can make all the difference between utter boredom and a sense of friendly competition.

The Gamification of things

Some of the most common Gamification elements found within corporate LMS tools (those that are keeping up with the trend that is!) are Leader Boards, Badges, and Competitions. While not true games they nonetheless do have the potential to provide some engaging elements that you can include within your MOOC.  Having different badges and achievement points for finishing videos or learning objects is a great way to provide tangible system rewards, both to the learner for completion of the objective as well as a sense to the overall community that users are working on learning tasks. Including a discussion forum within your MOOC is a great way to facilitate rich and engaging thought and collaboration, however, sometimes it needs an extra push.  That extra push can be achieved by adding a Gamification element such as a competition about having the “Most Helpful” discussion post, or a recognition badge with point for creating a new discussion topic within the existing forum.

Even training users on how to meaningfully interact with course materials can be a Gamified element within the platform.  Having learners get used to receiving system rewards for rating other learners is a fantastic first step to building the necessary community of practice required for 21st century corporations.

These rewards for positive learning behavior (such as completing your learning, and interacting with your peers) are often times the missing piece of the puzzle your learning department might need in order to build a strong sense of corporate knowledge share, or what could differentiate your utilization of off-the-shelf mass consumable courses from your competitors. Getting users engaged from an individual to a group is a very powerful learning strategy that, if adopted, can be a major contributor to building your learning organization.

Practice what you preach

Now that you have the beginnings of a Gamified MOOC it is time to launch it to the masses.  Just some suggestions if you want to do a light MOOC that has some fun elements – think about some Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns that you can launch back out to the community which engage targeted end users and allows them to contribute back to the knowledge base you are helping to build. Remember, this is just a start; developing a full Gamification system is usually done on a case by case basis, based upon in-depth corporate and cultural analysis, and typically includes massive instructional and system customization.

For best results, test the concept within your company or department and see if you can increase the engagement levels of your learners from passive to active. Play it safe and don’t jump on the buzz word bingo game all at once. Run some pilot projects, get some case studies built, and then build the approach that is correct for your organization or team!

Check out Docebo 6.3 where you can set up MOOCs, Gamified Courses, or Gamified MOOCs in addition to a lot of other features. Test it all out with a 14-day free trial!



Josh SquiresJosh Squires is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Docebo EMEA.  Josh has spent the past 15 years researching and implementing creative learning solutions within corporate and higher education environments. With clients ranging from Motorola to Disney, he has been on the designing and implementing stage of a wide range of learning scenarios with customers spanning the globe. Josh has also taught Instructional Technology theory and tools as a consultant and faculty member for over 8 years in both Corporate and Higher Education environments.

You can contact him directly via email or connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on twitter @squires_j