Level Up Your eLearning With Gamification

“ Gaming Cupcakes ” by  Sergey Galyonkin  is licensed under  CC BY-SA 2.0 .

Gaming Cupcakes” by Sergey Galyonkin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

This is the first post in a three-part series on gamification in eLearning, based on a recent webinar, "Gamify your eLearning! 6 Ways to Incorporate Gamification into eLearning" by Paula Yunker of Limestone Learning and Sean Hougan of Lambda Solutions.

Gamification is a hot topic in eLearning circles these days—and for good reason.

Instructional designers are tapping into a behaviour common to all ages and genders, all industries and demographic segments—something that people are already doing, and doing happily. Whether we’re flinging birds or crushing candies—whether we’re entry-level employees or in the C-suite—over three-quarters of us are engaging regularly in compelling virtual experiences.

What is it that we’re doing in such record numbers? We’re gaming.

But what is gaming, and why do we do it?

  • The challenge. What’s the difference between a task that’s a hard slog and a task you relish? Chances are it’s the sense of challenge you experience when you have to work through defined, rule-based constraints to reach an objective. You know those skulls won’t turn into gold until you bash them seven times, right? The fun is partly in figuring that out, partly in reaping the gold. That’s because we enjoy…
  • Mastery. Just as games give us the opportunity to master new skills and experience the rush of levelling up, gamified learning lets us master new work skills and develop a sense of accomplishment. And these rewards are all the more delicious because …
  • They come with risk. Sure, we might succeed at releasing all the keys to the secret lair, but not if we can’t defuse the bombs first! Games are fraught with risk—that we might stay at the same level, drop a level, or even run out of lives. But the best part? It’s not real, and we can safely fail. Likewise with gamification in learning—we get to take chances and learn in the process, knowing that our failures are confined to the virtual world. Whether we win or fail, we do so in a safe place where we can benefit from the learning. And when we win …
  • We get bragging rights. Who doesn’t love strutting their stuff? Gamification allows learners to collect points and badges, level up on a leaderboard, and jockey with their co-workers for status. In a fun, safe-fail environment, that’s a great use of social learning.
  • Okay, so we know what gaming is and why we do it. But what’s gamification?

Gamification is the concept of using game design elements, game mechanics, and game thinking in non-game contexts to make learning more compelling. Gamification takes game-play elements and gaming mechanics and applies them to existing learning courses and content to engage learners, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems. Gamification uses our natural desire for social connection, learning, mastery, competition, achievement and status.

All this makes gamification a logical element to include in your eLearning. And not just because it engages learners. Did you know…?

  • In a University of Colorado study, learners scored 14 percent higher after completing gamified eLearning courses.
  • Gamified learning focuses not just on knowledge but on behaviour. The motivational techniques of gamification map neatly to real-life, job-applicable learning.
  • Gamified learning provides quick feedback, communicating progress and goals to learners in a way that enables them to take charge of their development.
  • You already have buy-in. Studies show that over 75 percent of people are gamers. That makes them receptive.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of gamification. We’ll reveal:

  • What gamification is and what it isn’t.
  • The difference between gamification and game-based learning.
  • Six ways you can incorporate gamification into your instructional design regardless of your budget.

So, the next time you’re blitzing jewels or clashing with clans, think about why you’re doing it. What do you like about games? What keeps you coming back for more excitement? And how can you build that excitement into your eLearning design? (Hint: we’ll have some ideas for you!)

Until then, happy gaming!

Click here for Part 2 in our three-part series on gamification.