What is Gamification in eLearning? Why Your Business Should Care

What is elearning gamification?
eLearning gamification is the integration and assimilation of gaming mechanics, concepts, and elements into eLearning. The aim is to make the experience a lot more immersive and engaging than when using more traditional means.

You’ve added snazzy graphics to the onboarding presentation that took all week to finish. The animated charts are all in place. Even the choice of fonts is spot-on. To your mind, this presentation is light years improvement over the old, boring presentation the company has always used.

Onboarding day for the excited batch of employees comes and you are on-hand to witness the event.  Five minutes into the presentation, most of the new employees look distracted and eager to get the session done and over with. Your mind reels. What on earth could’ve gone wrong?

Studies reveal that technology has drastically shortened our attention span. That’s why LMS companies have been coming up with more innovative LMS tools to catch the attention of a very elusive audience and hold it long enough to deliver the message. Thankfully, a most promising solution has emerged these last couple of years: to turn learning into a game.   

In this guide, you’ll learn about the use of gamification in elearning to increase engagement. You’ll also learn its pros and cons. Finally, we provided you with elearning gamification examples the better you can gauge how to approach this learning technique.

gamification in elearning

The proliferation of mobile games, the increased usage of smartphones, and the burgeoning population of tech-savvy workers have given rise to easily-distracted employees and customers.  The fact is, people nowadays have generally shorter attention spans, an average of 8.25 seconds.  That’s down significantly from 12 seconds according to 2000 statistics. Killer graphics can only do much to assuage the boredom of looking at and listening to list after list of job duties and company regulations. The time for being merely a spectator has come and gone. Today’s audience is all-game for playing roles and participating in the mix. Learning is, after all, a game.

human attention span

For years, teachers have been using bits and pieces of gaming elements in their teaching practice. There’s the reward of gold stars for a project well done. Then, there’s also the adoption of popular game shows in the classrooms to fire up participation and tap into the students’ competitive nature. 

It’s not a stretch to conclude that gamification can be a great asset when assimilated into eLearning and employed as a tool in effective LMS platforms. With the increasing amount of information that needs dissemination in the workplace as well as the popularity of mobile games, it was perhaps inevitable that the two will come together at one point and merge.

Overview of Gamification in eLearning

What is eLearning gamification? For that, let’s provide a backgrounder. Gaming certainly has important lessons to impart to eLearning. Not only does it facilitate learning so it becomes so much more fun and easy, but it also helps motivate the learner to act and to keep learning so he can further advance.  It taps into the individual’s drive to compete and the reality is that studies show competitiveness fuel motivation, engagement, and interaction. From a business perspective, the engaging characteristics of the training ensure completion of all the lessons while the need for repetitive action can influence and bring about desired behavior changes in the long run.

As a whole, game-based learning has always held tremendous potential in terms of growth.  Worldwide revenues of game-based learning products were valued at US$ 2.6 Billion in 2016 and are projected to grow to an astounding US$ 24 Billion by 2024.

Sources: Metaari, eLearning Industry

Applied to the realm of eLearning, gamification has actually been around for almost a decade. It has gained much traction during the last few years, owing to the success of companies who have found the concept effective in sparking participation and engagement among their target audiences. Gamification is so successful, it prompted not a few experts to conclude that it is indeed, the future of work and the workplace, and LMS companies are quick to adapt it into an already formidable array of services that include deep AI learning.

The concept of learning as a game that earns one the reward of points, badges, maybe even added superpowers, is very much relatable and interesting especially to a younger employee or customer base who were born into gaming technology.  That’s why smart LMS with advanced gamification capabilities can give you an edge when reaching out to this particular market.

A good example of an advanced gamification LMS

If you’re considering a gamification LMS, you can try Docebo or something similarly fitted out with highly engaging features. Docebo’s Rewards Marketplace, for instance, helps you form a competitive environment where learners/users earn points for tasks they have completed. Then they get awarded coins depending on the points they have accumulated. Users can choose to spend these coins for a range of exciting rewards — from an Amazon gift card to a getaway to New York City.  The Rewards Marketplace forms a concrete example of really enticing incentives for playing games and getting real rewards.

Two Types of eLearning Gamification

At its most basic, eLearning gamification consists of two types: structural and content gamification. 

In structural gamification, game elements are applied to content with no changes or modifications.  The learner is motivated to work through the content by the use of rewards such as points, badges, trophies, and the likes. Watching a product or instructional video while getting points and moving up in levels is an example of structural gamification.

On the other hand, the content is modified and altered in content gamification. Stories and activities are added to increase engagement through the use of interactive elements. A fun quiz to start off a learning session to replace the usual cursory enumeration of objectives is a good example of content gamification.

Elements of eLearning Gamification

Here are some of the most common elements used in eLearning gamification:

  1. Story.  The narrative or depiction of the learning as a journey or quest
  2. Visuals.  The visual design of the environment where the learner moves
  3. Levels.  The build-up of concepts that motivate learners to keep on playing, hurdle challenges so they can move up
  4. Challenge or task. The obstacles and hurdles the learners face
  5. Competition. Tapping into instincts to compete with oneself or with others
  6. Rewards. Points, badges, trophies earned for accomplishing tasks or hurdling challenges
  7. Leaderboards.  Learners are ranked according to what they achieved; their positions posted for all participants to see
  8. Achievement. The sense of accomplishment as learners go through the game and overcome hurdles
  9. Social element. Learners can view how their co-workers/co-players are doing; they may be encouraged to help those who are struggling as a way of shaping desired social behavior through collaboration
  10. Personalization. The use of avatars and character names to represent the players

Gamify Online Learning Avatars example

Examples of eLearning Gamification Applications

eLearning gamification has found widespread use in a broad variety of industries, from IT to healthcare. Its great degree of flexibility has found popularity in a wide range of applications such as learning acquisition for new employees or customers; upskilling or improvement of performance for existing employees; and application of learning to real-life situations or job scenarios.

While gamification lends itself well to a wide variety of industries and applications, there are areas where it can be used to great impact and effect.

Making compliance training fun

A concrete example would be compliance training. Let’s face it, the usual and traditional seminars and workshops on compliance can be tedious, long, and boring. Since skipping is not an option, making the learning experience fun and engaging is the way to go. 

Thus, turning compliance training into a game can make it more interesting for the learner while ensuring participation from the business owner’s perspective. The game can be story-based, scenario-based, or even interactive, video-based so participants do not merely attend but really immerse themselves in the learning process.

Turning corporate training into a truly immersive experience

Corporate training is another area where gamification shines. Instead of the usual, cut-and-dried slide presentations, think of what a military mission game style presentation can do to engage and immerse new employees in the company business ethics and code of conduct. 

Or how a multi-level game for skills upgrading can perk up employee training and at the same time give instantaneous feedback on workers’ knowledge. Gamification can really level up effective corporate training. The use of smart LMS technology allows companies like Docebo to help businesses easily track employee progress, monitor achievements, and feedback loops.

Environment Game Using Docebo and Elucidat

Environment Game Using Docebo and Elucidat

How to Make Gamification More Effective for your Business

The consensus is that gamification is an excellent tool to improve learning and ultimately, impact your bottom line.  However, there are ways to make it truly effective for your company. 

Be specific

What’s your company objective?  Sometimes, it’s easy to absorb yourself in the gameplay that you can lose sight of the business aim.  Remember that the game mechanics should serve the needs of the business, and not the other way around.

Think mastery of content and how it translates to job performance

While inducing participation is important, how well your learners master the content and learn to apply it to their jobs is way more important.  Unlike a dedicated game where endless repetitions of certain levels are desirable as it brings more revenue, putting a cap to repeating levels of learning is important. Keeping on playing the game can be counterproductive since they have learned what they have to, anyway.

Think relevance

It’s important to ensure that your learning game relates well to real-world scenarios. For example, a sales training game can reward the learner with points equivalent to commissions earned for meeting or surpassing sales quotas; a trophy can be the equivalent of a most valuable sales staff of the year award; and so on.

Docebo Learner Summary Screen

Pros and Cons of eLearning Gamification

eLearning and LMS gamification is a truly wonderful tool but it isn’t a magic pill that can appeal to everyone and work its wonders on all kinds of companies and learners. After identifying its benefits, we’re enumerating its disadvantages to help you make a more educated decision if it’s a good fit for your business or not.

No one size fits all formula

Primarily, there’s no such thing as a one size fits all scheme that will work for all companies. Following the formula of one successful company and fitting it into your own will not guarantee success, regardless of whether both companies belong to the same industry, have the same target markets, and face the same challenges.

Not everyone likes games

Secondly, while human competitive instinct is generally universal, there will always be people who do not like playing games, do not need additional motivation to learn, or consider them a complete waste of time.

Not all companies are alike

Thirdly, no one company is the same and that applies to the aspect of the corporate culture. Some may have a persona, for example, a dignified and very upmarket image, which does not lend itself well to a very casual, gaming approach.

The eLearning industry is, of course, not taking these cons sitting down.  For the first and second points, innovative eLearning companies like Docebo have been putting the technology at their disposal to come up with increased personalization and customization to come up with inventive solutions that will cater to different individuals and groups.

Docebo Gamification Dashboard for Creating Badges

Future of eLearning Gamification

Gamification, as far as eLearning is concerned, may have made great gains in the last couple of years. The leading eLearning companies, however, think the best is yet to come.  

Along with a healthy prognosis for tremendous growth, there are promising areas where gamification can further level up such as robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, location-based intelligence, and increased integration with AI. 

Again, companies with the technology and wherewithal to continue innovating like Docebo look forward to the future with the eagerness to see where the hybridization of gaming elements and even more intuitive AI learning management systems will take us. 

Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Nestor Gilbert is a senior B2B and SaaS analyst and a core contributor at FinancesOnline for over 5 years. With his experience in software development and extensive knowledge of SaaS management, he writes mostly about emerging B2B technologies and their impact on the current business landscape. However, he also provides in-depth reviews on a wide range of software solutions to help businesses find suitable options for them. Through his work, he aims to help companies develop a more tech-forward approach to their operations and overcome their SaaS-related challenges.

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