When designing elearning content, considering the motivations of the learners will significantly increase the effectiveness of knowledge retention. Yu-kai Chou refers to gamification as “Human-focused design” as opposed to “Function-focused design”. This means that rather than focussing solely on just delivering the learning content, gamification is concerned with how content can be delivered so that the participants will retain and engage with it. This is perhaps the most important step in using gamification for elearning: thinking of the users first.
A plan is important during the implementation of gamification. It is crucial to think about the business objectives, intended behaviour, learners themselves, and so on. Here are 6 steps towards gamifying your content…
1. Define Goals
Before gamifying your content, make sure you define success. Otherwise, it will be hard to determine when – or if – success is achieved. Your business will have objectives, possibly multiple, and whether they have been achieved will be evident in the results of the gamification. It is important to address business needs, and not just use gamification needlessly to support content that is inapplicable to the organization or the learner.
Once it is established what the learners are to take away from the course, these expectations must be clearly communicated – the learners must know about the course and understand its purpose. This could be in the form of a tutorial, for example, so that they are able to recognise the goals.
2. Understand The Context
Certain gamification techniques are suited to different courses and/or learners, while some may not be so suited. There are many different elements that decide which gaming features will best suit the tailored needs of learners. For example, the degree of employee motivation may affect how rewards are integrated into the gamification, and what rewards may be best suited.
Always consider how a given gamification technique will work within specific content, too. For example, introducing a point system may not motivate learners much if there isn’t a leaderboard, or if their user profiles aren’t visible. The goal of gamification is to appeal to a learner’s desire to compete and achieve, in addition to learning. When these points can be seen by co-workers, it gives a sense of public accountability to continued learning.
3. Structure The Experience
Researchers from the University of Toronto found that when milestones are in place, learners view the overall learning objective as more achievable, which helps motivate them to get started. The longer an online course, the harder it is for a learner to build up enough motivation to start.
It is effective to set the content up in stages, milestones, or ‘levels’, as recommended by research. One benefit of breaking a course down into easily digestible parts is that it can be identified where learners may get off track, leading to a better understanding of the users. Another benefit is that it will be easier to edit the course to make it more effective.
4. Game Elements
Following this, different gaming elements including badges, avatars, achievements, leaderboards, and so on are added to the eLearning course, creating an engaging and interactive experience.
Interactive gamified learning experiences help boost knowledge retention. This could include techniques like flip cards, quizzes, puzzles, matching, and discussion boards. A timer could also be added to any lesson or content type as a means of turning any learning experience into a gamified one.
It must be ensured that gamified eLearning is fun – for many learners, collaboration, competition, rewards and scores are important to be sure that they are motivated to continue.
5. Use Reward Systems
As mentioned, it is beneficial to reward learners with points, badges, certificates, prizes and more. Badges are visual rewards earned as learners progress through the course or content – they help display progress and make progressive learning more visible. It is effective to provide a place where learners can display badges to maximise the social effectiveness of gamification, such as a leaderboard.
While rewards like badges and points have no financial value, learners can still be motivated to work hard to acquire them. This is an example of intrinsic motivation, where the learners aren’t learning to receive something tangible, they are working to acquire new skills and knowledge. On the other hand, be warned, because although intrinsic motivation works for some, others may have extrinsic motivations. This means that rewards like gift cards and money can often drive short-term motivation. However in many situations, extrinsic rewards actually decrease motivation overall.
Finally, if your organization doesn’t necessarily want to gamify a course, you could instead create giveaways, offer discount codes, or give learners feedback, e.t.c. This can add significant value to your LMS.
If implemented effectively, gamification can propel businesses and its employees to maximum success. These steps should help guide your implementation of Gamification into your learning content.