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The gamification market has been on the rise for the last five years. According to Statista, the estimated value of the market for 2021 is more than 11 billion dollars. This number becomes even more impressive if you compare it with values for 2016 – back then, gamification was worth about 5 billion dollars. 

E-learning is the main industry for gaming applications. Workplaces surveys show that 89% of users are more motivated to do a boring task if it’s gamified. This means the majority of employees would be more efficient if their learning process would be more gamified. 

What’s Gamification in eLearning?

Gamification is a set of activities that are designed to make a task more interesting, add interactivity to the process of learning, and allow users to go through various abstract scenarios. Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about gaming in e-learning – most likely, because there are so many approaches out there. 

So, let’s take a look at these mistaken approaches to gamification to broaden the definition. 

  • Gamification doesn’t necessarily equal game development. It’s a possible option, but in essence, e-learning is about using a game-like strategy for day-to-day tasks. Gamification and in-game learning aren’t the same things. 
  • Gamification in e-learning should be mean to a goal, not distract students from earning. If you are thinking about introducing a gamification system to your company or education institution, remember that gamification should serve the purpose of the curriculum. Hence, it’s important to plan out the studying process first. 
  • Gamification should be easy to quantify and measure. On the one hand, it makes students more motivated, but also, efficiency monitoring becomes a lot easier. 

Although gamification is proven to be an efficient way to enhance learning, it shouldn’t overshadow the purpose of learning. At the core of every gamified platform should lie a well-designed curriculum with clear objectives. 

What Gamification Is Like?

We discussed that gamification isn’t particularly tied to games. Now let’s take a look at the criteria for building gamification e-learning platforms. We defined three main acceptance characteristics. 

  • Learner-centered  a user should treat the application as a personal assistant, not as an overseeing system. All statistics, tips, and additional content should be done for the sake of the user.
  • Informative  there are quite a lot of games out there that only bear an education method but don’t really teach anything. For instance, a 2048-like game, where users work with chemical atoms instead of numbers, doesn’t provide much useful information on these elements. 
  • Content is the goal when you implement gaming, it’s tempting to shift focus towards design and development. Actually, they are secondary. Gamification is e-learning is about storytelling. Users need to be immersed in various scenarios, get personalized content and statistics. This is why it’s better to start the process by preparing efficient teaching materials. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that some fields are harder to gamify than others. We believe that gamification can be introduced into any discipline, but for some industries and subjects, the tasks seem to be harder. It’s obvious when you compare school subjects: there are a lot of gamified apps that teach languages, and not so many for chemistry learning, for instance. 

If you are thinking about implementing gamification in your corporate e-learning system, consider how much time employees will be able to dedicate. Perhaps, it’s better to develop a platform that prioritizes frequency over the duration. A good example of this approach is WaniKani  – a platform for learning Japanese characters that automatically breaks workload into smaller chunks. Users have the only goal – to visit the service regularly and keep up with their reviews. 

6 Ways to Use Gamification in eLearning

man playing videogame at home

Gamification, in reality, is pretty easy to execute. Companies and education institutions don’t need to build complex 3D stimulators to make the learning process more engaging. Let’s take a look at more practical but not less efficient options. 

1. Badges

The easiest way to motivate a user to keep learning is by assigning a certain status. Such a gamification element is easy to design and develop. With minimal time and resource investments, you can get high returns in the team’s motivation and efficiency. To create an efficient e-learning badge, you need to go through the following steps:

  • Come up with a framework  all badges should follow the same logic, similar to a ranking. Users with a lower level of competence start off with a low status but as they get better, their rank increases. DuoLingo uses this strategy by giving users “Achievement Badges”. They are connected to a particular milestone – reading your first sentence, finishing a skill tree, etc. 
  • Create compelling names  Badges should give users a feeling of achievement. You can be creative here. Duolingo has a badge called “You know this isn’t Facebook, right”, and “Freeze! Everybody clap your hands”. Such names make the event of getting an achievement a lot more interesting. Users will be looking forward to the next one at least to see its name. 
  • Encourage people to celebrate their business in the community  Create threads on forums and invite people to talk about their achievements. WaniKani did a great job with it – as soon as users get to the final, 60th level, they post it on the forum – and they get a badge “60 Lvl” around their name. Users track the members of the community who reached the final level and even ask for their expertise.

Badges allow creating a sense of achievement even if e-learning doesn’t produce directly visible results. The reason why we took language-learning platforms as an example here is that with languages, you don’t feel the progress until you are on a high level. Keeping internal motivation is difficult, so there should be an external one. 

2. Leaderboards

It’s a powerful tool that creates the feeling of the classroom and motivates users to succeed better. Unlike grading and rating systems in schools, leaderboards don’t have to be compulsory. Learners who aren’t driven by competition, can simply not look there. However, those for whom referencing others is a motivation, will definitely benefit from having a clear ranking. It’s a good way to engage remote employees in the community as well, effectively making them a part of a virtual class. 

How to make a leaderboard?

  • Create a clear system for assigning points. It can be for each answered question, completed task, or passed test. All users should know what are the ways of getting a higher ranking in the leaderboard.
  • Newcomers should have a chance. You can create a separate leaderboard for new users. Dribble, a service for designers, uses such a system. There are a general creator leaderboard and a list of the best new users. 
  • Motivate users to share their success and ask for advice. The competition should be friendly and contribute to a healthy workplace environment.

The most important thing about creating and managing a leaderboard is transparency. All users should know how they are being ranked and what to do to improve. Memrise has a clear, easy-to-understand leaderboard. Users get points for getting the question right and can see the results after every learning session. 

3. Virtual Scenarios

In a scenario-based gaming e-learning system, users are presented with realistic scenarios that mimick real-life situations. The purpose of such an approach is to tie training to practice and test comprehension in real circumstances. 

A great case of implementing virtual scenarios in corporate training is a McDonalds’ training platform. Employees navigate through scenarios of different orders, requests from managers, and critical situations. For each successful solution, the employee is rewarded with points. 

Characteristics of a successful virtual scenario

  • Realistic users should feel the connection of scenarios to real-life situations. In McDonald’s’ case, these were orders based on actual most common orders. Managerial problems were also derived from a typical team experience.
  • Different difficulty levels employees should be able to level up and face more difficult challenges. If the game doesn’t offer new difficulties, it will become boring and inefficient. 
  • Interactive players should have a lot of impact on the situation. The gaming system should allow finding an out-of-the-box solution. This requires thorough content preparation and even AI’s involvement.
  • Logical the problem and solutions have to make sense. Users have to be able to look at their mistakes and analyze chosen strategies. Most importantly, the platform should provide a clear explanation of why the chosen strategy was wrong. 

The main benefit of using a virtual scenario is the fact that it’s fun. McDonald’s team reports that the tool wasn’t even particularly advertised to employees – they found it and started using over and over again. With an interactive solution, management doesn’t have to worry about the tool’s adoption. 

4. Strategy Building

Strategic games are one of the most popular ones in the gaming market. You can tap into the niche and build a strategic platform for your e-learning. Creating a virtual environment where users are encouraged to apply their knowledge will promote enthusiasm and decisiveness. 

Types of strategic gaming in e-learning

  • Management managers can be tasked to manage a virtual simulator of a restaurant, hotel,  office, division, etc. Obviously, the scenarios should be similar to the ones that you face on a regular basis. The goal is to come up with objectives, create algorithms for teams, and identify risks. 
  • Soft skills companies can develop games that are a combination of virtual scenarios and strategic games. They will be tasked to carry out a dialog, identify customers’ problems, and built a strategy to solve it. 
  • Complex problem-solving In some fields, like medicine, creating long- and short-term strategies is a crucial competence. Games like Microbe Invader check the capacities of medical students to analyze the present information, diagnose the patient, and come up with the treatment strategy.

Strategic games analyze every move, made by a user. For every right move, a user gets points, for each unnecessary one, points are taken back. It’s realistic as well – additional report, research task, or test costs resources – so users should be able to make decisions even with limited data.

5. In-App Currency

Among ways of user motivation, we discussed badges and leaderboards. There’s another way to visualize users’ knowledge, which is by offering them a currency. This currency can be used to get access to new learning materials, unlock fun features in the platform, or communicate it to users. 

How to create a gamification currency

  • Currency has to be obtained in the game. In learning platforms, enabling the possibility to buy coins for money will invalidate the currency. 
  • Having more currency should provide more learning options and access to better functionality. It has to be connected to learning anyway – you don’t need to introduce any other motivation. 

Before introducing currency, do research. You need to see if your target audience would respond to this kind of stimuli. Some learners, especially in the corporate environment, might find this motivation unsufficient. 

6. Reports and Statistics

Gamified e-learning platforms should offer users a way to track their success. The easiest way to approach this is to break down the workload by levels. Users will be able to see their statistics for each passed level, track how much time one level takes, and improve efficiency. 

Additionally, some platforms enable comparison with other users. Learners receive messages like “You performed better than 98% of users”. Grammarly, a platform for spell-checking, brings education to their content marketing by sending reports with the most common mistakes and tracking monthly progress. 

Most importantly, statistics should be private, unless the user agrees to publish them. If you want to track the efficiency of your employees’ learning, you need to notify them right away. By default, statistics should be used to help users improve, not for judgment and evaluation. 

Benefits of Gamification in eLearning

playing console games at home

After you implemented a gamified e-learning platform, you can expect to get the following results. 

  • Higher motivation  employees and students will spend more time learning. It can be reflected in metrics like “time spent in the application”, passed levels, and curriculum progress. 
  • Better efficiency  with reporting functionality and PIAs, you can built-in documentation system into your platform. After gamification implementation, you will likely see a huge spike in their productivity and reduced stress
  • Practical applications  uses will be able to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life motivation. Likely, you will see improvements in their real-tome performance right away. 
  • Works for a different age  gamification methods work equally well for pre-school students and senior specialists. Based on natural instincts of competition and play, these strategies appeal to users across all age groups. 
  • Natural learning style gaming allows adapting to different methods of grasping information. You can integrate visual, audience, and practical methods that fit the way humans process and perceive information. Unlike typical classrooms, gamified solutions offer mixed approaches. 

Bottom line

Implementing gamification in e-learning is an improvement with both short-term and long-term benefits. You are able to track the increase in motivation and efficiency right away. Most importantly, the service will help you work with new employees and help your team grow with your organization. Whether you are building an e-learning solution for a business or school, gamification is the best strategy of pushing the limits of a traditional learning system.

Written By
Alexey Kutsenko is the Head of Digital Marketing of DDI Development company. He is experienced in the development of the marketing strategy for companies in different industries. He knows how to do the right marketing and watches all current marketing and industry trends.

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