A practical guide to gamification in elearning
16th July 2014
Gamification is a practice that’s gaining traction. It promises a better way of reaching learners and it works hand in hand with existing elearning teaching methods.
Simply put gamification involves using game thinking and mechanics in non-game contexts. In a general sense (and in an elearning context) gamification can have marked benefits on the learners themselves and the business too. The easiest way to envision it is by thinking of it as adding consequence to learning practices.
This means that if a learner does well they will be rewarded with points or some other form of ‘trophy.’ If however the learner fails an objective then some form of punishment is necessary. Effectively your learning platform is attempting to ensure that learners are studying and developing knowledge on the desired teaching outcome.
Gamification positively affects learner’s levels of:
This is because the learner feels and can clearly see that he or she is headed towards a definable goal. It’s not only the learner however that can be affected positively by this practice, it’s also true that elearning methods are completely reshaped by gamification.
This is down to the fact that elearning is already a very different approach to traditional lesson and teaching plans. Gamification changes this new and innovative practice even further. Now learners can actively contribute to their learning and with a system of rewards or punishments the learner will want to do well and compete with his or her colleagues.
Tell a story
Great games and narratives have a hero at the centre – this is something that gamification can add to the learners experience as it’s their journey. As the protagonist in their own story the learner now has his or her own reasons and motivations for completing the learning outcomes.
Everyone loves a good story and if your learning methods provide a good enough platform, the learner themselves gets to tell that story. Create a sense of competition too between the different learners partaking in the online elearning course.
This coupled with the storytelling or narrative based learning approach will foster a greater sense of autonomy and consequence in the learner. Concentrate on devising a learning approach that follows a clear structure and you could provide not only gamified options but also narrative ones.
The Three-Act Structure
In film and TV, narratives are often structured around three acts (or five) but really what it means is there is a beginning, middle, and an end. This is a good structure for placing an elearning and gamified approach within.
In film, the first act (or the beginning) functions as an introduction (equilibrium), then there is what’s known as an inciting incident, or a disruption to the equilibrium. This is a model that could benefit gamified elearning.
Start with a generalised approach and allow the learner to confirm his or her existing knowledge. Then throw something completely new at them (inciting incident). From there it can lead to the ‘second act’ otherwise known as the plan. This will be the point where the learner understands the desired outcomes and starts working towards them.
Similar to the first act in film, the second act also has an inciting incident but this time it’s known as a turning point. This could be utilised within your elearning approach to provide learners with a disruption to their learning methods. Effectively, a business could use this approach to ramp up the difficulty and provide learners with a narrative based approach.
The third act is generally considered as the conflict stage so utilise this too. Provide learners with a clear sense of competition at this point and foster a sense that everything is on the line. Ensure however that whatever approach you take fulfils (or intends to fulfil) your key learning objectives.
Simply put, you could create scenarios wherein learners have to make choices – there are consequences for each choice. You can relate this to your learning objectives.
Give the learner time to think and process the information
Gamification works best when the learner has time to think and understand that the consequences belong to their own actions. It’s also worthwhile to provide the learner with rewards for good learning practices. This could be in the form of ‘levelling up’ or just a simple point based arrangement.
Gamification provides increased user retention in terms of both knowledge and the desire to continue using the training platform. The aim really is that users retain the information being taught and then apply it in their real lives. Then those users come back to a given elearning platform to further develop their knowledge and once more apply it in their own lives.
If this pattern repeats itself you’ll know that your platform is not only successful but also working to your employees and your business’ advantage.
Social interaction and competition
Achieving a projects learning goals can be conducted through leveraging the benefits of game mechanics – particularly in terms of social interaction and competition.
Provide a well-integrated and social experience and your business will see marked benefits. No one wants to play games. Keep it social and competitive and make it a communal experience.
Simulation can aid learning
Teaching learners transferable skills is recommended when adopting gamification within an elearning scenario. A business can simulate problems and allow the learners to present the solutions further solidifying their knowledge. The learner can be rewarded too through a competitive scoring system (pit them against their friends and colleagues) and incorporate social elements.
Gamification can have long lasting effects on the learners themselves. The benefits can stick with them for some time after the learners have finished their training. And by using the elearning model those learners can revisit the training at any point they want to refresh their knowledge.
Transform the learning process
So far we’ve focused on the benefits of elearning for the learner themselves and how gamification can aid end users. However it’s also worth noting that gamification can transform the entire learning process itself. Rather than dry, classroom controlled learning methods the learner can compete, play with friends, and learn at their own rate.
Gamification is an overarching term and really it should be considered as a set of potential strategies, tactics, or products for learning. Really gamification will work best (or be at its most effective) when it enables significant and positive change to meet the needs of a specific learning environment.
Author: Kate Pasterfield, Creative Director at Sponge.