Gamification is the use of gaming concepts to drive engagement in non-gaming activities. Expanding that a little – computer game developers have spent decades looking at the psychology of how to draw players back again and again, how to keep them interested, and how to keep them engaged. The concepts behind this and the lessons learned about human behavior (behavioral analysis) are useful tools which can be applied to learning too.
The question I wish to address here is “Why should you use gamification techniques in eLearning?”
The simplest answer would be “Because it works!” but that would make for short reading so let me go a little deeper…
First, let us look at the issues we might have in our learning content, and then we can see if there is a solution in gamification methods for them.
Motivation: how can we keep the learner motivated to learn?
Continuity: how do we get learners to come back and finish their learning?
Engagement: How do we really engage our learners with our content?
Community: How can we stop the online learner feeling alone on their learning journey?
Learning is brilliant, we know that – you probably wouldn’t be reading this site if you didn’t believe that too. However, it can be boring, tiring and repetitive. One of our tasks is to keep our learners motivated. In a classroom, this may be by having a group chat, quizzes, prizes for best answers and so on. When you move online you have to work harder because it is easier for users to lose motivation – it is not a classroom where they will be marked absent, it is the internet where they can disappear from your site/content forever!
Courses tend to be broken into different sections, and a learners courses themselves are separate items that all too often come from different authors or even organizations. This brings a problem for continuity, but if we use scores that are accumalated across a series of lessons it creates a continuity flow through the courseware, and through different courses if the same scheme is run on a system.
Have you noticed how when you go to a shop or cafe and the staff engages in conversation with you that you are more likely to return? Well, the exact same is true of learning and learning platforms. If you create a dialogue with your learners they will come back. This dialogue is, at its most basic, clear feedback and instruction. Making this personal and relevant to the user is where you can make your learning stand out. We generally know a lot about our user – either through the details stored in the LMS or through their study to date.
Here is an example. Scenario: I am on the second assessment in a course and am being presented with an introductory message. My name (Paul) and Country (Spain) is stored in this SCORM LMS as is my score of 84% in the first assessment.
Standard message: Answer these questions to assess your knowledge of this subject. You must score 80% to pass.
Personal message: You’ve put in great work getting this far, now let’s check your knowledge to ensure you have taken it all in. If you score less than 80% we suggest you go back and review the content.
Gamified message: Great work so far Paul. You’ve finished your second module and it is time to see if you can improve on your last score of 84% in module one. 68% of learners in Spain get a better score in module two, you can too!
it is far better for the content to make it personal using the data we have available. Giving a comparison based goal will encourage the learner to try to score higher – and to do so they will need to study more, which achieves the key goal here: get the student studying and learning more.
Humans are social creatures, we do not like to be alone. This has always been a challenge for online education and self-study. You are there alone in a room, or even if others are in the room and studying the same learning content it is still just you. Alone.
You can solve this by creating a community – this may be a chat-room or forum, which you can gamify by adding points for the number of posts, the frequency of visiting or the length of posts written.
But why stop there – that is dealing with getting your learners talking but why not move it up a notch and have a scoring dashboard for these points? How about doing the same for learners scores and progress? It can be a great incentive if each student could see they are in the top scores in their virtual classroom. If you can configure your LMS to do so another option would be a progress related message to learners, something along the lines of – “You are 70% through your course. The class average is 78%, you can get there!”. The aim is to get learners to feel a connection with the learning, an inclusivity that will drive them to learn more and to interact with other learners and/or the learning system. Remember though – you are trying to help them learn, not create an addiction!
Gamification is a big buzzword these days, and the over gamification used in social media sites and solutions is creating a backlash against the concept. However, we are talking about the positive effects whereby gamification can be used to encourage self-improvement through learning. Just as we would use a television/video in the classroom, using points-based incentives or the other solutions described in this article is just making use of the tools available to facilitate enhanced learning. Go on – give it a go in your e-learning modules. Let us know how you get on, what works for you, and what doesn’t, in the comments section below.