Gamification in elearning

Why use gamification in e-learning?

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.


elearning interested learner

How do you make content engaging?

Over two decades of creating, viewing, reviewing and learning from various types of online learning I am amazed to still find so much dead content. By dead content I mean content that just doesn’t have any energy, any life. That content which excites you when you hear the title and subject, but as you delve into it you find your interest waning. Suddenly you’re staring into space or shooting onto facebook to see what kitten videos people are posting.

To me it seems crazy that anyone is still producing content that kills the learning experience. Back in the 1990s there might have been an excuse – technology wasn’t what it is and the tools just weren’t there to build all the interactions and perhaps enough research hadn’t been shared around on how to engage learners in your writing style and course structure. But we are well into the 21st century so there are no excuses other than ignorance or laziness – in fact we can really just say laziness as there is so much information available to perspective instructional designers that ignorance can only exist as a result of laziness.

But hey – who isn’t lazy from time to time? For that reason I am going to present a few basic ideas on how you can make your content engaging. Here goes…

Make your Content Visually exciting

Look at the medium you are delivering via – the web. So, you are not writing a book, so why would you only focus on the text? I see so much content that is well written but the authors have ignored design. They may have images in the course but they are instantly recognisable generic stock art. Please people – stop it with the stock art, stop it with the pointless motivational pictures that can accompany any piece of text. Just stop it! The graphics in a course are as important as the text. They are a means to convey the concept in a different way to appeal to learners who may have difficulty understanding the text, and to enforce the concept for those that do. A consistent flow of images through a course helps engage the student, telling a parallel visual story to the narrative in writing. Don’t think of e-learning content as purely writing – get a good designer (ideally a good illustration background) and perform storyboards along with the instructional designer/content writer. Show the text of the course to the designer and let them suggest fonts, colours and where to use bold for more visual appeal. This can change the whole presentation of a course and have a huge impact on making it more engaging.

Use Relevant Stories and Scenarios in your Content

To keep the student engaged you want to get their emotions evolved. Think back to a book that really excited you. That’s what I mean – a good story draws you in, your emotions get involved, you are excited. What is going to happen next? How will the main character fare in the end? That’s it – you’re hooked!

You need to have stories and scenarios that your audience can relate to. That last point is vital –  “that your audience can relate to”. In most cases you will have a general idea of the learners who will study a course, and your job is to map the scenarios to ones they may have experienced, make the characters in your story be characters your learners will know. Use the story to show the real life benefits of the lesson. Don’t force a lesson into a story that doesn’t fit it either. I have seen the same story reused across lots of different content where it didn’t work. I’ve no idea why this same scenario was reused so much, but assume it was in some well read book on learning ideas or perhaps part of a university course on e-learning. Come up with your own ideas, and nurture them until they are as engaging as a crime novel.

Provide Good feedback

Your task is to teach, not to judge. When you ask questions in online learning content the aim is to get the learner to learn. So why is it that in course after course I review that I am presented with “That is incorrect”? You do need to tell me the answer is incorrect but that is the bare minimum. The next step is to tell me what the right answer is. What you really need to do is go the whole way and meet the learner with not just the right answer, but a full and thorough explanation not only of why the correct answer is correct, but also why the incorrect answer is incorrect.

This seems like such a simple delivery, yet very few e-learning content producers actually do it. It is engaging the learner, not abandoning m when they have stumbled. Ensure that when you build your content you provide useful feedback to both correct and incorrect learner submissions that are evaluated.

Be interactive

Remember you are making e-learning, not writing a book. You have a wide variety of tools to add interactivity. Use them, and use a variety of them. It is easy to fall into the trap of using the same interactions again and again, just because you either have a good template or you know how to write it. Remember – you only have to build it once and it can be studied a thousand times. Don’t be lazy – be original. Keep the user clicking and thinking as well as reading. This is the key differentiation between book learning and online learning – interaction. It helps the user feel engaged if they play a part in the flow of the lesson. Keep that in mind as you work through your next course.

These are four ways to make your content engaging for the learner, but these are just the tip of the iceberg in e-learning strategy for engagement. I will write more on this topic in future posts. In the meantime please leave a comment about what you consider the best method of engaging learners.