Gamification: Does it really work?

What is Gamification?

There are essentially three critical aspects at the core of an excellent E-learning experience. Ultimately the goal is that the student comes away with new knowledge firmly in place and can confidently apply what they’ve learned in real life. But on the way, there are another couple of factors that make for a successful online training exercise. One is that the experience was engaging and enjoyable, and the other is that the learner is motivated to return and continue their learning journey. To tick all three boxes, the E-learning industry has increasingly embraced the idea of gamification when building courses and modules for students to follow. Not to be confused with game-based learning, gamification in online education is the idea that achievement is rewarded, and offers frequent and tangible ways that the user can see their progress. Gamification provides a reward, and with it, stimulates the desire to proceed to the next level.


Examples of Gamification

A robust Learning Management System, or LMS, is an ideal tool to deliver a training experience that offers gamification. Within E-learning modules, gamification might take the form of points to be collected as students complete tasks or questions, giving them goals or targets to reach. These points can be amassed to move onto higher levels, and as the user works through these, they can earn badges. Skill certification might be the end goal, but waypoints like badges, acquired as a reward for regular completion of lessons or modules can help people stay engaged with their final destination. Another element of gamification an LMS can offer might be leaderboards – a little friendly competition with fellow students in the form of universally viewable scores goes a long way to motivating people to stay on track. However, successful gamification in E-learning can also help students collaborate, as well as strive to succeed individually. Creating teams of users and asking them to earn points to break through to a higher level collectively is a gamification strategy that can bring people together while learning. Another way gamification can be brought into e-learning is through the look and feel of an online training module. Simulations of real-life scenarios can be great ways to teach people a new skill with no risk, and on another level, sound, colour, and moving image can raise dopamine, or ‘happiness hormone’ levels in users significantly. And this, in turn, builds toward a more enjoyable, engaging experience.

The Psychology of Gamification

The big idea behind adding gamification to E-learning experiences is to leverage the numerous ways we learn and can be encouraged to continue learning. Understanding key drivers, essentially the psychology of students as they engage with modules, is the best way to build successful gamification elements into online lessons.

It’s important to establish that not all learners are the same and strong gamification strategy takes this into account. Students are generally motivated in one of two ways – intrinsically or extrinsically. Intrinsic learning is driven by personal enjoyment in completing a task or module. These kinds of learners will get extra pleasure from an E-learning experience that includes gamification designed to get the user across the finish line, and enhances the satisfaction of a lesson completed. Extrinsic learners get their drive from external factors. Here, the carrot is praise or reward, rather than the work in completing module itself. For example, this could be a boost in points or a badge for getting through the task. Waypoints or leaderboards can help this latter kind of student strive for the next level and continue learning as they’re less likely than intrinsic learners to stay focused.

Sometimes, one individual might be both an intrinsic and an extrinsic learner depending on the topic at hand. Here, the value of gamification is to maximise the personal enjoyment of completing a task where the student feels comfortable and to build confidence through rewards in areas where they might struggle to engage.


Why is Innform Focusing On Gamification?

At Innform, we’re pretty keen on the inclusion of gamification in online learning. We’re focused on the future, on smarter ways to achieve goals, and so increased skill uptake twinned with cutting-edge tech seems like a strong way forward when it comes to getting results. Engagement with learning is everything when it comes to successful LMS usage, and it’s the same story when it comes to happy employees. While it might sound counter-productive to get your workforce to stop work and interact with a fun thing for a half-hour, you’re actually building their workplace skills and increasing their ability to do the job well. Think of gamification in E-learning as the Trojan horse that sneaks in all kinds of positive things like team cohesion, career satisfaction and improved self-esteem for staff.

How Gamification Helps With Corporate Training

Let’s be frank, words like ‘fun’ ‘engaging’ or ‘enjoyable’ aren’t the first you think of when it comes to corporate training. While companies that invest in their employees’ careers by offering them training tend to be viewed more positively by their staff, the form this training takes is sometimes seen as a hurdle rather than a morale-booster. Dull learning experiences make for a slower uptake of courses, abandoned modules, and in the end, staff possess fewer qualifications or skills. By introducing training, corporate culture is ultimately looking to boost productivity and collective success, but to get there, the road needs to be stimulating, rewarding and attractive for employees. Here’s where gamification in E-learning can help. Structuring lessons in a way that takes advantage of our natural impulses to socialise, learn and compete, as well as offering praise and reward will be far more likely to generate positive outcomes. Twinned with micro-learning – a rapid-series of short courses – gamification is a way to stimulate interest in corporate training and keep folks engaged. If lessons feel rewarding, then they also have the potential to be enjoyable.

The Common Elements of Gamification In LMS

Your Learning Management System is a great tool to roll out gamified learning and ensure everyone’s experiences are positive. For example, the use of a LMS with gamification support will ensure the process of gaining points, and mobility on leaderboard rankings is fair and seen to be fair across the board. We’ve already touched on the idea that gamification in training can lead to increased self-esteem, but some employees will react badly if they think they’re failing visibly. A great LMS will allow learners to attempt modules as many times as they want before they choose to make their scores known to their colleagues, giving users control over when they enter ‘the game’. For students unfamiliar with specific topics, you can let them build their knowledge and confidence by competing against themselves – say, their prior scores – before they debut among their peers and show their badge-earning skills. This kind of customisability in a LMS means feedback can be instant and automated too so that admins don’t need to monitor everything while users feel connected to their efforts continually. Another feature an LMS can offer in terms of gamification is community. Your Learning Management System can provide a forum space for learners, where co-workers can recognise achievements, and staff can chat and support each other in their learning experience. A purposely tricky puzzle might stump some learners, but those who’ve found a way to complete this level can share their techniques and gain respect while pushing a group forward.

Improving Elearning ROI With Gamification

When you’re looking to improve your E-learning ROI, gamification can provide several new routes to do this. A company with a healthy culture of learning will also involve its employees in the creation of courses. Listening to your potential learners in terms of gamification elements they’d like to engage with is one way to get things right. Are your employees a competitive lot? Very self-directed? Sociable? Constructing valuable training assets relies on understanding your target audience. For example, if the average age of your workforce is reasonably young, say mostly Millennials or Gen Z, then their grasp of apps, games, and tech is likely pretty sophisticated. This means you can roll out some pretty dynamic gamification to ensure their learning experience is engaging enough for them. Also, while very young employees might respond well to gamification that involves frequent feedback, older, more experienced students might find this irritating and just want the points already.


Aligning your gamification strategy with your employee/student demographic is one decisive way to boost your E-learning ROI. Still, another is to ensure your gamification style supports your training objectives. By taking a good look at exactly how a game-like element or game structure is beneficial to the task at hand, you’ll be offering a more substantial learning experience. Pilot gamified training modules and take notice of the response. You also might want to look at what authoring tools you’re going to use to make it – do you have the skill and expertise to deliver something of quality? And finally, the budget is a key concern. Remember, the more complex the gamification, the more costly. Is complexity going to be worth it in terms of the information your E-learners will retain?

Gamify With Purpose

One way to kick-start your E-learning with gamification built-in is to take a look at which courses or modules could use a little more excitement. Got anything that needs covering but is seen as a bit repetitive? Add game elements like points for speed and accuracy, and you might find employees enjoy competing with their peers in this same task. Take a look at what kind of results you’re after and introduce gamification that will guide everyone toward this result. Whether you’d like to engage a particular team with a new health and safety protocol or brush up existing skills quickly, there needs to be a purpose behind your choice of gamification style. ‘Winning’ might be a strong motivator for people to engage with a module, but learning and information retention has to be the top result!


A Word Of Caution

However tempting, it can be counter-productive to shoehorn game-like elements into every E-learning module. The idea is to increase interaction with training and boost enjoyment for users, but clumsy gamification choices can create confusing learning experiences. The end result might be frustration rather than fun which will pretty much guarantee training will tail off for many folks. Consider what a game-like inclusion to a course might add to it, and if you can foresee any negative outcome at all, it’s best to skip the gamification in that instance. Variety is also critical when building training courses and a highly competitive, or hectic gamified pace throughout might be too stressful or confrontational for some learners to stay on board with.

The Next Steps in Gamification

Gamification, as part of your LMS, has great potential to challenge, empower and retain learners. Motivation is at the heart of continued education in the workplace, and so any strategy you can use to increase this is worth employing. Well-placed, well-built gamification elements in online training modules can be invaluable tools. Computer games have come a long way since Pong, or the first (much-loved) Mortal Kombat in 90s video arcades, but our desire to play and master skills is hardwired. Likewise, technological leaps mean the variety of experiences E-learning can offer will no doubt grow. Still, there’s much to be said for fun, confidence-building exercises, thoughtfully aimed at building toward company objectives.