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Gamification in e-learning: What is it? Examples and benefits

The term “gamification” has gained more traction in recent years as a must-have content strategy. But what is gamification exactly and what does gamification add to e-learning? We’ll cover everything from the definition and benefits of gamification to some gamified learning examples and tips for incorporating it into your own e-learning content.

Alexandra Hemmer

What is gamification in e-learning?

Simply put, gamification is the idea of adding game-like elements to a non-game environment, like leaderboards, point systems, different levels, and badge awards. The intention behind gamification is to make something more appealing by enabling users to have fun. When done right, it can significantly improve user engagement.

Take an airline’s frequent-flyer program, for example. The more customers fly, the more miles they earn, which they can then exchange for various rewards like in-flight purchases or even free flights. Customers who continue to prove their loyalty over time can also expect rewards in the form of membership upgrades, like moving up from the Silver to Gold tier at Delta Airlines. It’s like reaching a new level in a video game: the higher the performance, the more the participant gets out of the program.

But what does gamification add to e-learning? In an e-learning strategy, these game-like elements can be added to enhance a learner’s experience. Leadership boards, for example, can add an element of friendly competition in e-learning courses, motivating learners to outperform fellow learners, all while getting them to work toward their learning objectives. Awarding badges to those who complete their goals can also incentivize learners with recognition for their efforts. It also offers a fun way to track learner progress.

But keep in mind that gamifying your e-learning content isn’t about creating an outright video game. Instead, the goal is to strategically add game-like elements to make your e-learning content more engaging.

Gamification e-learning examples

Let’s look at some real-life examples of gamification in e-learning:

Achievement badges in Duolingo

It’s long been said that practice makes perfect, but consistently practicing a new skill takes time and effort. This is where gamification can help. Duolingo, the language mobile app, has made the complex task of practicing a new language more fun by awarding learners with “Wildfire” badges. Learners earn their first Wildfire badge by using the app three days in a row. They’ll earn their second Wildfire badge after completing a seven-day streak, and then their third upon completing a 14-day streak. The highest level is 10, which rewards learners that have successfully been using the app every day for an entire year.

Earning these badges may seem like a small gesture, but they offer learners affirmation and recognition. Having something to show for their accomplishments not only allows learners to be proud of their progress but can also inspire them to continue developing their skills further.

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Learning to code with puzzles

Coding skills are increasingly in demand across various industries. But for eager learners with no prior experience, learning to code can seem as intimidating as picking up a new language. That’s what JavaScript education site, Grasshopper, aims to solve through short, fill-in-the-blank puzzles.

At the end of a course, Grasshopper users are required to complete a quick puzzle game that requires them to recall what they just learned. For example, after learning how to code a few basic colors, learners might then be asked to apply their new knowledge by drawing red, white, and blue stripes to create the French flag. But instead of having to type out the correct code from scratch, they can simply fill in the blanks of an incomplete string by choosing the correct answer from a set of responses. This exercise helps breaks JavaScript down into bite-sized building blocks.

As an added aid, learners are also shown an example of what the finished French flag should look like, giving them a clear end goal to work toward — just like a real-life jigsaw puzzle does.

Puzzles offer a fun and approachable way to learn a new skill as complex as JavaScript. By turning skill assessments into games, any pressure to produce flawless results is automatically reduced.

How to use gamification in e-learning and corporate training

You can also use gamification for learning & development. Here are some examples of gamification in corporate training to inspire your own program:

  • Earning badges for professional skills training

    As mentioned previously, gamified assessments can take the pressure off mastering a new skill. When designing an e-learning course to train your colleagues on new professional skills, consider adding badges to award your learners for completing their objectives. This not only adds a fun way to symbolize employees’ accomplishments but also gives them something to be proud of upon completing a course.

  • Employee onboarding missions

    Employee onboarding programs often come with a lot of information about the company, which can be overwhelming for new hires to take in all at once. Instead of creating multiple online courses for them to complete, however, consider turning them into various onboarding “missions” to complete.

    For example, in their first week, new hires might embark on their first mission by taking an e-learning course on company policies. One month in, their second mission might be to complete a course on getting to know key members of the organization. As an incentive, you can also offer badges upon the completion of each mission, making the ultimate mission to earn every badge in the onboarding program.

  • Simulations for compliance training

    Gamification can even liven up something as formal as mandatory compliance training. To encourage learners to engage with the content, consider taking them through simulations where they need to make decisions based on the company’s code of ethics. You can also include a scoreboard to track how many questions they’ve answered correctly, which can act as a motivator to continue the course.

These gamified learning examples are just some suggestions of ways you can add gamification to corporate training. While you likely won’t be adding gamified elements to every online course you create, there might be more opportunities to do so than you may realize.

Learn what a corporate training program is to better understand how you can implement gamification in your organization.

Or if you’re ready to set up your program, download our free corporate training template.

Benefits of gamification in e-learning

By now, it’s probably clear that there are several benefits of adding gamification to learning programs in the workplace. But to review them, here are three key advantages of gamifying your e-learning content:

  1. Gamification makes learning less intimidating and more fun

    Presenting your e-learning course as a fun activity rather than as an added task to someone’s backlog can reduce any sense of intimidation that comes with picking up a new, unfamiliar skill. Though the stakes for passing or failing the course could be high (depending on the subject), gamification can help ease any pressure to produce error-free results and, instead, empowers learners to give it their best shot.

  2. Gamified learning increases motivation to learn

    Aside from making learning more approachable, gamification can frame a course as an opportunity to have fun at work. As we’ve covered earlier, leadership boards or scoreboards can add a sense of friendly rivalry between coworkers, encouraging employees to perform well on the course just for the sake of having fun. When learning feels less like work and more like fun, it can turn from something people need to do into something they want to do.

  3. Gamification improves your e-learning content’s user experience

    Finally, when done right, gamification can enhance your e-learning content’s user experience. By adding opportunities for learners to interact with the course rather than have them passively take the content in, they’re more likely to engage with the material and form meaningful takeaways.

The importance of gamification in e-learning continues to grow. In an increasingly digital age, knowing how to leverage game-like elements can strengthen your ability to create quality e-learning content while allowing you to keep up with changing learner needs.

If you’re ready to incorporate gamification in your course check out the best 4 e-learning authoring tools to get started today.

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About the author

Alexandra Hemmer is a copywriter at Easygenerator. Originally from Singapore, she spent her higher education years in the U.S. where she kickstarted a career in content marketing and journalism. She currently resides in the Netherlands, embracing her Dutch-Indonesian roots.

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