There’s a lot of talk about “gamification” in elearning. We know it’s on the rise. But is it here to stay or just a trend of the day?
Gamification is the integration of gaming principles and interactions into non-game platforms in effort to increase engagement, solve problems, and ultimately offer rewards. According to Rick Raymer’s article “Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning,” gaming mechanics are “rules that encourage users to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback.” Think achievements. Status. Levels and progression. (More on gaming mechanics here.)
A recent NPR story describes a gamified experiment in Sweden involving electronic speeding tickets. Instead of structuring the program around punishment and negativity, the so-called “speed-camera lottery” focuses on positive reinforcement.If you’re recorded driving at or below the speed limit, you may win some cash. Gamification can be a powerful way to influence behavioral change.
Gamification is also gaining traction in how we stay connected and obtain our goals in our day-to-day lives. If you’ve ever participated in Groupon, FourSquare, 43things, or any other number of social apps or platforms, you already know something about gamification:
- Play: What’s more natural than playing? It’s something we seem born knowing how to do, but often lose sight of as we grow older (and more serious). Playing is a healthy way to socialize and share connections with each other.
- Progress: People love to track their own progress and compete with others. You can fancify your avatar, collect bling, become “mayor” of this or that, or move up to different levels to reach your goals through gamification.
- Motivation: Gaming mechanics are inherently effective at motivating people to achieve their goals. For example, the Nike+ GPS iPhone app gives you feedback while you’re running (“You’re almost there! Keep at it!”) along with the option to post your progress to your facebook account.
- Achievement: Learners gain rewards such as badges, points, or titles that carry meaning for them. You might collect points to trade in for virtual or actual goods, or earn badges to display your status and gain peer recognition.
Most elearning experiences are designed to align to specific behavior modification objectives. We often incorporate characters, activities, and the opportunity to explore to make the experience fun and engaging. Therefore, it seems only natural that gamification is taking off in the elearning world.
Here are some ideas for adapting gamification principles into elearning:
- Design a clean, thoughtful UI: Learners should easily know what to do without prompts like “click next to continue” or having to figure out convoluted nav schemes.
- Ensure clear rules of play: Learners should know expected of them, including the overarching purpose of the learning experience.
- Tell a compelling story: Give learners a real reason to explore the course. Structure the experience with an intriguing challenge, climax and resolution. Include multiple characters if it makes sense for your story; they can help the narrative unfold.
- Include realistic, achievable tasks: Make sure the tasks are based in a context that makes sense for the learners.
- Provide incremental rewards: Keep learners engaged by providing rewards along the way, not just at the end of the course. Let learners customize their avatars, compare their progress against peers (if appropriate), and see how far they still need to go to complete the goals of the course.
What are your experiences with gamification in elearning? We’d love to hear your stories.