There’s no denying that gamification is a term that’s been kicking around the industry for some time now. But aside from netting you a few points at buzzword bingo, what does it actually mean?
Gamification is when you take elements that you usually come across in games. This might be things like point scoring, competition or risk and reward. You then apply those elements to other things – in our case, digital learning.
It doesn’t mean that you need to turn your course into one big game, though. That sort of approach would often be prohibitively expensive and time consuming. Luckily, there are simpler ways to utilise gamification.
Before I get to that, there is one killer question that needs to be answered: why bother at all?
In a word – engagement.
In my view, digital learning demands engagement in order for it to be successful. Unengaged learners might complete the course in order to tick a box, but they won’t learn anything. And if they’re not going to learn anything then you’ve got to question the point of the course in the first place.
There are lots of ways to make a digital learning course engaging. Gamification is only one of them, but when it’s done well, it’s brilliant!
In order to maximise the impact of gamification in your course, here are a few bits of advice:
1. Know your audience
If you work as part of an internal Learning and Development team, then you probably already have a good handle on who your audience are. Are there any game elements that will appeal to your audience more than others? For example, I used to work for a sales company – for that audience, the addition of a league table was a simple and effective bit of gamification. The bulk of the audience thrived on competition and being on top, so the league table really played into that.
2. Give them something unexpected
A lot of health and safety training I’ve seen is pretty dry. It therefore doesn’t take much to give the learners’ something unexpected. But get it right and the course becomes much more memorable as a result.
When we created our health and safety course for OpenSesame, we added an element of jeopardy to it. The learners collect items throughout the course, and then trade those items for lives as part of the end of course quiz. Run out of lives? Then the zombies get you! Now that’s something pretty unexpected in a health and safety course.
3. Make sure it fits your course
The inclusion of gamification needs to fit in with the rest of the course. It needs to add something to the learning experience rather than just being another hoop that your learner has to jump through in order to complete the course.
The gamification might be there to increase the engagement with your course, but it should aid rather than detract from your instruction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Glanville is a director and co-founder of Popcorn Learning Media; a multi-award winning digital learning agency based in the UK. Mark has worked within L&D for 20 years and held several senior positions within internal L&D departments before starting Popcorn.