June 25, 2018

The Influence and Effectiveness of Gamification in eLearning

Written by
Shel Gatto

Gamification has grown into a driving force in the world of eLearning. The term refers to game-inspired elements added to training or educational programs. They can be as simple as a point system with a leaderboard or more complex with badges, activities, prizes, and rules of play. More systems are adopting this approach or improving the technology they already have to give learners a better experience. Gamification is an effective tool and one that has helped shape eLearning as we know it today.

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Why Gamification?

There are numerous benefits that come with gamification. And many can have very real and lasting effects on a person’s ability to learn and retain information. The first, and most obvious, benefit is that it makes training fun. Playing interactive games, earning points, and awarding badges sound far more exciting than watching training videos or listening to a lecture. That excitement can translate into motivation and an eagerness to participate. Gamification can also:

Hold the Learner’s Attention

Holding the learner’s attention is integral in the battle against failure in the classroom. Gamification increases engagement by providing incentives for learners to pay attention and complete activities. The added reward, even if it is intangible, can encourage better listening and observation. When the learner is focused, they are more likely to absorb the information presented to them.

Improve Knowledge Retention

Initial absorption is important, but what most educators want is long-term knowledge retention. The basis of gamification, or making the learning process fun, has been proven to have a positive impact on retention. Dopamine Inc. founder and author of Gamification by Design Gabe Zichermann referenced a study that revealed making work fun increased employee’s skill retention by 40%. Zichermann also explained that “If you can make something fun and include notions of play, you can get people to do things they otherwise might not do.”

Incorporates Real-Life Problem Solving

Multiple choice, true-false, and essay questions do not always create conditions that promote the use of problem-solving skills. At least, not to the degree that may be necessary while on the job or in a real-life situation. Gamification provides more ways to put the learner in a situation visually and mentally, that will encourage better problem solving. It can also improve the speed at which learners find effective solutions through practice.

Presents a Working Environment with No Risk

Some professions come with a high risk for new hires. Even if the working environment doesn’t come with major hazards, there are always mistakes that could be made that cause profit loss. Gamification lets employers and educators simulate these situations so that the trainee can operate within them with no real risk. Virtual spaces can be created with impressive detail and will help the learner become comfortable while perfecting their skills before they enter the real thing.

Provides Automatic Feedback

Gamification lets users know exactly how they did instantly. They will earn or miss points, complete or fail an activity, or gain other insight based on data collected during participation. Skill or knowledge gaps will be easy to identify, making the learner and their instructor far more agile. Less time is wasted figuring out which areas need improvement. In some cases, the system may be equipped to automatically recommend a supplementary or past activity that the learner can complete to catch up.

A New Era of Gamification

Gamification features keep getting better and better. More developers are applying greater versatility and creativity to improve what’s out there. Leaderboards are becoming more social and rewards more varied. Some businesses have also incorporated gamification into their marketing efforts. Fab.com, for example, created a customer referral program that awards currency that can be spent in their store. The Google forum awards status to “Top Contributors” who earn a trip to the Top Contributor Summit.

Even companies like Netflix are toying with gamification. The streaming video company started testing a new gamified streaming experience for children that includes patches earned for watching certain shows.

Virtual reality is a tool that is more obtainable and advanced now than it has ever been. Gamification has already incorporated digital environments for users to navigate and work in. Adding VR can take things even closer to real-life, hands-on learning. Companies like VR Immersive Education create virtual and augmented reality learning environments that, when combined with gamification, could completely change the way we learn in the future.

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Who is Using Gamification?

There’s no denying the power of gamification. It is everywhere. Most learning management systems include it in some form. Chances are if you can name a company with a significant internet presence, it has probably used gamification at some point in its training program. Others are also pushing the gamified envelope, including:

Gamified CMIS Course at Southern Illinois University

Connie Barber, PhD, teaches a systems analysis and design course that is a little different from what you would find at other schools. Barber explains that “One random team gets 150 XP (experience points) and the entire class must call me the system master.” A platform called Classcraft is used along with virtual environments. Junior CMIS major Shauna Yeager expressed her appreciation for the gamified class. “It gives me something to look forward to. I get on Classcraft every day so I can complete the next activity, just to get my 10 gold pieces and advance my avatar.”

Next-Gen Learning Company GamEffective Raises $21 Million

GamEffective is a next-gen learning company based in New York with a development center in Ra’anana, Israel. The team utilizes gamification and feedback to improve productivity, learning, and engagement in the workplace. The platform is used by some of the biggest companies in the world across 30 countries and six continents. Their Series B funding brought in $11 million, for a total of $21 million raised.

NYC Startup 1Huddle Raises $3 Million for Employee Training Platform

1Huddle combines mobile games with employee training. The platform engages users with immersive activities. Next-gen learning programs are already being used by organizations like Hyundai, ESPN, and Audible. 1Huddle works to eliminate boring standardized methods and replace them with faster, effective gamified solutions. The company’s most recent round of funding brought its total capital to $3.6 million.

How Much Gamification is Enough?

Gamification comes in all shapes and sizes. Choosing the right amount for a specific training program depends on the goals and needs of learners and trainers. According to Morgan McCall and the Center for Creative Leadership, the 70 20 10 model is an ideal formula to follow when training.

This model explains that the most effective learning comes from a mix of formal and informal methods. Around 70% should be experimental or learning from experience, while 20% should be social learning like collaboration, discussions, and interactions. Only 10% should come from formal learning, which would cover traditional training methods like studying a book or listening to lectures. Gamification can be used to enhance all three areas. It can also be implemented as a way to tie each format together with the other two.

Gamification creates a gateway to a better learning experience. It can be used in any industry and with any age group. Gamified features keep getting better, with more opportunities to put students in real-life situations or engage them through activities and point systems. This powerful tool is bringing more skills and information to more people across the world.

Shel Gatto is a writer for LMS.org. She has spent years exploring technology-related topics through freelance writing projects. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and beloved canine companions.