7 Benefits of Gamification in eLearning

Sarah Flesher

It's easy to say that life would be better if it were more fun, but how does it work in reality? When you're looking for ways to drive employee engagement and motivation, gamification may be your answer. Gamification increases productivity levels and increases awareness of co-workers' goals and tasks. How does gamification in eLearning increase motivation and productivity?

This article reviews 7 benefits of the twin concepts of gamification and game-based learning (GBL) in eLearning.

What is gamification?

First, let's clarify. Gamification is the use of game mechanics, the things that make games work, in non-game contexts. You can learn about game mechanics in the article LMS Gamification: 7 Key Game Mechanics.

Gamification can mean awarding points for completing an online module or leveling up by completing prerequisites that unlock new learning opportunities. Game-based learning, on the other hand, is when the learning content is integrated into a game and learners learn by playing. Check out the article Top 6 Features of Successful Game-Based Learning to find out more about what makes game-based learning work.

1. Makes eLearning Fun

I was working on a project for early childhood educators recently, and a key theme was that young children learn best through play. I started wondering about older children, and even adults - do we lose the ability to learn as we play? A study from Studies in the Education of Adults reached the conclusion that yes, adults do learn through play.

Gamification and especially game-based learning take advantage of this most natural way to learn, combining education and entertainment. Gamification in eLearning makes the learner experience fun and engaging. Gamification is a creative and interactive way to learn new skills.

2. Enhances the Learning Experience

Gamification in eLearning offers the opportunity for learners to engage with content in an effective, informal learning environment. If learners get excited about learning, they are more likely to retain information.

A leading researcher, Malcolm Knowles, identified four principles of andragogy. Andragogy is the study of methods and principles of adult education. Three of his principles are integral features of game-based learning.

1. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities

Scenario games are a major component of game-based learning. In them, learners progress through a scenario, making decisions and taking actions as they go. They succeed by demonstrating the behaviors or skills desired by the game designer.

This allows adults to learn through their experience with the game, without the undesirable consequences that so often occur when learning through life experience.

2. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life

Games can put learners in realistic employment situations, allowing them to see and experience the connection between their learning and their job. Learners can practice real-life situations and challenges in a safe environment, which leads to a better knowledge retention.

3. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented

Again, the foundation of scenario games is learning by problem solving. Instead of being presented with a book of content, learners encounter a problem and must decide how to respond to it.

3. Increases Learner Motivation

One of the biggest benefits of eLearning gamification is that it enhances learner motivation in several ways:

  • Makes learning fun: Learners are far more likely to engage with an enjoyable learning program than a boring one.
  • Creates competition: Many people are motivated by competition. Both gamification and GBL provide opportunities for competition with others for high scores, rewards and leaderboard rankings.
  • Encourages cooperation: Learners in a gamified eLearning program can work toward group goals or cooperate with a team in a competition. In game-based learning, they can work together and discuss tactics for progress.
  • Gains and displays status: Leaderboards, badges and other gamified indicators of achievement feed the natural human desire for status.
  • Encourages intrinsic or self-motivation: Gamification rewards benefit the intrinsically-motivated learner by acknowledging their work or progress.

Rewards also provide extrinsically-motivated learners with a reason to participate in the learning program, giving them the opportunity to discover the other advantages of learning and develop intrinsic motivation.

4. Gamification Provides a Framework for Microlearning

Microlearning is eLearning delivered in small nuggets that take about 3-5 minutes to complete. It's very attractive to modern learners, especially millennials, and to modern businesses. Instead of focusing on macro goals, gamification focuses on micro goals. These small learning nuggets help both productivity and motivation. When learners focus on small learning nuggets, they are more engaged in their work and tend to work harder.

One risk with microlearning is that it can seem fragmented, with scattered pieces that don't come together. Gamification can provide a unifying framework for microlearning segments. The levelling-up mechanic that unlocks new material after prerequisites are completed is a good way to create learning pathways that tie segments together. Other gamified rewards can be tied to important segments that learners are less likely to seek out on their own. Gamification is an intriguing and motivating way to provide structure for this type of eLearning.

Check out the article 10 Reasons to Adopt Microlearning in Your Online Training to learn more about the reasons to adopt microlearning in your training programs.

5. Instant Feedback Facilitates Learning

Feedback is a necessary component of learning. After all, you're never going to improve if you can't find out what you need to do better or find out how to do it better.

Gamified courses are good for providing instant feedback to learners on their understanding of the course content. Learners can instantly see how they are doing and what they need to improve. If you do it right, you get the points or the badge. By using leaderboards, learners can see how they ranked compared to other employees in the organization.

Game-based learning also provides a variety of feedback. If you forget your hardhat, a brick falls on your head. Game-based feedback is not only instant, allowing for effective learning, but should also be realistic and memorable.

6. Effects Behavioral Change

One of the biggest challenges of any eLearning initiative is ensuring that it results in actual changes in behavior. It's one thing to make sure all your employees know what regulatory requirements affect them, but it's quite another to make sure they meet those requirements at all times.

GBL scenario games bring the work environment into the learning activity. Learners have to practice the behaviors you want them to demonstrate as they work through the scenario, increasing the likelihood they'll continue with those behaviors later.

Gamification, on the other hand, can be used to extend the learning environment into the workplace. Employees receive rewards first for learning how to do things, and then again for actually doing them the way they learned.

7. Improves ROI

Since gamification increases learners' engagement, awareness and productivity, it improves performance in the organization. Workers can apply what they learned immediately on the job. It will help you prove the ROI of your eLearning programs.

Conclusion

In this article, we summarized 7 key benefits of gamification in eLearning. What's next? If you want to engage learners, why not integrate gamification in your next eLearning course? There are multiple ways to build engaging eLearning courses. Gamification is definitely one solution.

Gamification and game-based learning catch the learner's attention. They're effective with adult learners, provide reasons for engaging with the content and a better experience with that content, all while increasing the likelihood that learners will apply what they learn. They're the tools you need to build a program with a winning ROI.

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Sarah Flesher

Sarah is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems and is currently completing a PhD in Educational Technology. Her research focuses on implementing competency-based learning systems in all types of organizations. When she doesn't have her nose in a book you can find her at the gym, on the ice, on the ski hill, drinking wine or in a coffee shop … with her nose in a book.