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Partnering up Gamification with eLearning

Adults like the online eLearning experience, and according to one study by the U.S. Department of Education, learners do better online than in face-to-face instruction. That’s good to know, especially when you have a group of adult workers who need to learn new skills, but you don’t want to bear the costs and time involved in classroom learning.

eLearning Works Well, No Matter What the Subject

The previously mentioned study did a lot of meta-analysis – using the results of other studies to find common conclusions. No matter how the online vs. face-to-face studies were conducted or whatever variables were included, the results were pretty much the same. Online learning turned out to be very effective no matter what the subject areas and what the differences were among the students.

Adults Like the Control

When adult learners get control of the way they interact with the online training media, they learn better. There’s something about the moving around in the program, taking charge of the pace and doing self-checks that seems to imprint the learning better.

Why Gamification Ups the Learning Game

Then there is the added advantage of incorporating gamification into eLearning. Gamification is a term coined by a British programmer in 2002. Essentially it is the insertion of computer game elements into contexts or applications that are not games. Gamification includes all the characteristics everyone likes about games and, in the context of learning, it makes the process more rewarding and enjoyable.

Engagement Is Key

In his eLearn Magazine article Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning, video game designer Rick Raymer acknowledged, “the primary reason to apply gamification to eLearning is to engage learners.” Engagement is simply gaining and keeping the attention and participatory efforts of the learner. When a learner is engaged in gamification, such as receiving badges for achievements and other similar progress/reward feedback, learning tends to stick.

What Gamification Needs to Include

Raymer describes the game mechanics that help to make e-learning more engaging. They include:

  • Incorporating goals and objectives in the overall structure of the eLearning experience: The best eLearning material offers an experience that minimizes fatigue and has short-, medium- and long-term learning goals.
  • Providing frequent feedback to the learner: The gamification element has to be designed so that the learner feels smart and empowered. The navigation and user interface needs to lead the user to the next steps easily.
  • Measuring progress: The best gamification design lets the learners know how much progress they have made. The most effective way to do that is through graphics – charts, graphs, progress bars and so on. Those progress graphics are most effective when they show up right when the learner masters a current goal or level.
  • Upgrading the learner’s avatar (character): People everywhere have the urge to collect things. Adding character upgrades, trophies and accessories is a particularly effective way to measure learning progress.
  • Motivating through peer support and competition: Approval and group status are powerful motivators. Allowing peers to know when a learner achieves a goal or higher status adds value to the previously mentioned progress measurements.
The Most Effective Use of Gamification in E-learning

The key to incorporating gamification into e-learning is to concentrate on user retention. Gamification enhances the learning experience and imprints the new knowledge so that the learner:

  • Remembers the material
  • Applies the new knowledge it to the job
  • Returns to learn more