eLearning Design

Gamification 101: How to gamify your eLearning



Gamification 101: How to gamify your eLearning

Gamification is a term that’s been bouncing around the digital learning industry for many years now. But still, there’s quite a bit of confusion about what it is, and what it isn’t.


What is gamification?

Let’s start with the basics. Andrezej Marczewski, author of ‘Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play’1 defines gamification as:

“The use of game design metaphors to create more game-like and engaging experiences.”

He also explains that game design metaphors are “lessons, elements and strategies from games, applied to non-game contexts.”

So, this doesn’t mean convert all your digital learning content into fully-fledged games. But it’s the art of taking gaming elements, that increase motivation, and adding them to your eLearning courses.


Why should I gamify my content?

Simply put: It improves learner achievement, retention, and most of all, enjoyment.

A 2015 study showed that if implemented properly, a “positive impact on the learning process can be achieved”2.

So, why should you gamify your content? Because it works.



How do I gamify my content?

There are several ways to gamify your content, so I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you:

Tell a story

In a recent blog I wrote for our digital design agency, Cursim, I spoke all about the art of storytelling in eLearning. But to summarise, storytelling allows learners to empathise and creates an emotional connection, fully immersing them in your content – a great way to apply gamification to your courses.


Race against the clock

All the best game shows have an element of time pressure in them. Think the cash builder round in ITV’s ‘The Chase’ or the countdown timer on ‘The Million Pound Drop’. Putting someone under time pressure not only gamifies your course but forces your learner to focus on the problem at hand.

Rewards and levels

Badges, leader boards and progress bars are some of the most common types of gamification in eLearning. This is for 2 reasons:

  1. It increases extrinsic motivation by creating a virtual economy between learners. Your learners want to ‘earn’ more by levelling up – even if what they earn is simply the pride of progression.
  2. Learners love feedback, and these rewards and levels are a symbol of that feedback. Rather than saying ‘well done’ you can reward your learner with a badge or medal – increasing the gamification in your course and grabbing learner attention.



Get social

We often consider social learning as something completed solely through our LMS. To an extend this is true, but the route of effective social learning is baked into the design of your courses. Create a points and rewards system (as mentioned already) that reports back to your LMS, dictating a public leader board or such like. This increases the enjoyment of completing content, by improving comradery in your teams – and creates a ‘social status’ for your learners to compete for.


Unlock your course

One of the best examples I’ve seen of gamification in eLearning was based on a map of a park. Each area of the park had different learning objectives and tasks. But what made this so fun was that I could go in any order I wanted to. If I wanted to ‘run’ over to the swings or the pond – I could! This simple touch made the course much more enjoyable to take.


Branch out

Branched scenarios are a great way of putting your learner in control and allowing them to author their own learner journey. Made up of three parts; the choice, the challenge, and the consequence: branched scenarios let learners see what will happen because of each move.

I’m the biggest fan of branched scenarios, especially when creating them with Storyline 360 and Vyond (you can check out my blog on that, here).



Set your learner a challenge to overcome. Unlike a usual quiz or knowledge check, this challenge may take more time, and involve multiple steps. It’s a sure-fire way to keep your learners’ attention, and to increase knowledge retention.



Certificates are the hard-earned proof of our work. They are a tangible piece of evidence of our skillset and are loved by learners. Though not the most exciting way to gamify your course, it’s a great way to increase intrinsic motivation in your learners.


So, now you know how to gamify your courses, what’s stopping you bringing game-like play into your eLearning content?



1 Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Gamification, Game Thinking & Motivational Design, Andrzej Marczewski, 2015.

2 The model for introduction of gamification into e-learning in higher education, Marko Urh, Goran Vukovic, Eva Jereb, Rok Pintar, 2015.

*People vector created by stories – www.freepik.com