How gamification improves eLearning engagement

How gamification improves eLearning engagement

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eLearning course creators and trainers are always looking to improve engagement with learners.

And they need to. It’s estimated that global losses to businesses from inadequate training cost $13.5m per year per 1000 employees.

Even when you have the very best content, there’s always a concern that learners will not fully engage, especially when it comes to some of the “drier” subjects such as, for example, statutory compliance.

It’s as if learners have a radar system that blocks out what they perceive as “less interesting” content even though it’s vital to an individual and an organisation’s ability to operate in a particular sector.

And it’s not just about those subjects that learners may not be so interested in. Even where the subject matter gets the pulse-rate climbing, learners may not be as fully engaged as you would like.

More eLearning is taking place remotely, with remote working increasing by 138% since the pandemic’s start.

Yet, learners must squeeze their eLearning into their working day, often demoting it to secondary importance, as they are deluged with a whole host of other distractions such as messaging apps, chat, emails, Teams calls etc.

This is one of the key findings in the 2022 Learning Performance Benchmark: “While employees value the isolation that working remotely offers – providing them with the space to learn, free from distractions – they are struggling to make time for learning.”

So, it’s the job of the trainer and course content creator to get under a learner’s radar and ensure that your learning engages and resonates.

One such way is to use gamification.


What is gamification?

Gamification is the process of taking the principles of game mechanics and applying them to a non-game context.

As I’m sure you will have observed, gamers can be transfixed for hours at a time in what is, in most cases, an enjoyable experience.

Their brains are totally absorbed, and their concentration levels are focused on the tasks at hand as their minds are transported into a new world.

Gamification allows us to take some of the key elements from the world of online gaming and apply these to improve the eLearning experience.

And we’re not just talking about the latest Super Mario or Grand Theft Auto.

We can also borrow from the gamification aspects of some of the oldest game show formats.

Quiz shows such as Countdown, talent competitions such as “Britain’s got Talent”, knowledge-based competitions such as Mastermind, and sporting activities such as The Olympic Games – all have elements that can be applied to an eLearning context.

Gamification in its broadest context can significantly improve learner engagement irrespective of the learning subject content.

The challenge is knowing how to pick those features and elements that can work in an eLearning context.


Drawing the critical gamification features for eLearning


As experienced eLearning content creators, we’ve examined the standard features and elements from the gaming world that we believe can be used to gamify eLearning content.

We’ve identified eight of these that, when used in the right way, can bring to life the learning experience:

  1. Earning Points

As learners progress through a particular training programme, they earn points.

  1. Badges of honour

These are virtual or physical tokens awarded to denote and recognise a level of personal achievement. They provide a positive reminder to the learner of how much they have achieved and how much more there is to go.

  1. Leaderboards

This promotes a competitive element across your learning community. It can feature points earned or badges awarded and pit people against each other to improve their position among their peers.

One caveat – it works well where you have a highly competitive cohort – for example, when training salespeople who are used to being measured against their colleagues and peers. However, it can hurt other audiences who may feel exposed and vulnerable to such a visible performance display.

  1. Levels

Online gamers are used to progressing through levels that denote their skills and performance. Each level comes with a new set of content and challenges that constantly pressure learners to improve. It appeals to a person’s self-worth and keeps interest levels high.

  1. Battles

One of the oldest gaming tactics around, battles can be based, for example, on player vs player quizzes with a sudden death or league table format. These are ideal when you have a highly competitive learner community.

  1. Scorecards

These work well as a summary of all a learner has achieved. All the learner data relating to points earned, badges awarded, levels reached, leader board position and battles won can be broken down and made available.

  1. Time-related challenges

Sometimes referred to as “streaks”, these are time-related challenges relating to an activity. For example, a learner may have three days to complete three separate tasks.

  1. Rewards

“And points mean prizes!”

There’s no greater motivation than to turn performance measurement into tangible benefits. Many organisations allow learners to “cash in” their points via a catalogue containing a choice of personal items, vouchers, holidays or even money. Other ways to motivate learners would be by contributing to an individual’s favourite charity or gaining additional holiday entitlement.


How does gamifying eLearning benefit organisations


1. Learner engagement is boosted.

It is proven that learning releases hormones that make learners feel happier. The more enjoyable the training, the more engaged learners become, increasing their motivation to learn. Experts in gamification have established a link between positive emotions and changes in behaviour.

2. Learners to have more control over learning outcomes

Gamers like to tailor the experiences to suit their style and needs. Mechanics such as levels, choice of avatars, and even selection of storylines make for a more personalised learning experience. Having the ability to create a branched level structure help learners focus on more relevant training content.

3. Gamification helps to create a shared learning culture

Sharing the learning experience with peers and colleagues creates a community of interest. Gaining feedback from fellow workers reinforces relationships and trust. Friendly competitive score carding and comparing earned points and rewards instil a shared sense of purpose.

4. Gamification shortens the feedback cycle.

Gamification means that as a trainer or content creator, you can see very quickly and easily the extent that learners are engaging with your learning content. A simple look at the leader board or the points earned will tell you where and how you need to refine content to improve the learner experience.

5. Gamification is shown to change learning behaviour

Gamification, including awarding points, rewards and badges, reinforce the commitment of individual learners to maintain and complete learning and development programs over a more extended period. Research indicates that gamification is twice as influential in changing learner behaviour than non-gaming tactics.


6. Gamification needs to be linked to an overarching learning and development strategy.

Gamification alone won’t shift the dial when delivering effective eLearning.

It needs to be a part of a much more effective strategy complementing other methods to effectively deliver learning and development in the flow of work.

And it won’t cover up inadequacies in an L&D strategy such as:


  • Poor quality content
  • Confused messaging
  • Over complex gaming mechanics
  • Lack of alignment to the corporate and business strategy
  • Uninteresting visualisation
  • Lack of supervision and learner support
  • Lack of relevance to an individual learner’s interests and needs
  • Lack of relevance to an organisation or department’s L&D needs


However, when gamification is an integral part of a corporate learning culture, it can enhance learning engagement and radically transform how individuals and organisations use L&D as part of their growth strategy.

Omniplex Learning helps many global organisations integrate gamification into their eLearning content delivery. Please get in touch if you want to find out how we can help you.


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