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Oct 2017

Is gamification the real deal?

Blog posts

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

For the past few years 'gamification' has been a buzzword that’s on everyone’s mind. Across the board, organizations are trying to find ways to gamify their products and processes for both their external customers and internal teams to engage and retain users. And while there are times when it is an excellent enhancement to new or existing products or strategies, there are others when it may not be the most practical or necessary.

One of the biggest challenges that organizations face when trying to fit gamification into their processes - especially their elearning development - is that they’re simply trying to follow a trendy gimmick rather than implementing a useful tool to help learners retain information.

So, how can your organization make sure that it’s using gamification for good, and not gimmick? Read on!

Make sure there’s a purpose

First of all, it’s important that you aren’t just gamifying your learning for the sake of it. The purpose of any gamification in elearning should be, of course, that it’s relevant to the topic at hand. The addition of collecting points, achieving levels, or earning badges should be genuinely supportive of the goal of your learning initiative, not just an attempt to dazzle your learners with bright lights for the sake of keeping on trend.

One way to ensure that your on the right track would be to  consider adding games where there’s not necessarily a 'wrong answer,' and that it’s more of an exercise in decision-making - such as a simulation where a character is given two “right” answers, and each selection leads down a different path that ultimately culminates in the same favorable result.

Make it an integral part of your design

If you randomly drop a game into the middle of an elearning course about a new compliance regulation with no context, just for the sake of keeping your learners’ attention, you’ll mostly be met with confusion and hesitation. However, if you make your learners aware of the upcoming challenges up front, and inform them that correct answers to quizzes and puzzles will land them on a leaderboard or have some other quasi-tangible reward, they’ll be much more apt to pay attention throughout the duration of the course so that they can collect their points along the way. After all, one of the benefits of gamification is that competition inherently motivates people - even if they wouldn’t necessarily identify as the competitive type. People want to do their best when they know something - points, badges, recognition - are at stake.

Keep it fun

The thing about leaderboards though, is that their entire purpose is to show people how they’re stacking up against their peers. You don’t want to suddenly create an environment of intense competition or hostility, and you certainly don’t want people to think that their jobs are at stake or their performance is being critically judged because they didn’t end up on the top ten of the leaderboard. Instead, keep the games fun and entertaining while also utilizing techniques and scenarios that prompt memory recall, and make it clear that the purpose of the leaderboards and badges are for the learners’ benefit (so they can measure their progress) as opposed to coming across as a sneaky (or not so sneaky) tool management to weed people out.

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

Steve Lowenthal has over 15 years of experience in Learning Technologies in consultancy, sales and management roles. He's a regular speaker at US conferences and events on trends in LMS, elearning and technology.