How Gamification Is Changing The World of E-learning /uploads/blog_post/translation/image/260/Gamification_in_edtech.png 2019-11-12
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21 August 2019

How Gamification Is Changing The World of E-learning

How Gamification Is Changing The World of E-learning

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Gamification has become a buzzword across multiple spheres of life. Nonetheless, it’s meaning is unclear to many of us. This is not a game per se but the use of game-design elements in other contexts, for example, e-learning.

Factors influencing gamification upsurge

The past six years have witnessed a global growth in gamification revenues (CAGR = 37.1%). And it’s all for a reason. Multiple reasons, actually:

  • Historic levels of private investment flowing to game-based learning companies.
  • Uptake of corporate game-based learning.
  • The increasing availability of simple tools to integrate game elements into the learning process.
  • Introduction of multiple realities: augmented, virtual, and simulated.
  • Emergence of gamified mental exercises based on neuroscience.
  • Worldwide implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Why gamification works

What science says

Regardless of the audience of learners or subject matter, e-learning gamification upgrades e-learning to a new level of engagement and understanding. And it’s not just twaddle. There is an exact science behind game-based learning.
When we are engaged in the activities stimulating our minds, our bodies release hormones called endorphins. These hormones help to retain more information, bring a sense of excitement and satisfaction. What’s more, they lead to a boost in motivation and make the experience more powerful and memorable.

One of the theories that has been applied in the context of gamification, is the so-called  Self-determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2002). It names three basic psychological needs: competence, autonomy and social relatedness.

The need for competence assumes that every human strives to feel competent while interacting with the environment and influencing it. 

The need for autonomy describes psychological freedom and the capability to decide and choose whatever one desires.

The need for social relatedness refers to our feelings of attachment to people and places.

learning app gamification

The research conducted by Michael Salier, Jan Ulrich Hense, Sarah Katharine Mayr, and Heinz Mandl suggests that gaming elements such as badges, leaderboards, performance graphs, the introduction of avatars, meaningful stories, and teammates satisfy all the three needs. 

Benefits of game-based learning

Way better e-learning experience. Follow the train of thought: More games —> more fun —> higher level of learner engagement —> better retention.

Friendly learning environment. Game-based learning provides a soothing, more casual environment in which students don’t feel the pressure to give correct answers only. There’s always room for experimenting and learning through your mistakes.

Instant feedback. Learners immediately know to find out what mistakes they’ve made and how to correct them.

Multiple applications. Gamification is more than welcome in every corporate learning area, such as induction and onboarding, product sales, customer support, soft skills, awareness creation, and compliance.

Types of e-learning gamification

There are two types of e-learning gamification: Structural and content. Both work well, and it’s up to the course creators to decide which one suits their particular course most

Structural

This type of gamification suggests introducing game elements into the learning process which do not alter the content itself. E-learners are engaged with rewards. For example, they can earn points for watching a lecture or completing an assignment. The assignment and the video lecture itself have no game elements. But they become a sort of challenge to deal with in order to get something or get somewhere. So what exactly can e-learners get?

  • Points for specific tasks
  • Badges for reaching certain goals
  • Achievements for going through a set of tasks and reaching several goals
  • Levels. Learners move to more complex tasks
  • Leaderboards that rank each learner’s achievement and create a healthy competitive environment
  • Social integration. Learners are encouraged to help each other while going through the course

Duolingo is a nice example of structural gamification. This language learning platform provides self-paced courses that integrate the above-mentioned above gamification elements.

gamification of learning

Source: Duolingo

Content

In this case, the course content itself is altered to entwine e-learning games. Hence the name. For example, an excellent format for training and courses related to decision making is role-playing. Learners assume a certain role and react correspondingly in simulated life situations. Tactical games and simulations develop strategic thinking skills. In platform games, learners try to get from one end of a board to another while dealing with obstacles.

For example, Medieval Swansea is an interactive historical course that allows learners to take on the role of a detective and solve a mystery.

What’s new in the e-learning gamification world

Chatbots

These intelligent bots interact with users in a human-like manner and are often employed as virtual assistants. They are widely used in banking, healthcare and transport services, etc. Why not use one on an e-learning platform?

Chatbots provide a personalized learning experience for each student and, at the same time, they can interact with groups. Chatbots can act as teachers assigning group work on projects and save teachers’ time on students’ work assessment. 

Artificial Intelligence

We are all familiar with AI through Siri and Google Now; they help us to find useful information through voice requests. They represent instances of NLP (natural language processing), and are also used in e-learning. Instead of typing answers or questions students can say it loud and get a response. This is especially applicable for language e-learning courses.

AI is also capable of generating personalized content. For example, generating new tasks according to learners’ abilities. 

Virtual Reality

VR training is the most immersive learning technology in e-learning. It engages learners with a powerful sense of presence, replicates any product or environment, and also runs scenarios that are dangerous and can’t be realized in the real environment. NASA uses VR to train astronauts, Toyota uses it to teach teens to drive, and the US military trains its soldiers with the help of VR technology. Corporate training can use VR to simulate customer experience, reduce high-risk situations, and educate about harassment.

Simulated learning

Simulated learning is similar to VR, but more accessible because it doesn’t require expensive equipment. For example, simulation of real situations can be presented in video games. Doctors can go through critical situations without the danger of losing a  patient’s life, drivers can play online simulations without the fear of being hit by a van, and salespeople can learn how to deal with an annoying customer without losing their tempers and, ultimately, losing their jobs.

When gamification goes wrong

Sometimes online course creators are so into gamification that they lose sight of their goals. The main purpose of a course is to teach, not to entertain. So be aware of the following pitfalls:

Learners can also lose sight of their goals. They might play to get the badge or reach another level without any intention of retaining the knowledge. Therefore, the quality of the content should be engaging by itself. Game-based elements are just the icing on the cake to make it even cooler.

Mandatory activities. Not everyone loves to play. Some people prefer older methods of processing information. So try not to impose game elements too heavily; it should be natural.


Gamification is a set of top-class engagement tools that help learners to study the content more naturally. Choose the ones that suit your course budget and always keep in mind the purpose of the course. Don't know how to make your e-learning app more engaging? Contact AGENTE team and get expert advice on gamification design.

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