Gamification in eLearning sounds intimidating for a lot of organizations. The idea of using games in training seems out of this world, even foolish. This intimidation is mostly founded on fear of the unknown. In this article, let’s unwrap the mystery that is gamification and learn how this game-changer can revolutionize the way you do training in your organization.

A Quick Look at Gamified Learning’s History

Gamification started as a video and computer games in the 1980’s. One of the earliest versions of a game that is able to teach something to players is Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. It was created by Broderbund Software and attained a huge following in 1985. In this game, players are given a mission to look for ACME Detective Carmen San Diego and in the process learn about geography and history.

In the 1990’s new platforms that enabled gamified learning emerged. Handhelds, web- enabled game consoles and mobile devices paved way for mobile gaming experience. 3D virtual reality platforms became available in 1995. At this point, gamers were able to create their own versions of the world.

The 2000’s saw the rise of the “serious games” movement. Some examples are Dinner Dash (a game on strategy and time management) and EVE Online (a multi-player, role playing game about colonizing the Milky Way). Games were first used for training in 2008, when the Federation of American Scientists created Immune Attack; a game on immunology. Gamification involving course design and curriculum development started in year 2010. Courses that employ game mechanics, issued and displayed badges followed suit in 2011.

What Exactly is Gamified Learning?

Gamified learning or gamification is the use of game design principles in non-game situations. It means manipulating training content to be more game-like by adding features such as scoring, badges, missions, and titles to drive learner engagement. Most organizations use it as a means to drive learning and behavior change.

There are four ways to apply gamification in learning and development:

  1. Partial Gamification – Partial gamification is the first step towards gamification. It can be a gamified quiz or test given to participants attending a face-to-face classroom training, workshop or seminar. It may also be a gamified learning task in a run of the mill training course.

An example of partial gamification is a simple game where the learner has to go through a maze. He needs to answer questions to complete challenges, so he can move to the next level in the game.

  1. Game-based Learning – At this level, the whole learning path is taken and turned into a game. Game-based learning normally feature scores, badges and leaderboards.

An example of this gamification approach is a compliance course on social engineering. Using the format of a board game, the learner has to select a character and complete challenges throughout the game. Learners are asked to roll dice at different stages in the game, which determines the level of difficulty of each challenge. Learners are awarded points or are penalized depending on how they handle social engineering attempts.

  1. Gamified Learning Path- This application of gamification requires creating missions or challenges that accumulates into reaching expertise at different levels. The missions and challenges are added on top of scores, badges and leaderboards.

An example of a gamified learning path is gamified product training. This scenario-based training aims to teach new hires how to explain the features and functions of a new product to customers. Each topic on the course is a level, which learners have to race through. Points, badges and trophies are awarded throughout the game. A social recognition element is added by using dashboard and leaderboards in the game.

  1. Gamified Portals – This is the next generation gamified approach that integrates concepts like learning paths with micro learning, social learning, and personalization while keeping the essential elements of the previous two approaches (scores, badges and leaderboards).

A great example of gamified portal is an online course on negotiation called Merchants. The student plays the role of a young merchant whose mission is to become the world’s greatest merchant. It is based on a simulator that creates six real cases of negotiation in which learners can apply their knowledge in negotiating, creating a proposal, and resolving conflicts.

Implications of Gamified Learning for Teaching and Learning

Although the term “gamification” is fairly new, the use of game elements to teach knowledge and skills is definitely not new. Learning and development practitioners have long seen the positive effects of interactive activities in learner engagement and motivation. Gamification provides learning and development teams a vast number of opportunities to create excitement in their instruction by means of competition, leader boards or badges that provide the students the satisfaction of being recognized and create a positive attitude toward their work.

The elements of play in gamification leverage on the human nature to compete and socialize, and to quantify their achievement of certain goals. If implemented properly and effectively, the elements of play can encourage exploration, grow independent drive to complete training tasks and even bring innovative solutions to the problems presented through the course content.

What’s Next for Gamification?

Due to the use of technology in gamification, it has gained support and funding from organizations like Next Generation Challenges and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This keen interest and support for gamification is bound to create a more complex, technology- driven and interactive scenarios. It is currently evolving into a more significant science that is supported by deep research, theory and framework that can be utilized in a wide spectrum of applications.

This means shifting from a short-term tactical solution to a long-term strategic development. Technology-wise, gamification will take the route of augmented reality, as it is already being used in gamification projects around the globe. Game worlds which are 3D, immersive locations that learners can explore, will emerge to make gamification the most radical approach to learning and development.

In conclusion, gamification is not to be feared. Armed with extensive research and a thorough evaluation of the organizations eLearning goals, learning and development teams can make gamification the x-factor in their lackluster training initiatives.