Motivation is crucial to successful learning. It directs positive behavior toward achieving goals and affects how learners make decisions.

When was the last time you felt motivated to learn?

Lack of motivation is perhaps one of the most common student-centered problems in traditional learning. According to a 2003 study by the National Research Council, at least 40% of high school students remain unmotivated to learn at school. From this figure, we can say that lack of motivation is a very real problem.

In the past years, we see a rise in e-learning courses. Delivered as standalone programs or as a supplement to traditional classes, we see gamified elements integrated into e-learning courses in the hopes of motivating students to learn.

But what does mean it to ‘gamify’ learning?

Gamification defined Gamification involves the integration of game mechanics into any non-game context such as a website, application, or an online community. The goal is to motivate users to participate, engage, and ultimately learn.

Videogame developer Nick Pelling is said to have first coined the term gamification in 2003. Many years later, several game researchers have extended gamification to the educational context, in what may be presently called as ‘gameful learning’ or ‘gameful thinking’.

Gamification applies the proven techniques that game designers use to engage users, and extends these to non-game experiences to increase motivation.

Game-based learning vs Gamification People associate gamification with actual games when they first hear of the term—games that are created for a specific goal.

But gamification is not just about creating something fresh and novel. It takes advantage of any existing experience that is otherwise not effective, and applies gameful techniques to make the whole experience engaging.

It’s entirely different with game-based learning wherein users play commercial games. Gamification strives to apply the same kind of engagement in actual games, and extend it to an educational context—ultimately leading to effective learning.

Why are video games so addicting? Perhaps this kind of power can be harnessed to learning—this is what gamification is all about.

As with corporate gamification, you add high value to partners, clients, and employees and encourage interaction. In turn, this attracts higher sales, promotes collaboration, boosts ROI, and inspires loyalty.

Elements of gamified learning

Have you played a game that gave you XPs for every skill unlocked? Have you joined any community that awarded you with a status upgrade with every achievement? Have you participated in any game that showed your standing compared to other players?

To effectively motivate learners, gamification uses any one or more of these elements:


We all love a good story, and an interesting narrative will make a huge difference in catching a user’s attention.

Lifesaver, adhering to UK’s official CPR guidelines, is a crisis simulator that combines interactivity and short live-action stories. It’s a free application that can be accessed on the computer, smartphone or tablet.

While this app may not give a certificate of completion for CPR, it does allow the learner to immerse in very similar real-life situations. This is a great supplemental learning material on top of a traditional CPR course.


That’s what gamified learning should be—fun! After all, the objective is to motivate the learners.

Have you tried collecting stickers every time you dine at a restaurant, so in the end, you’d get a free meal? The fun factor is what makes a gamified strategy so effective.

Although this element is quite broad and is actually a given for any gamified learning course, this is a very important factor to consider. The fun element in any gamified course can make or break a student’s motivation.

Immediate feedback

One of the best elements of gamified learning is the feedback system. In games, immediate feedback lets the player know how they did, such as flashing ‘Outstanding!’, ‘Good job’, or ‘You can do better!’

Once you extend this element to e-learning, training will become more effective and interesting for the user.

For instance, while solving a math problem in a gamified online course, the user won’t make it to the next round without arriving at the correct answer. While at it, the system may prompt the user about how he’s doing, and maybe even offer clues to solve the problem.

Feedback in gamified courses also lets the user know how they did through badges and other virtual rewards. At the end of each module, the system also produces a summary detailing the progress of the user.

Progress indicators

Earning points, collecting badges, and climbing up leaderboard statistics are definitely great ways to motivate a learner. Although progress indicators may not be applicable to all e-learning courses, they add a fun element and give the user an extra nudge to work hard.

In some gamified learning courses, you earn points for every question randomly asked. You also earn badges, trophies, or awards for every module completed, which may transition from one color to another (bronze, silver, gold, platinum).

In most (if not all) e-learning courses, progress indicators tell users how far along they are in the training such as: ‘You are 80% finished! Almost there!’ or ‘You have completed 5 out of 10 modules. Good work!’

At the end of a gamified e-learning course, users may see how they rank against others through a virtual leaderboard.

Social connection

Gamified learning won’t be so enjoyable without actual interaction with other users. This also reinforces healthy competition, enough to make the users more motivated to immerse themselves in the course.

When a user completes a certain module, for instance, the system may allow sharing such achievement to social media, where it is visible to other users.

Benefits of gamified learning

What sets gamified learning apart from the rest?

● User control — Students learn in their own pace and are more in control over their training ● Relaxed environment — Failure is not punished, rather encourages users to try again and do better ● Progress updates — Reports and progress indicators in real-time provides immediate feedback ● Intrinsic motivation — Students engage in positive behavior arising from within ● Comfort — Gaming environments are more comfortable


So do you think you can conduct gamified learning? Are you thinking of enrolling in a gamified e-learning course?

Although gamification may not be the perfect strategy in all scenarios, considering the learner’s profile (age, health status, etc) should also be factored in.

Will the elderly population find gamified courses easy to learn? Instead of enjoying the course, will the unfamiliar, technical aspect be an added stressor? Can the gameful elements be simplified to tailor to the needs of the learner?

More questions may arise as learner needs vary, but the objective of gamification should be clear no matter the circumstance: that it should catch the learner’s interest and make learning a fun and successful experience.