Gamification for e-learning, or how to make learning fun

Finding ways to have fun while doing a task turns a requirement into a source of enjoyment. This is the core principle of gamification, which makes learning more attractive, entertaining and pleasurable – and more effective as well! – by borrowing a few tricks from the world of games. It’s a very useful tool, especially when it comes to digital learning, provided that you adapt this approach to the goals of the training programme and the learners’ profile.

Gamification is serious business

“Gamification” is the process of using the conventions and mechanisms of games in a professional setting. For example, a business might “gamify” its customer relations, its work tools, certain aspects of its internal communications, or of course its training programmes.

BBut why choose this approach? To make it easier for people to accept, and even enjoy, tools and situations which aren’t necessarily inherently interesting for everyone. With this approach, certain e-Learning training sessions which might otherwise seem off-putting can become an opportunity that no one wants to miss!

But remember: Gamification is simply a specific way to structure a training programme – not educational content in its own right.« Gamification can help to make training sessions more exciting. But first you need high-quality educational content to work with! », cautions Lionel Taponard, a Multimedia Educational Engineer at ITycom.

Once you’ve got some quality content, gamification can serve as a “facilitator” to:

         – Replace the sense of being forced to learn with a feeling of fun and discovery

         – Get learners more motivated and involved

         – Encourage memorisation and make learning more effective.

Gamification works best when it adapts to its audience

« There’s no magic formula when it comes to gamification », notes Vincent Gaillard, a Multimedia Educational Engineer at ITycom.« To be effective, gamification has to be used in a personalised way that fits with the specific training programme and the profile of the learners taking part in it »

Gamification brings the structures and conventions of play to your training programmes, but it’s also important to incorporate games or cultural reference points that “speak” to the learners. Of course, this depends heavily on the employees’ age and on the company’s social and professional context, its business segment, and even its culture. In general, the same things won’t seem fun to a doctor as to an engineer, or even to two professionals in the same industry who are 30 years apart in age…

By keeping the goals of the training in mind, gamification can effectively enrich the learning process with notions of strategy, creativity, and even competition – for example, with scored quizzes, “levels” for learners to work their way through, challenges, and more. It’s a great opportunity to create a friendly rivalry between employees or teams, to offer rewards, and to validate what they’ve learned.

Finding tools to encourage participation, from scarcity to Pokémon

Carbon footprint reduction and e-learning

Aside from specific cultural reference points, gamification also draws on general principles of human psychology, like our reactions to scarcity: « Simply limiting the number of actions that users can take each day in an application or a learning module boosts participation like magic » observes Lionel Taponard. «  If an action becomes scarce, no one wants to miss their chance to act. But if there are unlimited opportunities for action, then there’s no urgency to act and it doesn’t seem as important », he concludes.

Another example is the mechanism of positive motivation. Anyone who’s spent time with kids knows how essential our attitude toward learning can be. For instance, while most children struggle to learn their multiplication tables, they can easily memorise the names, abilities and evolutions of hundreds of Pokemons, Why? Because the playful approach makes learning more effective.

So for trainers interested in giving gamification a try, it’s important to find their own set of « Pokemons » to integrate into their e-learning programmes.