What is Gamification?
Gamificaiton is defined as “The use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (Deterding et. al 2011). The contexts that gamification has been applied to include marketing, education and health. Many fitness apps that record activity and motivate people to increase exercise employ gamification techniques such as points and leaderboards. Gamification in digital learning is the application of game elements to course structure or content and can include elements such as:
- Badges: achievement reward for finishing a course or performing well in a challenge. Can be displayed on a learner’s public profile page and provides motivation to collect other badges.
- Points: accumulated via performance during digital learning modules
- Leaderboards: learner points are displayed publicly creating a competitive component where learners can compare performance
- Narrative: the use of storylines to increase emotional investment
- Challenges and scenarios: goal-based challenges that the learner can undertake
- Avatars: can control characters and make decisions on their behalf
- Feedback: visual and/or audio signals provide the learner instant feedback on their performance
- Levels: completion of challenges or modules provide access to additional content
- Surprise: unexpected rewards or challenges can add to the excitement of the experience
- Loss: losing points or items due to poor decision making. Loss avoidance can be a strong motivational force
- Freedom to fail: allows the learner to take a trial and error approach to problem solving
Gamification differs from Game-based learning or Serious Games in that they are not standalone games as such, but use elements from games to enhance the learning process.
Why is Gamification used in learning?
The conditions for learning are improved when staff are motivated. According to Self-Determination Theory (SDT) there are three components of motivation that need to be met: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Gamification is seen to satisfy these components in that the learner is free to make decisions in scenarios (autonomy), the awarding of badges confirms mastery (competence) and learners can compare their performance with others (relatedness).
A learner’s motivation comes in two distinct styles:
- External (extrinsic) — to receive rewards or to avoid punishment.
- Internal (intrinsic) — do an activity out of the pleasure of doing so.
Using both styles in your courses can lead to strong motivation levels within your learners. However over reliance on extrinsic motivators like prizes can lead to a decrease in the more valuable intrinsic motivation, especially if the extrinsic motivation is taken away at a later date.
How is Gamification implemented?
There are various ways in which to implement Gamification and the target organisation and learner group is a big factor. Gamification can be implemented in two ways:
- Structural gamification — technology driven with no changes to course content.
- Content gamification — design driven using game elements within the course content.
Karl Kapp defines structural gamification as “leveraging game elements to propel learners through content without altering the content itself.” In this implementation, the game elements are not part of the content of the course, but the Learning Management System (LMS) and consist of points, leaderboards and badges, and are usually controlled by your LMS administrator.
Content gamification is the use of game elements within the course itself and can include scenarios and challenges. In this instance, the instructional designer will use appropriate game elements in the design of their course to facilitate experiential learning.
Finding the right blend of structural and content gamification methods can benefit the learning process but is dependent on the organisational culture and audience group. The ability to drip-feed modules via the LMS enhances the learning process by providing spaced learning events. The use of leaderboards can be well suited for sales teams but might not be appropriate in less competitive environments.
The techniques that gamification provide and knowledge of deploying them appropriately are a useful addition to the instructional designer’s toolkit.
Using the right blend of game elements can improve learner motivation and engagement. “
Pros: Can led to increased learner motivation and improve the learning process.
Cons: Reliance on extrinsic motivators can decrease existing intrinsic motivation. Competitive leaderboards not suitable for all learner groups.
Related reading: Game-based learning, Instructional Design
Sebastian Deterding; Dan Dixon; Rilla Khaled; Lennart Nacke (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining “gamification”.
Kapp, Karl (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.