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Making learning child’s play: Gamification in eLearning

Employees enjoying gamified learning on a tablet

Lifelong professional and personal training! This benefits both employees and companies. But how can companies support this process, increase motivation, improve the learning experience, and ensure that learning is fun? eLearning offers a variety of different options for optimizing the learning process. One of the most powerful tools is gamification: But what specific benefits and opportunities do learners and companies get from this? And what is the best way to integrate game functions?

This article provides you with basic information about gamification in eLearning, an explanation of how it works and its benefits, and 3 tools that make gamification child’s play to integrate. In short: This is where you will learn everything you need to bring a breath of fresh air to your eLearning with gamification.


Gamification: Definition and features

Gamification goes back to the computer game industry. A variety of other sectors have taken advantage of the concepts and methods of gamification, transferring familiar gaming mechanisms to their areas. eLearning and digital knowledge transfer have also integrated familiar aspects and principles of gaming into learning context.

Integration of the features and principles of gaming into non-game contexts

Deterding’s 2011 definition

The goal is to increase learners’ motivation and thus improve learning outcomes. As with traditional computer games, there are clear goals, rules, and options.


How gamification works

Each and every one of us has a little child inside that just wants to play

Each and every one of us still has an innate play instinct. Not for nothing is this used, particularly when teaching children and adolescents, to take a playful approach to imparting knowledge, values, and norms. This play instinct, however, is not limited to childhood. It lasts a lifetime—even if we often follow it with less intensity in adulthood. Conscious deployment of gamification features in eLearning will enable you to trigger your learners’ play instincts—perhaps without them being aware that they are learning. This explains why people often talk about learning as child’s play.


Competition as motivation

By integrating aspects of games, such as visible rankings and point systems, you set up an imaginary competition— for example, within a team, a department, or the entire workforce. This creates a playful incentive for people to constantly improve their score or rank and to do better than other participants.



Games appeal to a wide range of emotions—curiosity, ambition, pride, and even frustration. But even negative feelings due to failed attempts can be motivating if what are seen as failures mean learners gain experience and knowledge. And the emotions associated with playing games are heightened where one level leads to the next and a story gives the game a greater meaning. If you are able to integrate an intriguing story into your gamification, you will significantly increase your employees’ motivation.


How gamification doesn’t work

When we talk about badges, leader boards and similar features, we are always talking about extrinsic motivation—motivation arising from external influences and stimuli. These elements play an important role in the learning environment, rewarding self-directed learning while also providing a highly appealing (visual) way of recording achievements. However, intrinsic motivation—people’s inner, personal motivation to apply what they have learned to their everyday work—should and must always be learners’ main source of motivation. 

At the same time, the power of competition between employees should not be underestimated. On the down side, competitive pressure that is too intense can be generated, and this can quickly become a disadvantage and be demotivating.

You should give thought to when and to what extent you want to use gamification, and which features are suited to which learning scenarios.

Nadine Pedro
[Translate to English:] Nadine Pedro, chemmedia AG

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Why gamification can work for older employees too

If a staff cohort includes older people, there are more doubts about introducing new digital content. In the case of gamification, however, such concern is almost unfounded. On the one hand, eLearning only uses the principles of gaming, not the complex structures and controls that are often associated with it. In addition, all the above-mentioned principles can be introduced without time pressure. This means that participants do not have to have fast reactions or be able to operate controls quickly.

Regardless of this, the over-50s now represent the largest group of gamers, with 9.9 out of a total of 34 million, and equal proportions of men and women. (Source: Annual Report of the German Games Industry 2019). It can be deduced from this that gamification in eLearning should not generally be a problem for older employees.


2 tools for professional gamification in eLearning

Knowledgeworker Coach Logo

The digital coach

Integrating the interactive coach into your eLearning strategy provides you with a scenario-based that enables you to take a playful approach to training your employees to communicate in specific situations in the corporate environment. This allows you to optimize their communicative skills and heighten their awareness of situations they encounter. It also enables you to provide them with information, improve their assertiveness and develop their empathy in the context of such situations. 


Knowledgeworker Cards Logo

The flashcard app

The flashcard app allows you to make knowledge available to your employees in very smallest units via digital flashcards, conveying knowledge sustainably and efficiently. Learning outcomes are supported by artificial intelligence, which automatically returns flashcards that need to be repeated to the bottom of the pile. So they are automatically shown to the learner again at a suitable point. 



The bottom line.

In today’s fast-paced world of work, lifelong learning is essential, so the easier it is to learn, the better. In this context, gamification is the ideal way to promote self-directed, results-oriented learning and to engage learners cognitively, socially, and emotionally in the learning process. Gamified eLearning content draws learners deeply into the learning process, requiring them to make new decisions over and over again. Success is immediately visible and participants learn from their decisions and actions, on which they receive immediate feedback. Basic motivators, such as imaginary competition and the innate play instinct make learning easier to access and literally turn it into child’s play for participants.

Magda Lehnert | Blogger
Magda Lehnert

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