Gamification has undoubtedly been one of the biggest eLearning trends of 2016. Forward thinking L&D departments recognize gamified learning as foundational to their strategy because it allows learners to more easily consume content and ultimately, not dread reading through a 45 page SOP manual. But when it’s poorly executed, gamified learning has the potential to backfire.
The research says most L&D departments are already using gamification in their LMS platforms (Pro Tip: if you aren’t, you should be). The research points to gamification as one of the crucial features both learners and trainers look for in an LMS. It’s also the number one feature to flop when it comes time to implement.
If you’re in a Learning & Development role, you should be asking yourself what really motivates your learners and >how they will actually benefit from gamification. If you’re gamifying your content just to be trendy, save yourself the time.
Here are four tips to keep in mind which will ensure your gamification learning doesn’t crash and burn.
As human beings, we love the feeling of achieving hard tasks. This behavior is known as intrinsic reinforcement, a type of motivation which encourages people to continue with a behavior because they find it personally rewarding, not out of fear of punishment or for an external reward. Each time we accomplish a hard task, such as passing a level in a game, a small amount of dopamine is released which creates a feedback loop to tell our brains to keep doing it.
Remember when PokemonGo swept the world earlier this year? Well, one of the reasons it was so popular (and addicting) was because the game was driven by a need for players to level up their digital monsters. Players love to map their progress with levels. Each time they complete one, their brain, fueled by a dopamine release, encourages them to finish the next one.
People like to know they’re doing well and levels are an excellent indicator of progress. They’re the most popular element of gamification, in fact, in fact, 76% of people who interact with gamified learning content say
levels are important. Try organizing your onboarding training into “levels” where each new level represents a new section of learning material.
Give Your Learners What They Want: Points
The problem with levels is they only occur at long frequencies. To keep your learner engaged in between level 6 and 7, you need to give them something more to measure themselves by. Points are the number one most used aspect of gamification in gamified LMSs, at an 85% usage rate, and it just so happens they are also perfect at driving motivation between levels.
Using points not only allows learners to measure their progress, they are also used to measure themselves against other learners. There’s a fine line to dance when you talk about creating competition between your learners – we’ll cover that later – but points are a perfect way to tap into the competitive nature of your learners. Assigning points to your courses and keeping track of them are an excellent way to motivate your employees to keep learning.
Offer Concrete Rewards
Give your learners awards they will care about. Participation awards are great, but this isn’t your six-year-old’s soccer game. Your employees expect to be rewarded if they’re putting in the extra effort. Research shows 49% of users want performance-based rewards tied to their gamified LMSs. A “Good Job!” badge isn’t always going to cut it.
Before you start handing out points (and rewards), consider how you want a reward system to work. Consider tying real-world benefits to gamification performance. At Wisetail, a few of our clients have found ways to incentivize their learners by allowing them to cash in points they earn from completing learning for things like gift cards or discounts on product.
Don’t Create Competition!
Or don’t create too much of it. As I mentioned above, this is a tightrope to walk. Create too much competition, and you might pit your workers against one another; too little competition and you may not be able to tap into the natural competitiveness which drives some of your team members.
A recent study suggested 60% of learners prefer not to see a leaderboard, pointing out it can create a sense of shame in your employees. On the other hand, research has also shown leaderboards are a viable means to promote specific user behavior by learners. Our advice is to be judicious about how you use your leaderboards and make sure they’re serving their intended purpose.
Bonus Tip: Think about how gamification can affect your organization’s teams
Rather than just focusing on your individual learners, think about applying gamification techniques to a group of employees. Learning as a group has been shown to have a host of benefits. Leaderboards may work better if they’re about connecting with other workers rather than isolating learners. Encouraging your departments or small teams to learn together has the added benefit of helping to develop company culture and reinforce values.