Introducing Gamification Can Help You Take Student Engagement to the Next Level

Ever played Candy Crush? Pokémon GO? Monopoly?

You’re not alone!

People of all ages, genders, and cultures are absorbed in these games for hours––even days. According to The 2018 Gamification of Work Survey, over 50% of people reported they gamed “casually,” while 27% reported playing “moderately to fairly often. That means there’s over 75% of members, you’re failing to engage using gamification on your learning platform.

You don’t need to be a techie to implement games into your coursework. In fact, technology is only a small part of it. The majority of gamification is rooted in psychology and strategy. But in order to understand how to add gamification to your online courses or membership sites, you first need to understand what it is.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the application of games in typical non-gaming activities, such as learning, to promote user engagement and loyalty. Nick Pelling coined the term “gamification” in 2002, but it wasn’t until years later that big-name businesses began implementing it on their platforms.

Let’s take Yelp for instance. Yelp is a crowdsourcing review platform for local businesses that rewards its most interactive members with “Elite” status. Users who achieve this badge not only get to display it on their profiles, but they also get invited to special elites only events. By doing this, the platform is rewarding positive app behavior and motivating other users to achieve the same status. Here, Yelp uses the two pieces of gamification: game mechanics and game dynamics.

So, let’s tap into what these pieces are.

Game Mechanics:

Game mechanics are the elements that inspire your students to progress in their coursework. They are the rules that players need to follow, as well as the rules the game itself follows. Some tried and tested game mechanics are:

Points – Often numerical values, points are collected to measure student success and achievement. Points can be earned various ways on your e-learning platform, such as by watching lectures or sharing and creating something useful to other students, e.g. a study guide.

Badges – Badges are usually awarded after a certain amount of achievements. For example, you can award a student with a badge for completing a lesson or for checking in three days in a row. As mentioned earlier, apps like Yelp often employ badges to keep consumers coming back.

Levels – Levels help users gauge their progress. Let’s say students need to earn 10 points to reach a new level. By using this game mechanic, students will be even more motivated to engage with their coursework because they want to receive points in order to “level up.”

Challenges – Everyone likes a challenge. The feeling of overcoming and achieving is empowering for students. Create learning missions alongside rewards as an incentive for students. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy; it doesn’t even need to be monetary. A reward can be something as simple as a special badge or a certificate.

Leaderboards –  Leaderboards keep track of desirable behaviors. Showing leaders in each category will give students markers to aspire to. Public leaderboards will also encourage competition and participation among students.

Game Dynamics:

Once you decide what mechanics to use, the next step is to grasp a clear understanding of game dynamics, i.e. the elements that satisfy universal human desires. Some game dynamics are:

Rewards – Rewards encourage “good” user behavior by giving positive actions value.

Status – Everyone likes to have bragging rights. Status is a great motivator because people want to distinguish themselves or gain recognition from others.

Achievements – Completing milestones feel great! Small victories help students gain confidence in lessons, keeping them working towards higher goals.

Competition – Who doesn’t like a little bit of competition every now and then? Users will gain satisfaction from comparing their performances to others, as well as the desire to achieve more.

Self-expression – People love to express themselves, so make sure your learning platform gives them the opportunity to do it! Self-expression can come in the form of an avatar, a biography, or personal challenges.

Overall, game mechanics and dynamics appeal to human desires, encouraging students to stay active and continue taking your courses. People are motivated by rewards and feel gratified by their achievements.

Gamification Produces Better Learning Experiences

The truth is, increasing user participation in an online course or membership site is no easy task. When we are confronted with “boring” tasks, we often tend to procrastinate on them or to perform them half-heartedly. Gamification works because it activates the brain’s pleasure circuits––making students want to stay engaged with the material. Game incentives, such as rewards or points, provide users with immediate gratification, inspiring them to continue to achieve. Gamification also reinforces desired behaviors and outcomes from consumers. In addition, the use of game methods gives students immediate feedback, enabling them to identify their strengths and weakness. Lastly, Gamification creates healthy competition amongst students through badges and leaderboards, constructing a community in the process. After all, why do people like play games in the first place? It’s simple psychology, really.

Everyone likes to win.

Conclusion: Does gamification really help keep your students/members engaged?

We’ll just let the statistics speak for this one.

A report by the 2006 Summit on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists showed that without gamification learners only recalled 10% of what they read and 20% of what they heard. When visuals were added, memory recall tripled to 30%. When an action was accompanied with an explanation, memory retention grew to 50%. When gamification methods were used to complement coursework, retention skyrocketed to nearly 90%.

That means you have the potential to engage your users more by 900%!

Overall, it can be said that one of the greatest ironies of education is that people learn more when they forget they’re learning. Users will gain more from your courses through the use of game methods and game dynamics. Implementing gamification onto your online courses and membership sites will escalate user engagement and interaction, leaving you and your students more satisfied and eager to come back for more.