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Last updated: 22.06.17

Is gamification a phase or is it here to stay?

Gamification is often portrayed as a ‘silver bullet’, transforming dull, boring e-learning into something engaging, entertaining, and ultimately informative. In many cases it has become a synonym for ‘increased engagement’ and ‘improved retention’. But, is gamification a phase or is it here to stay?

Gamification describes the addition of game like elements, such as badges and leader boards, to non-game situations. The learner is motivated through rewards and achievements, making them more likely to continue their learning while retaining increased amounts of information. Learners receive immediate feedback, allowing them to ‘fail’ in a safe environment and learn from their mistakes.

Critics of gamification state that it is often used as a means of ‘jazzing up’ boring content without actually adding any value with regards to the learning experience. The addition of game elements may be entertaining to the learner, but if they are not related to the overall learning objectives, they only serve to mask a poor learning experience. Here, the focus is shifted away from ‘learning’ to having ‘fun’.

Another potential error budding gamification advocates make is choosing to ‘gamify’ everything. If gamification elements are added without seriously considering their purpose, with regards to learning objectives, the game is nothing more than a distraction to its audience. It is vitally important that using gamification doesn’t exclude other methods of learning. Not everyone learns in the same way - gamification should be an option for learners but not a compulsory part of the training.

However, the gamification juggernaut keeps gathering momentum with Ambient Insights predicting the market to be worth in excess of $11 billion by 2020. When used correctly, gamification can result in a 9% increase in retention rates, an 11% increase in factual knowledge, and a 14% increase in skill-based knowledge, according to an e-Learning Guild report.

The concept of using games to aid learning has been around for decades with ideas of engagement, autonomy, and rewards being central to education systems around the globe. The use of scoreboards in classrooms, commendations for good work, and challenges and quizzes are all real life examples of gamification in the classroom.

Karl Kapp, a gamification expert and professor at Bloomsburg University stated that if gamification is a fad, it has been for over 40 years! The delivery method may change, the terminology may change, but the elements have been present in learning for over 40 years, and these elements are here to stay.

It is a fair criticism, that when used incorrectly, gamification can detract from and even negatively impact the overall learning experience. However, as long as gamification is used correctly and tied to learning objectives and outcomes, it is a powerful tool that can elevate learning and improve engagement and retention. It is here to stay!

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