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10 ways to boost engagement of your learning programs using gamification

According to studies, an adult’s maximum attention span is 20 minutes, while some theories like ‘the 8-seconds attention span of a goldfish’ put that at an even worse state. From a global pandemic changing how we work & live, constant engagement through our mobile phones to the persistent war by advertisers to claim your attention and retention, there has never been a tougher time to push for learning engagement than in the 21st century. Nonetheless, with great challenges comes opportunities to innovate. And with emerging technologies presenting us with new frontiers for the learning industry, today we look at how we can overcome disengagement using one such technique- Gamification.

Wikipedia defines this as:

“Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism or closure. Gamification strategies use rewards for players who accomplish desired tasks or competition to engage players.

I am certain we all recall the most boring lecturers we had on campuses or in our classrooms. The lessons that you dreaded and counted the seconds till the bell rang. This isn’t very different with online/virtual learning as well. The same principles of attention apply. So why do we enjoy learning when we’re toddlers but hate it once we become adults? Why do we as Learning Designers let go of the techniques we use with children when the fundamental ways in which the brain is activated & engaged don’t change as we grow older? Gamification is a technique that takes us back to the good old days when we looked forward to school. Because school was fun, social, curious, and informative.

80% of learners claimed learning would be more productive if it were more game-oriented.

67% of students reported that a gamified course was more motivating than a traditional course.

Photo by Tony Tran on Unsplash

A successful learning program innovates in its delivery as much as it focuses on content. The How matters just as much as the What. Gamification allows learning to be more visual and as we can see below, it makes a whole lot of difference!

Studies suggest that three days after an event, people retain 10% of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35% from a visual presentation, and 65% from a visual and oral presentation.

Photo by Ryan Fields on Unsplash

It means adding certain game elements to a non-game situation. Gamification enables us to make learning a more immersive & engaging experience. You can use gamification for both elearning and physical classrooms. Here are some that we can use to make learning for adults engaging;

  1. Progress related psychological biases- progress bar for measuring progress
  2. Competition/Challenges- Nothing like some friendly competition to make things interesting. The desire to win triumphs almost everything else and makes games more worthy.
  3. Levels & Challenges- Have different levels as learners progress across hurdles & exams or quizzes and display that on a public leaderboard
  4. Loyalty stamp- Recognise your most loyal learners eg the employee learning the most about customer service or the ones putting in consistency in their learning hours
  5. Achievements & Leaderboard- Rewards/recognition are one of the most human desires. Incorporate rewards & recognition game mechanics eg scores, badges, prizes, points, etc
  6. In-app currency- Could you build in your own currency that learners can earn and use or trade in exchange for other items?
  7. Actual games- Test or quizzes that can be animated or use Virtual Reality to provide a 360-degree immersion into a game scenario. Go further and enable personalization of the game through avatars & customization.
  8. Inbuilt instant feedback system- See the instant popups that appear on your screen when you hit a goal or shoot down a target? The rush of endorphins at that point keeps you engaged in the game and going for hours.
  9. Social interaction/Collaboration- Playing is fun because we get to do it with others. Learning works the same way.
  10. Advanced analytics- Use reporting to understand the efficacy of user interactions

The use of gamification in HR is not new. However, many companies are still either unaware of or aren’t keen on experimenting with this technique. From recruitment, onboarding to learning and employee experience, you can transform your HR processes to be fair, unique, and fun for everyone involved and get better engagement for your programs.



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Stella Ngugi

Stella Ngugi


HR Generalist| Founder @JobonicsHR | Where HR, Tech& Entrepreneurship meet| Eat. Pray. Code. Blog. Hire | 🇰🇪 IVisit for more info.