LMS Gamification for eLearning

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People love playing games. This is obvious considering that 75% of the American population is engaged in recreational gaming, and Japan’s gaming population is even larger. Today’s LMScast discusses how LMS gamification is a viable option for enhancing online course design.

Gamification is already being used for a variety of applications from phone apps to social media to marketing. For example, Ow.ly uses it to verify a user is human and not a bot when shortening URLs. For online learning, it is used for interactive devices like quizzes and retention exercises. One company, TeamTreehouse, allows eLearners to earn badges as they complete segments of courses. The possibilities are endless, and it is highly useful for engaging people and making mundane processes fun.

In his article, 30 Facts About Gamification in eLearning, John Laskaris presents some powerful facts and statistics based on a recent Gartner report that indicate gamification is an important tool for making online courses more effective. Some of his points include:

  • eLearning is a $56.2 billion industry and is expected to grow to $107 billion in 2015
  • 50% of organizations managing innovation processes are gamifying aspects of their business, and 40% of global organizations will soon be using gamification as a primary mechanism to transform business operations
  • 53% of survey responders felt that gamification will be widely adopted by most industries as a communications tool for all education by 2020
  • 75% of the American population are gamers, 50% casually and 27% moderately to fairly often

Because gaming has become a significant part of our culture, most people are already comfortable in gaming environments and associate the activity with pleasurable experiences. There is no doubt that gamification will become a valuable asset to eLearning environments, as it can help students retain more of the material presented to them while feeling motivated and interested in their learning process.

Gamification is cost-effective, as it is already included in LMS systems like our lifterLMS as an optional element for your online course design. We recognize this as a viable tool for learning, as it is actually based on traditional techniques that are proven to work.

Because gamification uses challenges and rewards for quizzes and recaps there is positive incentive to push past barriers to gain points, badges, and other tangible indicators of success. Those rewards are visible evidence that progress has been made and mastery of the material has been achieved. This kind of incentivization is as effective for adult learners as it is for younger students, and it can be implemented successfully for traditional learning situations, but it is especially well suited to eLearning environments. The fun factor simply works.

Competition also becomes a motivational aspect when leaderboards are introduced and students can evaluate their performance relative to others taking the same courses. This dynamic has especially been effective in enterprise-level custom learning management systems where sales people are naturally competitive to begin with. Four techniques that are especially successful include:

  • Progression through levels
  • Scoring and point systems
  • Personalized avatars to individualize participants
  • Virtual currencies

Digital culture in general, and gaming specifically, allows people to explore possibilities and virtually experience a more advanced version of themselves. In a way, it allows people to transcend their limitations and more fully expand into their potential – which creates a greater ability to actually realize the personal advancement they are working toward.

The point of online learning is to achieve greater student engagement with the learning process than traditional schooling can provide. Positive reinforcement aids in retainment and speeds progress towards meeting the requirements of the course curriculum. LMS gamification provides incentivization and encourages active interaction with the information people need to learn in their online coursework, while making the learning process enjoyable and satisfying.

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Episode Transcript

joshua millage:  Hello everyone. We’re back with another episode of LMScast. Today’s going to be really fun, because it’s all about gamification and learning management systems.

Gamification has been kind of a buzz word for a while, in not just the learning management system industry, but eLearning and gamification of all sorts of things. I’ve seen it in social media. I’ve seen it in, gosh, it’s getting kind of ridiculous. There’s an app I have on my phone that’s all about, basically, stats about my car, like when to get an oil change, and I get badges for when I get more oil changes. It’s crazy where gamification has gone.

I think there’s a huge opportunity for gamification to really positively affect the learning management system, and eLearning industry.

What do you think about that Chris?

Chris:  Absolutely. We had a previous episode about making quizzes more fun, as a way to get through the hangups we have about testing and quizzes. It should be fun. Sometimes the language we use makes a course fun or not, or it removes some baggage we have from our past learning experiences. Gamification is all about bringing the fun into the learning system.

joshua millage:  Right. Right. There’s a couple of companies that are doing that really well. Team Treehouse, which does some education for people who want to learn how to code, or be a better web designer, and that sort of thing. They have a massive amount of badges in there, they have a custom eLearning system, but it’s pretty incredible, and it is very motivating.

I was doing some research on gamification in the eLearning space, and I found this article written by John Laskaris, I think that’s how you say his name. John did an incredible job doing, just putting together a bunch of facts about gamification, either in the eLearning industry. I’m going to read some of these stats from his article, and then I’m actually, at lmscast.com/gamification, we’ll put a link to his article.

John, if you’re listening or find our podcast, we’d love to have you on for an interview to talk specifically about what you’re seeing, because I think this is just so interesting. We always talk about engagement, and how engagement’s really going to help change the online industry. I think gamification is one way to engage students differently and help them retain more, as well as just get motivated and interested in learning.

One of the first statements he makes is eLearning is a $56.2 billion industry, and this year, 2015, it will grow to a $107 billion market. It’s the fastest growing market in the education industry. With that is going to come a lot of rapid changes, I think, in gamification. Something to be really keeping our eye on.

By 2015, 50% of organizations managing innovation processes will gamify aspects of their business. Accordingly, 40% of the global 1,000 organizations will use gamification as a primary mechanism to transform business operations.

These are coming from a Gartner report. I think that what’s most interesting about this report is really the next stat, which says 53% of responders in this survey that was being taken, said by 2020 gamification will be widely adopted by most industries as a communications scene for all education. It’s just going to be part of how we do things in the future.

I think it speaks to the fact that we don’t actually understand that most people in the American culture, especially, are becoming gamers. There’s a stat here that says 75% of people are gamers, 50% casually and 27% moderately to fairly often. What’s interesting is this has been true of the Japanese culture. I lived in Asia for a while, so I saw the effects of games in their culture. Everyone from the youngest of the young children all the way to the elderly are all playing games. They really enjoy it.

I think it’s just been a matter of time before, now, you know, my mom, at Christmas, is showing me games she’s playing on her iPad, and she’s a retired first grade teacher. We’re getting okay with gaming, and then that translates over into when we learn we want to experience some of the things that we experience in the games, like the leveling up, and points, and that sort of thing.

I think it’s really interesting, and the cost of implementing things like this are becoming cheaper. It’s one of the things that we have in our lifterLMS.

Chris, what was the logic behind that, because you were one of the people who really pushed us to build that feature in there. I see now with these facts that that’s a huge opportunity.

Chris:  Gamification and the achievements that go with them, like you’re talking about the points and whatever the reward is, it’s not really a new way of learning. It’s actually an old way of learning.

In the US, we have these organizations for children called the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Brownies. Anyways, they get these kids, when they learn a new skill, like how to build a fire, how to use woodworking tools, they get a badge, and they actually wear that on their shirt of on their sash, or whatever.

When we become adults, for some reason, after our teen years society in a pop culture sense, has said enough with the games. Now all you do is you put letters at the end of your name, and that’s how you get authority and status or whatever. The thing is gamification works. People love learning when it’s fun, and they like to collect their own assortment of badges that is unique to them.

The online space, like you mentioned, Team Treehouse has really brought that back by making quizzes more fun, more like games, to master the material you just learned about. Then, at the end, you get a little achievement. You get a little badge of completion, or a thumbs up symbol. Whatever it is, we’re just trying to get the fun back in learning, and eLearning is perfectly positioned to do that.

joshua millage:  I think, I like what you’re saying. I didn’t even think about that. I was a Boy Scout, and I loved getting those badges. I went from Bobcat to Cub Scout, to Webelos, to Boy Scout, you know. I didn’t make it to the Eagle, but I was on my way up. The interesting thing is that it plays into, whether or not I’ve vocalized it, I love that stuff.

Another stat here, it says almost 80% of learners say they would be more productive if their university or institution, or work was more game-like. People now, in this report, which is interesting, people are raising their hand and saying, “I would like that, like it would make it more fun for me.”

The next stat he has is over 60% of learners would be motivated by leader boards and increased competition between students. We’re starting to see that with some of the enterprise-level custom learning management systems that we’ve been building for clients, that they’re requesting that, because especially depending on the industry, it makes a lot more sense than others.

In any sorts of sales organization or sales learning management system, sales people are generally pretty competitive, and much more, I would say, focused on achievement than maybe other industries, or other areas of learning. They love that stuff. They eat it up. They love to see themselves progressing through the leader boards. They love to see themselves on the top. I really like that.

I think that there’s just so many techniques, and four of them that are mentioned in this article are progressing through different levels, scores, just like points. Avatars, so people being able to create their own personality in the digital classroom. Then virtual currencies, which is one that I had never really thought of, to be honest. You could maybe award coins or points, or something, some sort of currency that could be then redeemed for other things, which is an interesting feature that I would love to kind of think about in future releases of lifterLMS. That would be really interesting.

I love the idea of gamifying courses. I think it’s just so important to start thinking that way. It plays right into the engagement that we’re so passionate about. If people really want to have their information taken root in somebody’s mind and their heart, they’re going to do things like this to make it more, I would say, I guess, meaningful. I think that when you get a badge, we love icons. It goes back to the prehistoric period of “I am so-and-so from this tribe,” or “I am the chieftain,” or something like that.

It’s all going back to how we were in older times. I think it’s really important to start to distinguish people as they go through our online courses. It’s really cool. It’s really fun.

Chris:  Absolutely, and that whole concept of digital culture. Even though people sometimes act different online, like if you were to look at people’s Facebook, you’d think everybody was like a rock star, and like always on vacation. When you have your online persona, it’s not necessarily an exact replica of your life.

joshua millage:  Yeah. Right.

Chris:  The cool thing about digital classrooms and gamification, is it’s not that it’s fake or whatever, but you get to kind of be, people just tend to be more themselves or how they want to be. They try to forecast their future, of like this is the person I want to become, so I’m going to act like that online, because it’s easy to put up this kind of image, or write this kind of bio about myself.

Digital culture is real, even though it exists in bits and not in, you know, atoms. It’s a part of that gamification. The reason we play games is it allows us to explore these alternate realities, which is how we truly learn, by entering these hypothetical situations.

joshua millage:  I think it’s great. I’m excited to see how this industry changes, and how we adopt gamification in the new year.

This episode will be at lmscast.com/gamification.

Like I said, John, we love this article. We love the research that you did. Thank you so much for putting it together, and we would love for you to come on. I would love to have an interview with you and talk to you specifically about what you see as a trend here, and have you on LMScast. If you’re listening, please let us know.

Until next week. Chris, you have any final thoughts?

Chris:  I would just close it out with a hypothetical thought experiment about gamification. It would be a what if I could question. That would be to go back in time in your mind to a class that you went to in person, that you really had to take, that wasn’t much fun, but you still remember it, and you don’t have fond memories of that class. Think back to that class, whether it’s Math or Science or English, or whatever, and think about how you could’ve gamified that, if you could do anything to actually make that class fun. I think we’d get a lot of great ideas of how you can approach gamification in your online platform.

joshua millage:  I love it. I think that’s a great tip. All right.

Well, thank you all for listening, and hit us up in the comments over at lmscast.com/gamification.

Until next week, we will see you then.

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