May 15, 2019
Gamification Mechanics – What Are They and Why Are They Important?
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May 15, 2019
Gamification Mechanics – What Are They and Why Are They Important?
I'm a Digital Marketing/E-learning professional interested in sharing information related to e-learning and keeping up-to-date on e-learning news. 
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Gamification is one of the most popular trends in eLearning. Gamification increases learner engagement, makes eLearning fun and interactive, improves learner’s knowledge absorption and retention and enhances the learning experience for learners from all age groups. eLearning professionals, L&D (Learning and Development) professionals, as well as learners that have experience with gamified eLearning courses would have heard the term “gamification mechanics” a lot of times in passing. But what does this term mean and why is it important? In this article we’ll discuss the same.

Gamification mechanics, also called game mechanics or verbs of gamification are actually the elements that are used in an eLearning course to gamify it. These include the actions, control mechanisms and processes that are usually found in games, which help put the learner in the middle of the action as well as restrict them in certain ways in order to create a challenge. The term “mechanics” refers to how anything (in this case a game or gamified eLearning course) operates. Different publications list different number of gamification mechanics, but there are 7 key gamification mechanics which are recognized globally and used the most often. These include:

  1. Points
  2. Badges/Achievements
  3. Levels
  4. Progress bars
  5. Leaderboards
  6. Rewards
  7. Learner Interaction

Let us discuss these gamification mechanics in detail:

  1. Points

Well, it wouldn’t be a game without a scoring system, would it? In case of gamified eLearning, learners should earn points by progressing through a course or by unlocking achievements. Points should also be tied to either a reward, badge or an achievement itself. Points are also often used to level up (by collecting a certain number of points), to appear on leaderboards or as currency in the game to buy badges, rewards and other in-game items.

  1. Badges/Achievements

Badges are usually awarded when the gamer/learner achieves something, and are thus, usually linked with achievements. Badges are usually displayed alongside a learner’s username, in leaderboards or any other places in the LMS (learning management system) where usernames are displayed. Badges boost learner ego, and let learners boast about them in front of colleagues.

  1. Levels

Most games have levels. A ‘level up’ occurs usually when a gamer/learner gains a certain number of points, completes a task, unlocks an achievement or reaches a specific stage in the game or course. Leveling up also usually means that the course or game is about to get harder. It also means the introduction or unlocking of new opportunities, new skills, new learning material or new modules or courses.

  1. Progress Bars

Progress bars give the learner a visual indication of how much of the course they have completed, and how much of the course is still left. Progress bars should be visually appealing, and should move smoothly with animations after every progress.

  1. Leaderboards

Leaderboards are one of the most important gamification mechanics, as they propagate healthy competition. They are basically tables with the names of top 10 (or top 20) highest scorers in the game/course. Leaderboards are used to display learners with the most points, most badges, most progress, highest level. Top scorers gain the opportunity to boast in front of their colleagues, but could also gain a badge or an achievement.

  1. Rewards

Rewards could be anything from points, badges, levels, appearances on leaderboards, the advancement of a progress bar to even branded merchandise which are offered when the learner either accumulates a certain number of points, reaches a particular level, progresses to a certain stage in the course, or passes an assessment or evaluation.

  1. Learner Interactions

Interacting with other team members is something that has become a prominent feature in a number of games recently. Interacting with other players/learners can be a really powerful motivator, whether they are cooperating, competing, discussing new skills and new ideas, or just showing off their accomplishments. There should be a chat option in the game/course, and learners should also be encouraged to discuss courses on office’s social media groups or personal groups.

In order to integrate all of the above mentioned game mechanics in your eLearning course, you require a powerful LMS. That is something that should be kept in mind when going for gamified eLearning courses.

 

9 Comments
2019-06-14 19:10:31
2019-06-14 19:10:31

I once took compliance training where I had to spin a Wheel of Fortune type wheel for every knowledge check question. The course didn’t track the “dollar amount” I won, so all they did was increase the time it took me to answer questions. What an awful experience.

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2019-05-20 10:38:35
2019-05-20 10:38:35

Good explanation… useful in training.

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2019-05-19 07:36:06
2019-05-19 07:36:06

I am always smiling when I read articles about gamification (took a MOOC on the topic). While in formal education scores have often been abandoned they are back under that label ‘gamification’. Competition is fine, but only when it fits in the real goal of eLearning. The best reward of efficient learning is the satisfaction of having acquired or increased a very useful skill. Just adding some gamification aspects too often is a way to hide what is lacking in the course.

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Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2019-05-20 10:42:25
2019-05-20 10:42:25
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Lieve Weymeis
's comment

You are right. but the whole business-world is controlled by Marketing people and they are always in search of such new weapon with new buzz word… and thats why gamification has value more than what it should be having. You have analyzed 100% correct…”…to hide what is lacking in the course.”

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chandresh shah
's comment
2019-05-20 12:26:16
2019-05-20 12:26:16
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chandresh shah
's comment

You know already that I am not a marketing person, my only concern is about making learning more engaging and more efficient. I have seen a lot of hypes come and go without adding anything to that goal.

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Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2019-07-06 21:59:31
2019-07-06 21:59:31
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Lieve Weymeis
's comment

Gamification done right, with proper learning theory, can be very engaging. There are quite a few studies in the academic literature supporting this. It is when someone slaps some leaderboard up with a point system and badges that don’t mean anything to the learner where things can go very wrong.

Toda, Valley and Isotani (2018) examined studies that reported negative effects of gamification. Their study classified those effects into four categories: identified indifference, loss of performance, undesired behavior, and declining effects. They found that all identified negative effects were due to the “lack of proper methods and/or frameworks…” and an absence of instructional theory supporting implementation of gamification. Their research reminds learning designers that gamification needs to be part of a broader planning strategy when designing a learning experience.

Toda, M. T., Valle, P. H., & Isotani, S. (2017). The dark side of gamification: An overview of negative effects of gamification in education. HEFA, 143-156. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-97934-2_9. Available from  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326876949_The_Dark_Side_of_Gamification_An_Overview_of_Negative_Effects_of_Gamification_in_Education

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KSunnySide
's comment
2019-07-12 07:59:22
2019-07-12 07:59:22
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KSunnySide
's comment

Thanks for all that information. You may find me too critical, which is totally due to your very first words… ‘when done right’. Due to a long career as professor, trainer in formal education, in eLearning the problem is exactly that.  Just answered in another thread, that I do learn nowadays about theories which are supporting all techniques I have been trying out everywhere.  Gamification is often just another word for scoring, best by MCQ  (less work than good assessment), and it could kill the most important feature of learning: social and peer learning. I suspect that the authors you are mentioning will support this intuition as well.

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Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2019-07-13 01:02:50
2019-07-13 01:02:50
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Lieve Weymeis
's comment

I would agree that many focus on the scoring(structural gamification). The literature is filled with it and it frustrates me. When you focus on story, mystery, challenge, feedback, freedom to fail (elements of content gamification), then you mirror much of what is talked about in learning theory that improves student learning. 

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KSunnySide
's comment
2019-07-13 09:29:15
2019-07-13 09:29:15
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KSunnySide
's comment

Totally agree, as you could already deduct from my previous answer. I was (in)famous in college because I used to congratulate students who were not afraid to make failures and find alternative solutions.

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