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Gamification: Making Your Learning A LOT More Fun

Do you remember when you completed your social media profile to get this ‘completion bar’ to 100%, or when you gathered points at a supermarket to receive a gift card? Also, when you were rewarded with a free drink after a number of purchases at a coffee shop, like Starbucks? All these settings, and many more, are examples of gamification in our lives.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the use of gaming elements and mechanics to enrich non-gaming experiences. The goal is to motivate participation, engagement, and loyalty in the user, utilizing the same data-driven and tested techniques game designers use. Such techniques can include points, leaderboards, achievements or badges, and much more.

There is a huge correlation between gamification and learning. Although gamification has been used to enhance various types of experiences, it is primarily used in education and learning contexts. From actual classrooms to corporate environments, gamifying learning processes and experiences has produced amazing results.

Gamification should not be confused with actual game-based learning. Instead of building a game to teach a subject, it’s more about amplifying or slightly modifying the current experience. Most often, it’s not about building something new.

Gamification mechanics

There are multiple elements, originating from games, used in gamification. Points, Levels (experience), Missions (individual or team), Achievements/Badges, Leaderboards, Unlocks, Quizzes, Visual Progress Tracking (charts), are some of the most important, but by no means is this a comprehensive list.

Those elements are based on mechanics that drive engagement and participation in gamified experiences. Notice how some of them are hugely important factors in learning.

Instant feedback

A gamified learning experience tends to provide instant feedback to the learner, so that they know what they’re doing right or wrong. This facilitates better learning curves and increased confidence, thus increasing engagement, as well as results.

Competition

Humans are competitive by nature, and when competition elements, like leaderboards, are used in moderation, learners tend to show an increase in motivation. Just think of healthy competition, as the opposite can have major detrimental effects on the experience.

Collaboration

Gamification elements can also drive another amazing force, that of collaboration. Humans can achieve greater results it teams, and when this is softly enforced throughout an experience, through team missions, for example, the results are profound.

Community

Even when we are referring to a solitary experience, gamification can create a community to give context and meaning to personal achievements. Earning achievements and badges, or seeing yourself featured high in a leaderboard, contain meaning because others understand their value.

Sense of achievement

The sense of achievement is a huge driving factor of gamification, and, thus, is the primary goal of most of its elements. Points are used for the short-term, and achievements, unlocks, or level-ups for the long-term. Due to these, most learners get back to the experience to achieve just a little bit more. In this case, the ‘addictive’ element of gaming is paired with a productive experience.

Goals

Going after your long-term goal for a long time can be demotivating. Gamification through missions or challenges gives users a purpose through short-term goals while maintaining the path towards achieving their long-term ones.

Rewarding good habits

An integral part of building new habits and maintaining them is the reward. Through gamification, the learner is rewarded whenever they do their part. The bigger the reward, the better the feeling.

Exploration

Humans love to be in control, and also love exploring new things, experiencing intrigue and excitement in the process. Paired with a “map”, so that users don’t get lost, a gamified experience can tap into this better than anything. This is one of the reasons that games like World of Warcraft have been so successful.

Safe environment

Gamification provides structured and fun experiences that build confidence in the learner. Especially in adult learning, the fear of mistakes can be crippling. By providing a safe environment for learners, gamification boosts loyalty to the system as much as possible.

Spaced repetition and other learning techniques

Most gamified experiences incorporate basic learning techniques, like spaced repetition. Using notifications and unlocks, it ensures the usage of such fundamental techniques, further boosting retention and confidence.

Why should YOU care?

Now, I’m guessing that most of you reading this are not building learning experiences for others. Nevertheless, gamification is of equal importance to you. As we’ve seen, gamification as a process utilizes techniques to promote engagement and loyalty. Why not take advantage of that for yourself?

How to use gamification for yourself

Hunt for gamified experiences

The primary way to utilize your new-found understanding of gamification is to hunt down apps and experiences that have it already built in. If an experience is already built to keep you engaged and accountable, you should take advantage of it.

If you want to learn a language, don’t pick up a boring textbook. Instead, use Duolingo, one of the most exemplary gamification examples out there. If you want to learn to code, again, don’t start with boring textbooks or lectures. Instead, head out to Codecademy, another great gamification experience, and see where that gets you. If you want to refresh your math knowledge, go earn a badge on Khan Academy, don’t pick up your old algebra book.

Incorporate gamification elements in your learning

You may have an existing process in your learning already, which you don’t want to change. In that case, borrow some elements from gamification, and incorporate them into your process. For instance, reward yourself after a session well-done, or gather “points” based on the duration and efficiency of your studying, leading to a bigger reward after a milestone. Build instant feedback loops, e.g. through self-recording, and/or engage with peers or a mentor to incorporate competition, collaboration, and accountability in your process.

Gamification with others

Gamification is an amazing tool for learning and education, and has been used by educators and companies around the world. But, there are multiple other, smaller-scale usually, collaborative learning environments.

It can be used by parents towards both themselves and their children, practically creating a gamified learning ecosystem at home. It can also be used by siblings, friends, partners or teams that want to learn and work together.

For instance, set common goals with each other, and create a simple point system, with rewards on various milestones. Alternatively, post a leaderboard on a wall or online, and keep track of each member’s progress. The winner receives a prize, as well as bragging rights!

If you are in any of the above categories, try to identify areas in your life where you could incorporate gamification for yourself and others. By enhancing your process with any of the aforementioned techniques, you and the other members will witness boosted motivation, increased results, and, frankly, you will have a lot more fun!

Conclusion

Gamification is currently transforming the way companies and educators build experiences and drive participation, engagement, and loyalty. It does so by leveraging the internal desires that exist in all of us for achievement, feedback, competition, community, and rewards.

For you, as a learner, this is great news. Utilize the work others put in building such compelling and engaging experiences to receive the same benefits for yourself. If you can share this with others, even better!

Call to Action

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends. Also, I’d love to hear any thoughts and/or questions you may have on gamification, or anything for that matter. Post on the Facebook group, or contact me directly!

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