Why gamification is a vital tool in e-learning

Owing to the fact technology is now an integral part of society and something we couldn’t possibly do without, it is no real surprise to see that e-learning has become more and more important from an educational and training perspective.

For school pupils, university students, and full-time employees, the ability to acquire new information via computer software and smartphone applications has transformed their respective learning experiences. 

But as a concept so intrinsically linked to technology, e-learning must move with the times and continually adjust its offering. By standing still, e-learning could soon receive the same exiled treatment as the traditional teaching methods that preceded it.

Thankfully, e-learning is moving forward in a progressive way, as things like smartphone applications are now essential teaching tools for several students. However, one development in particular has not only assisted e-learning in its quest to be at the forefront of modern-day teaching, but also laid claim as a vital and indispensable tool.

A closer look at gamification

Generally speaking, gamification refers to the use of game mechanics to “gamify” content, such as teaching materials. In turn, this incentivises and engages students or employees by encouraging them to learn more and provides rewards for certain achievements.

It is fair to say that gamification has been evident in the past with things like loyalty programmes, target-based bonuses, and employee-of-the-month schemes. But the rise and effectiveness of e-learning has given this concept yet another far-reaching application.

Even though e-learning provides a more relevant and familiar platform for teaching today’s generation of students and employees, the subjects being covered are still very much the same. If the user thinks that these teaching materials are boring, uninspiring or not interesting, the process of learning remains an uphill struggle.

But by introducing game mechanics that are a bit more stimulating and enjoyable, any student or employee should be able to learn more effectively. But don’t just take our word for it; this way of thinking has been backed up by scientific statistics.

The gamification statistics that speak for themselves

In 2005, the National Summit on Educational Games revealed that learners recall just 10 per cent of what they read and 20 per cent of what they hear.

However, if visuals accompany an oral presentation, this number rises to 30 per cent. Furthermore, if learners watch someone carrying out an action while explaining it, this number increases again to 50 per cent. This is the kind of benefit e-learning can afford.

But add gamification into the mix and learners can potentially recall 90 per cent of information by doing the job themselves, even if it is a simulation. This is just one statistic that backs up the importance of gamification, but there are plenty more including:

Nearly 80 per cent of learners say they would be more productive if teaching or work was more game-like

Over 60 per cent of learners would be more motivated by leaderboards or the introduction of a competition between fellow students/colleagues

89 per cent of learners would be more engaged with an e-learning application if it featured a point system

These findings from a TalentLMS Survey prove that from an individual’s perspective, the prospect of gamification can improve long-term memories and noticeably increase interest in e-learning. But apart from retention levels and their own attitude towards learning, how else can gamification help students and employees?

Additional benefits of gamification

Greater engagement – Learners might not realise it, but gamification can hold their attention and motivate them to complete more tasks. By receiving rewards for the accomplishments they achieve, students and employees will feel positive about their learning experience. This is another way of effectively committing information to an individual’s long-term memory, as the knowledge itself is linked to favourable encounters.

Real-world applications – Although gamification takes place in a fun and risk-free environment, it also paints a picture of what the user’s actions could lead to in real life. This ability to gain a first-hand look into how one’s choices can make a difference is invaluable, as they will then put this knowledge to good use when the time actually comes.

Enhanced learning experience – Through gamification, learners will no longer think negatively of classes or training. This could potentially have a knock-on affect in every other aspect of school or work and lead to a more positive and life-affirming experience. Learning is transformed from a regrettable and stressful task into a rewarding and satisfying one.

McDonald’s Till Training Game by Kineo – an example of e-learning gamification in action

For the introduction of a new till system, McDonald’s UK wanted its employees to learn in a safe environment without the burden of frustrated customers. However, the fast-food chain also wanted improved accuracy, reduced service times, and higher spends.

The solution by Kineo was to develop an addictive, purposeful, and fun till training game. This used a simulation of the new till system to discover whether the learners were able to take orders but also assess their knowledge on delivering the best customer experience possible.

The game itself featured lifelines, bonuses, satisfaction meters and beat the clock challenges to keep learners engaged, but also attempted to improve knowledge of the till and increase customer interactions at the same time.

Although not compulsory, the game received 145,000 visits in one year and remains McDonald’s most popular employee portal page. What’s more, 85 per cent of crewmembers said it helped them understand the new system and would boost their future performance. McDonald’s also managed to reduce each till service by 7.9 seconds and increase their average cheque by 15p, which equates to £23.7 million across the UK.

This example alone is enough to understand why gamification is a vital tool in e-learning, something that Mark Reilly, McDonald’s Corporate Training Manager, wholeheartedly agrees with.

“This tool was placed quietly on our crew website with no advertising or direction to the restaurants. The crew found it, played it, re-played it and shared it. Its power was in the fact that it challenged people to try-out and experiment to succeed and improve, which is what the most effective learning is all about.”

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Persia is passionate about helping organizations improve employee engagement across their professional development initiatives.
Published: 14 Oct, 2015