Gamification has been part of our eLearning vocabulary for years. What is gamification, anyway? The textbook definition goes something like this: “Gamification is the process of using game mechanics, elements, and principles and applying them to non-game contexts.” Sometimes the definition adds “to engage users better” or “to enable having fun while learning.” Engagement is preferable to boredom or indifference and there’s nothing wrong with fun, but those are not the intended learning outcome. There is so much more to gain from gamification, and more every day.

So what’s the point?

In this article, I will explore that question a bit and suggest gamification learning outcomes that support business purposes in a way that people will probably enjoy. The point of using gamification is that it results in better and longer-lasting learning outcomes. There are decades of research that prove this. Gamification can enhance learning in a lot of ways. To name a few, you can use gamification to:

  • Provide reinforcement of key learning points
  • Stimulate a change of learner perspective
  • Support reflective learning based on experience and self-analysis
  • Spark examination and evaluation of beliefs, values, and assumptions
  • Offer opportunities to try out and practice new behaviors in a way that will sustain the behaviors
  • Improve attention, recall, and completion rates by associating the learning with a pleasant social experience

What kinds of outcomes has gamification supported?

Given those uses, it should not be surprising that instructional designers can easily find specific learning contexts in which gamification is successful. Search in your browser for “gamification examples.” Designers are getting better results for:

  • Improving problem-solving
  • Onboarding
  • Cybersecurity
  • Recall of product features, uses, and benefits
  • Training remote teams
  • Plant operations
  • Technical training

New and emerging trends in eLearning gamification

As new technology emerges and other technology becomes more widely available, designers are gaining additional opportunities for gamification. Here are a few integrations to watch for or to search for as you develop eLearning. In addition, you may be able to build these into your own designs without necessarily requiring new technology. These are growth trends in gamification for the next five years:

  • Using artificial intelligence (AI) functionality with gamification
  • Games tailored to an organization’s mission
  • Personalized gamification built around common interests
  • Adding collaboration to gamification features
  • Less use of generic gamification ideas (points, leaderboards, badges) to track progress
  • Addition of augmented and virtual reality technology to make immersive gamification
  • Logging individual behaviors for points to build performance habits
  • Logging task completions for individual reinforcement
  • Gamification in the metaverse
  • Gamification for teams to provide reinforcement for desired behaviors

Selecting or creating a custom approach in 2023 to implement gamification

Some gamification software or functionality is simply intended to encourage or track progress during an instructional event. Some gamification is a feature built into a learning app as a locked-in functionality that can only be used in the application and can’t integrate into other apps. Other gamification examples are built around reviewing teaching points. It is very likely that you will need to build your own gamification approach to fit your organization, and for that purpose the biggest help will probably come from your own research to find examples. Search engines will probably not be much help.

Be clear about your use case or learning outcomes and work out how to use gamification to support them. Do you need to use gamification to track progress and reward accomplishments for individuals or for groups? Do you want to make compliance training “sticky,” to influence user behavior and create higher levels of conformance? Do you need to help a compliance mandate by getting learners to understand its significance or by affecting non-compliance? Could a game trigger the required behavioral change? Would a serious game be more effective than a puzzle if the material is “dry?” Does the situation need to support deskless and mobile employees? Managers, decision makers, influencers?

Use gamification in 2023—it’s a best practice

In 2023, organizations worldwide will increase use of gamification in their training through mobile apps and social media. Young job applicants think that gamification at work is fun and enjoyable. We know that it works when carefully designed. Why not provide your workforce with those payoffs for learning, along with feedback, recognition, personal growth, and purpose? Just like artificial intelligence, making use of gamification is a best practice for your success, for the rest of your career.