The world of L&D (learning and development) for adult employees in enterprise, institutional, and government settings is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Traditional classroom settings are no longer the primary avenue for acquiring skills and knowledge. Instead, the digital realm is becoming the default path for learning, offering flexibility, accessibility, and personalized experiences that cater to diverse needs. However, one critical challenge persists: how to create eLearning experiences that truly engage adult learners.

In this article, I explore the emerging synergy between two powerful tools: Artificial intelligence (AI) and gamification. For instructional design teams, this article offers insights into how AI and gamification can be harnessed to create engaging eLearning experiences that resonate with adult learners. Whether you're already familiar with gamification or just starting to dip your toes into the waters of AI, this guide has something for everyone.

The Art of Engaging Adult Learners

Engaging adult learners has always presented a unique set of challenges. Adults bring maturity, expectations, and motivations to learning experiences. It's essential to tailor our designs for eLearning accordingly.

When designing eLearning for adult learners, consider the following:

The Adult Learning Experience

Adult learners are self-directed and driven by specific goals. They want to see the relevance of learning experiences to their lives and careers. Just as in more traditional settings—whether designed for synchronous or asynchronous delivery—eLearning content must be practical, relatable, and goal-oriented. It must be relevant. Enter personalized learning.

The Engagement Imperative

Engagement is the lifeblood of adult learning experience. Adults won't passively consume content. They need to be actively engaged to learn effectively. The design of an experience must require more than just showing up. Enter gamification.

The Delivery Model Must Meet The Learners Where They Are

This delivery must function whether the learners are physically located together, are connected synchronously through a network, are not connected at all (asynchronously), or in some distributed combination. The delivery must be flexible and autonomous, whether managed by a human instructor or by a networked system. Enter artificial intelligence (AI).

Demystifying AI for eLearning

Before diving into the role of AI in eLearning, let's demystify AI. At its core, AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines. These intelligent systems can analyze data, learn from it, and make decisions or predictions based on patterns and information.

In the context of eLearning, AI can assist in various ways:

Personalized Learning Paths

AI can analyze a learner's behavior and performance to tailor the learning experience. For example, if a learner struggles with a specific topic, AI can provide additional resources or exercises to reinforce understanding.

Automated Assessment and Feedback

AI can automatically grade assignments and quizzes, offering immediate feedback to learners. This instant feedback loop helps adult learners stay on track and identify areas where they need improvement.

Elevating Engagement with Gamification

Gamification involves incorporating game-like elements into non-game contexts to boost engagement and motivation. In eLearning, this means integrating elements such as points, badges, leaderboards, and challenges into the learning experience. The content is not designed as a game: game mechanics are simply overlaid onto eLearning content. Sometimes the content on screen and the game rules or the process of play is designed to give the learners the impression of participating in a television quiz show.

The Psychology Behind Gamification

Gamification isn't just about making learning fun; it taps into the psychology of motivation. Human brains are wired to respond positively to challenges, rewards, and competition. The experience of competition is emulated through the game elements (points, leaderboards, challenges, pacing). By applying these principles, gamification can make eLearning more engaging for adult learners.

Gamified eLearning Example

Imagine a scenario where employees in a corporate setting must undergo compliance training. Traditional modules might be tedious but with gamification, learners can earn points for completing modules. Points posted on a leaderboard turn a mundane task into the emulation of a game—a competitive and engaging experience.

The Dynamic Duo: AI and Gamification

Now, let's explore how AI and gamification can work together synergistically. AI adds a layer of intelligence and adaptability to gamified eLearning.

Personalized Gamification

AI can analyze each learner's progress and preferences, tailoring the gamification elements to suit their needs. For instance, if learners thrive on competition, the system can emphasize leaderboards. An example is the kind of competitive exercise sometimes used in sales training. If learners prefer collaborative learning, it can suggest group challenges such as virtual escape rooms. Another example of applying gamification may involve making it possible for individual players or teams to move up through levels as their skill set grows, the possibility of winning badges, or the appeal of competing with co-workers.

Adaptive Difficulty Levels

AI can dynamically adjust the difficulty of gamified challenges based on a learner's performance. This ensures that learners are always appropriately challenged, preventing boredom or frustration.

Practical Tips for Implementing AI and Gamification

There are some challenges to implementing AI and gamification. There are not yet a large number of commercially available software products that seamlessly integrate AI and gamification. A designer will need to decide how to integrate elements across the curriculum or within individual experiences to leverage the benefits of AI and gamification.

Crafting Effective Gamification Strategies And The Right Tools

Effective gamification requires thoughtful planning. Define clear objectives, select relevant game elements, and align them with your learning goals and learner needs.

Identifying the Right AI Tools

Where possible, select an authoring tool that does support both AI and gamification. One example is Spinify. Another is Rallyware. You can find others by searching in Capterra.

Testing and Iteration

Don't be afraid to experiment and gather feedback from learners. Use this feedback to refine your AI-powered gamified eLearning experiences continually.

Overcoming Common Challenges

While the benefits of AI and gamification are undeniable, the cost of implementation can be a concern. However, the long-term gains in learner engagement and effectiveness often outweigh the initial investment.

Adopting AI and gamification can be intimidating for organizations. Proper training and support are essential to ensure smooth integration.


In eLearning, engagement is the key to unlocking the full potential of adult learners. AI and gamification, when harnessed effectively, offer a powerful combination that can transform the learning experience. By personalizing content, providing instant feedback, and tapping into the psychology of motivation, AI-driven gamification can make eLearning both engaging and effective.

Additional Resources

For a more in-depth exploration of AI, gamification, and eLearning, check out the following resources at DevLearn 2023, October 25-27, 2023 in Las Vegas:



Session 102, 10:45 am, October 25BYOD Introduction to Gaming Elements in Storyline
Session 213, 1:15 pm, October 25Create Your Own Adventure: AI Video and Scenario-based Learning
ExpoA105, 2:25 pm, October 255 Key Modern Learning Benefits with AI and Adaptive
Session 310, 3:00 pm, October 25What Fully Adaptive Learning, Delivered Through AI, Looks Like
Session 311, 3:00 pm, October 25How to Create an Engaging Game-based Training Experience
Session MB09: 7:30 am, October 26AI and Mobile Learning
Session MB10, 7:30 am, October 26Games for Learning
Session 402, 10:45 am, October 26BYOD: Virtual Training: Master the Tech, Engage Participants
Session 411, 10:45 am, October 26Using Gamification for Responsive eLearning Engagement
Session 414, 10:45 am, October 26Breaking Down Walls: Leveraging AI and Personalization for Business Success
ExpoA202, 1:10 pm, October 26Unleashing the Power of Immersive & Generative AI for Soft Skills
ExpoD204, 1:10 pm October 26Future of L&D Content: Leveraging AI to Build Engaging Learning

Remember, the journey to engaging eLearning begins with understanding your learners' needs, harnessing AI's capabilities, and embracing the motivating power of gamification. Happy eLearning!