Gamification in Continuing Education Courses for Adults

Do Adults Appreciate Gamification in Continuing Education Courses?

Anyone who’s ever lost themselves – and hours – playing Mario Kart or Angry Birds can speak to the captivating appeal of video games. They offer seemingly mindless escapism that so many of us seek in our everyday lives.

But – plot twistgamification may actually have a place in business, too.

Because while it may seem – at least superficially – that gamification could pose a threat to productivity and employee engagement, it can actually be a very discreet knowledge delivery method. Think of it as hiding vegetables in your kid’s food.

Gamification in your eLearning can actually be good for you and your employees, all wrapped up in a camouflaged package known as ‘fun.’

And its efficacy and potency don’t stop at ‘fun.’ Gamification is powerful because it triggers powerful human emotions, like happiness, intrigue, and excitement.

And by virtue of the transitive property, those positive, emotional human experiences lead to increased engagement, and greater engagement leads to happier employees.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

What Is Gamification?

Simply Put: Gamification is an eLearning content delivery method that leverages game-like elements.

Think of every time you get a ‘customer loyalty’ stamp or hole punch in a card every time you visit your favorite coffee shop. ‘Earn 10 stamps and get one drink free.’ Or online, it could be leveraging leaderboards, progress bars, and loyalty points.

Why do these ‘rewards’ work? Because they tap into some of our most fundamental natural instincts: competition, exploration, and curiosity.

Gamification increases engagement because it taps into motivators like recognition, rewards and a sense of competition to keep employees engaged.

Even something as simple as adding badges to your course to recognize student accomplishments as a reward for achieving particular competencies can encourage continued engagement. In fact, almost 80% of learners say that they would be more productive if their university, institution, or work were more game-like.

But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, it’s really just a very clever use of psychology.

The Psychology Behind Why Gamification Works

Even more convincing than the rush and compulsion most of us have experienced at the hands of some impossible-to-quit game is the psychology behind why we’re like moths to its flame – and why it works for eLearning, too.

Gamification triggers emotions linked to a positive learning experience. And a positive experience triggers a dopamine rush.

Leveling up. Earning a reward. Getting positive reinforcement. Achieving something. Those all give you a tiny taste of dopamine that once experienced, it makes you want more.

And how do you get more? You do it again. And again. And again. It’s a primal Pavlovian response.

Emotions are critical to eLearning as they drive attention, increase engagement, boost motivation and enhance knowledge retention. In fact, an emotionally-driven approach will evoke positive emotions which will make you feel more involved and engaged with the subject matter – and remember what we said about the positive effects of engagement?

We human beings are emotional creatures. When we feel something – when something evokes emotion – we remember it, leading to greater knowledge absorption and retention. When we recall a particular event in our lives that elicited happiness or joy, we immediately remember what we were doing, where we were, who was with us, and more. We recall every vivid detail because of how it made us feel.

And gamification elicits fun, which elicits happiness – which keeps us coming back for more.

How Gamification Increases Engagement In Adults

1. Control

Psychology tells us people like to be the masters of their own destiny – or at least feel like they are. So gamification plays to that very desire by making it seem like they’re in the driver’s seat.

2. Progress

How many of you remember asking – or are now on the receiving end of – ‘Are we there yet?’ People like to know where they’re going and how far they have to go so a progress bar makes learning seem manageable.

3. Reinforcement

When you complete a gamification level, you get a reward – so you do it again and again. It reinforces content while making learners feel good, triggering the instant gratification response we crave.

4. Achievement

Achievement is one of the most powerful psychological driving factors of human behavior. We do things to achieve things. Even something as simple as saying ‘good job!’ creates a sense of accomplishment.

5. Competition

We are competitive by nature. By using ‘personal bests’ and ‘high scores,’ you can convince your users to come back and try again because we’re motivated by beating our own records – and someone else’s.

6. Rewards

This one is obvious: Everyone loves rewards. Rewards play on our need for achievement and then, we earn something for our achievements, even if it’s just a binary ‘badge’ comprised of nothing more than 1s and 0s.

7. Exclusivity

People like exclusivity that earns status, like paying for first-class or owning the newest iPhone. So adults will work hard to unlock a secret level on a video game to get that huge dopamine hit to their ego.

8. Collaboration

Humans are social creatures, so gamification makes learners feel like they’re part of a team or community on their eLearning journey, fostering feelings of loyalty and belonging.

Gamification isn’t just child’s play or a mindless time-suck anymore. When done well, gamification can drive strong behavioral changes and powerful emotions with profound implications for learning professionals.

Learners are no longer relegated to simply being static recipients of information as gamification – literally – puts education in the hands of learners, empowering them to learn while having fun.