December 7th, 2015 Instructional Design

gamebrainGamification has been the buzz word of elearning for the past few years, but during many conversations with elearning professionals I have found that not everyone is convinced about its impact.

The question lingers: is gamification still just hype?

Since 2012 there has been a steady rise in its use. Back in 2012 the gamification niche of elearning was at $242 million. Today it is projected to be $1.7 billion. By 2018 it is projected that this number will reach close to $5.5 billion.

Based on the numbers gamification doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and this is with good reason.

The market growth continues because effective use of gamification has shown it to be rather effective. Specifically, one study found that when it was used to train adult learners, they scored:

  • 14% higher in skill-based assessments
  • 11% higher in terms of factual knowledge
  • 9% increase in retention rates

Evidence points to the positive impact of gamification, but do people actually want it in their courses? The argument is that it can make the learning a little “cheesy” and is too distracting.

Apparently this isn’t a widely shared sentiment. One study found that 79% of employees and university students indicated that gamification elements in their elearning would make them more productive.

This number could rise as we see more Millennials enter the workforce.

Millennials have a greater tendency towards gamification elements as they have had longer exposure to these elements through their educational experience.

So does gamification live up to the hype? At this point, many studies are indicating that it indeed is worth the investment.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


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Great article, Justin. I like seeing the evidence from actual studies of adding gamification into courses. In my experience creating and delivering online courses, my students, who are predominantly adults have responded very well to the gamification elements that I have incorporated. It seems everyone likes a little pat on the back for their accomplishments. I think it also adds a bit of levity to the topic. When I teach the basics of building websites to people who are not technical, the gamification elements of points and achievements seem to make it less overwhelming.

Agree Kim. I think it’s additionally important in virtual training environments since there isn’t any immediate feedback. People get bored, and a “pat on the back” (as you put it) is motivating no matter how small.

Although some studies show effectiveness of gamification in the short term, there are many that report neutral effects in the long term. In some instances, the effect of gamification decreased over time as users get use to it. In order to maintain the effect of gamification, reward value had to be increased over time.

Some studies also indicate that only a portion of users are motivated by gamification. For others it has no effect and it might even have negative effects for some who find it disturbing.

There were also some instances where gratification for one behavior had a negative effect on another. (e.g. points or badge for speed negatively impacted carefulness)

There is a requirement to assess the effects of gamification on the long term rather than the short term (i.e. job performance vs test results). Therefore we must be careful why and where we apply gamification.

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