Gamification in Education: Benefits of Gamification in Online Courses

If you haven’t heard about the rise of gamification in education, you might want to consider adding a gamification element to your online courses. It’s one of the best ways to increase engagement and to boost customer retention.

Think about the role that games play in our culture. People have long sat around card tables, playing everything from poker to monopoly, and digital gaming has created an entirely new subset of avid gamers.

But gamification is a little different. It uses the mechanics of games — such as rewards, points, levels, and competition — but it repurposes your existing content for the purposes of educating your customers and helping them grasp new concepts.

In other words, it’s the gamification of e-learning. And it’s growing in popularity.

Gamification isn’t exactly new. In fact, it’s existed since well before the Model T graced American streets.

It’s just being used in different ways. Digital technology allows you to introduce gamification online, but you don’t need a degree in computer programming to harness this strategy. In fact, you can even use gamification without any technological prowess at all.

Fortunately, you can capitalize on this trend for your online courses. If you’re interested in using gamification for education, we’ll guide you through the process of introducing gaming elements to your e-learning strategy.

What Is Gamification In Education?

In education, gamification is a way to boost learning through gaming mechanics. It capitalizes on the human desire to meet an objective, achieve a goal, outperform peers, and “level up” through a series of challenges.

In traditional gaming, people play for money, bragging rights, or mere entertainment. Gamification in education adds an e-learning component that allows people to absorb and retain more information. Since it feels like gaming, it feels less like learning, which can make your online courses more engaging.

Think about to your days in elementary school. You might have played with flashcards and Bingo boards. Your teachers might have initiated games like Around the World, Hangman, and Jeopardy.

And you probably enjoyed those games more than you liked filling in worksheets or reading out of a textbook.

Those same principles work for adults — especially millennials. Writing for the Huffington Post, entrepreneur Amanda Schneider reports that a necessary shift is taking place in the workplace from productivity to engagement. These same principles apply to adult learning. In fact, Schneider credits gamification as a major catalyst in this shift.

So how can you use gamification to make your online courses more powerful?

Gamification Is a Source of Motivation 

Have you ever played poker? If so, you felt motivated by the desire to best your opponents, to win money from your friends, and to secure bragging rights.

Motivation can come in many forms, but in games, there are several psychological principles at work. When you apply them to education, you can easily motivate people to learn faster, work harder, and retain more information.

Gamification often uses points, badges, and other game mechanics to motivate participants toward the goal. For instance, in an online course, customers could earn badges for each module they complete. It spurs them to move through the material faster so they can earn those badges.

Of course, badges aren’t the only potential source of motivation. You could also use a points system, public recognition, extra privileges within your course, and even monetary rewards, such as discounts on future courses.

There’s an element of competition, though you don’t want any of your customers to feel poorly about their progress through your online course. If you create a leaderboard that shows how each person stacks up against the others, make sure to provide encouragement for customers who fall behind the others.

Benefits Of Gamification In E-learning 

There are several benefits of gamification in e-learning, including the following:

  • An improved learning experience
  • An enhanced learning environment
  • The ability to provide instant feedback
  • Chances to prompt behavioral changes
  • The ability to cater to all learning needs and styles
  • An impact on your financial bottom line
  • The visual component of learning

All of these benefits help create more effective teaching tools for your online courses, no matter what your industry or genre. 

Furthermore, the benefits of gamification in e-learning are replicable. You can use the same system over and over again to reap exponential rewards. Each time someone signs up for one of your online courses, you can introduce the gamification aspect of the digital product to boost engagement.

Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of gamification in education.

Better Learning Experience 

Some people love to learn, while others feel less passionate about it. However, everyone has to learn if they want to improve their skills, achieve their goals, and advance in their careers and hobbies.

If you can create a better learning experience, you’ll easily step out in front of the competition in the e-learning industry and attract more customers.

If you ask people what they don’t like about learning, they might list several complaints:

  • There’s too much reading.
  • It takes too much time.
  • The process is boring.
  • I don’t understand the take-away benefits.

Each of these complaints can be resolved through gamification.

  • Reduce reading by providing information in shorter, smaller parts.
  • Hasten the learning process by teaching through game mechanics.
  • Add an element of fun to the process.
  • Show clear and actionable benefits through the game.

A better learning experience allows more people to gain advantages from your online courses. They’ll feel more connected to the material and more motivated to reach the next level or conquer the next goal.

Plus, if you’re creating a community with your online courses, your customers can communicate with one another and with you. This adds another level of connection and adventure to the online learning experience.

Better Learning Environment 

A relaxed learning environment can help people absorb information more readily and hang on to it for longer periods of time. In fact, a 2002 study concluded that “[a] relaxed learning environment can provide effective retrieval cues, as well as improve learning.”

The report went on to say that “the assessment of learning should also take place under relaxed conditions.” In other words, people learn more easily when they’re able to absorb information under relaxed conditions and when their knowledge is also tested in a more informal setting.

That’s practically the definition of gamification.

Instead of providing information in a rigid structure and giving rigorous tests and quizzes that put the customer under strain, you’re providing a relaxed learning environment that helps people find ways to remember information more clearly.

It also helps your customers learn how to teach themselves. In other words, they’re setting their own pace, reviewing the materials on their own schedule, and participating in the “games” when it’s most beneficial to them.

Do you have to require your customers to participate in gamification? Absolutely not 

However, it’s helpful to offer gamification as an option for customers who might learn better through game mechanics and who might benefit from the extra motivation.

Instant Feedback 

We live in a world of instant gratification. Want a new pair of pants or a skirt? Order it on Amazon and receive it within 24 hours. Interested in watching a television show? Just queue it up on Netflix.

Since we’re now conditioned for instant gratification, we also appreciate instant feedback. We want to know how we’re doing, what we’ve learned, and how we compare with everyone else.

Gamification facilitates this process. Your customers can figure out exactly where they stand by participating in gamification and accruing points, badges, and other rewards. In some cases, depending on how you set up the system, they can also see how they stack up against the “competition.”

Why does this matter?

People can find free information all over the Internet. Some of it is high-quality and some of it isn’t, but the information is there. An an online course creator, you’re asking people to pay you for information that they might assume they can find freely online.

That’s why you need a unique value proposition or a differentiating factor. Something needs to set you apart and convince prospects that your online courses are worth the price.

Gamification adds a new dimension to your online course, so make sure to promote it once you implement it. You’ll let people know that they can get instant feedback on their progress, which might be just the thing to tip the scales in your favor.

After all, you probably like instant gratification, too. If gamification can help you generate leads and customers more quickly, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?

Prompting Behavioral Change 

You might have heard about — or even participated in — the recent fitness craze surrounding mobile apps. It’s a form of gamification that encourages people to make healthier decisions.

From the Fitbit to the smartwatch, to apps that let you check your heart rate while you exercise, there’s no shortage of available technology to help you stay healthy and fit. But why does it work?

People know how to make healthy choices, but they often need extra motivation to actually make those choices. It might seem strange that something as simple as an app can help people choose salad over pizza and an evening jog over a night in front of the television. Yet it happens.

It’s because gamification actually changes people’s behavior. It prompts them to make different decisions based on what they can achieve through game mechanics. If they know that they can earn another badge, for example, they might stay up late working through another module of your online course so they can achieve that goal.

It’s simple human nature, but it can have a profound impact on your customers.

Each level of a gamification sequence makes subtle changes in the user’s behavior. He or she begins to see patterns, then applies those patterns to future decisions or actions.

Can Be Applied For Most Learning Needs 

It’s true that people learn in different ways. You might prefer to hear things because you can remember sounds more easily than written words. Alternatively, you might understand spatial dynamics better than formulas, so you’re more inclined toward visual cues when you’re learning.

The great thing about gamification is that it appeals to most learning needs and styles. There are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic components, all of which combine to help people learn more efficiently.

Impact On Bottom Line 

We discussed earlier that creating a relaxed learning environment and a better learning experience can attract more customers to your online courses. That’s true.

However, you also have to consider the other side of the coin. When you convert more prospects, you make more money. It’s that simple.

Our Kajabi Heroes prove that you can become an entrepreneur through online courses. However, you need a winning strategy that helps you convince prospects that you’re worth their cash. Gamification can take you one step closer to that goal.

Making Learning Visible 

In some cases, learning is all about relationships. Think of the typical classroom environment. Instructors often group students together to work on projects and hold class discussions. The camaraderie can help facilitate quick learning.

The same benefits can come from gamification in e-learning.

Everything becomes visible because you’re creating an environment that revolves around visible indicators of progress. Additionally, there’s a community aspect to gamification that makes e-learning fun and exciting.

Both relationships and visual cues can enhance online learning. These strategies can also take some of the pressure off of you as you administer your online course.

If you can automate at least part of your gamification strategy, you can focus on creating more online courses and other digital products from which you can make money.

How Can You Gamify Your Online Course? 

Now that you’re familiar with the benefits and advantages of e-learning gamification, how can you apply these strategies to your own online courses? It’s easier than you might think.

Start with a goal. For instance, what do you want your customers to learn by the end of the course? You might already know this from planning the course and even facilitating it with other customers.

Once you know the answer, figure out how you can turn the process into a game. In other words, apply strategies from online and offline games to your course material.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re teaching a course on personal development. You could create a challenge that allows your customers to earn points or badges as they pass through certain stages or modules of the course.

Create an interactive slide deck-style component that allows customers to answer questions on personal development. Depending on their answers, they’re either directed to the next question or given a reason why they chose incorrectly. After they’re able to answer all of the questions correctly, they get a badge.

You can make the game as simple or as complex as you like. Here are a few strategies that you can use to gamify your online course.

1. Challenges 

All games need challenges. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Decide right away what challenges you want your customers to meet. Should they answer quiz-type questions? Will they go through a journey during which they pick up new information as they rise to specific challenges?

The right challenges depend on the type of course you create. You can use scenarios, quizzes, polls, and other online modules to help your customers meet the challenges you set for them. In most cases, challenges are single-serve. In other words, the customer completes the challenge, then moves on to the next module.

2. Quests 

Quests are similar to challenges except that they take longer and involve more modules. You’re asking your customers to go on a journey with you, collecting points, tokens, badges, and other rewards along the way. There’s often an element of storytelling involved.

Think of this aspect of gamification as your own version of the Holy Grail tale (hopefully not the “Monty Python” version’). You’re taking your customers on a quest to achieve something related to your course materials, such as a final test or challenge.

Quests often involve maps or other visual representations of the journey. Your customers can chart their progress as they conquer various challenges and collect whatever tokens or rewards you’ve left for them along the way.

3. Rewards 

People play games primarily because of the rewards system. They complete a challenge and receive something in return.

It doesn’t have to be tangible. As we discussed earlier in this piece, rewards can be badges, tokens, or points that customers collect as they progress through the online course. They’re simply visual manifestations of the customer’s success.

You can design your own badges or download them from stock sites. Either way, make them consistent. Badges often feature trophies and other symbols of accomplishment to help your customers feel good about themselves when they accomplish difficult tasks.

4. Storytelling 

No, you don’t have to write a book or a screenplay to gamify your online course. However, you can use storytelling to immerse your customers further into the world that you’ve created.

For instance, you might come up with a character — either a person or a fantastical character — who guides the customer through the gamification process. This character introduces scenarios or problems related to the course material, and your customers must choose correctly for the character when prompted to answer a question or choose the next step.

5. Unlocking 

If you’ve ever played online games before, you know that unlocking is part of the fun. When you reach a new level, you unlock fresh rewards or achievements that help you with future parts of the game. You can do the same when you gamify your online course.

For instance, customers could unlock white papers, videos, webinars, and other content that you don’t make available as part of the standard course. Make sure that these value-added pieces of content are worth the effort your customers made to earn them.

6. Feedback 

Don’t forget to include a way to give feedback to your customers. They want to know that they’re learning efficiently and that they can come to you if they have questions or concerns. Creating a communication channel as part of your online course will help with this.

Feedback can be as simple as sending a quick congratulations to your students when they pass certain parts of the gamified experience. You could also incorporate automatic feedback into the game. When customers reach a specific level, they receive a virtual high-five and a few words of motivation to encourage them to continue the process.

7. Interaction 

Many people play games like Solitaire and enjoy themselves, but most games involve multiple people. You can create leaderboards to show who is moving through the game the fastest, for instance, to help create a community within your online course.

Forums and other communication tools can also allow your customers to interact with each other. You might find that they help each other get “unstuck” at difficult parts of the game and commiserate with one another over difficult accomplishments.

Even if you don’t have a leaderboard, you might consider making badges and other rewards public. That way, your customers can show off their skills to others and prove that they have successfully completed specific levels of your gamified online course.

8. Rules Of The Game 

Before you launch a gamified online course, make sure you write detailed rules for everyone to follow. These rules must be enforced evenly among all customers to avoid creating problems and fostering negative feelings.

In most cases, the rules won’t be difficult or complicated. You simply want everyone to know that they should not use extraneous resources to find answers to puzzles or questions and that they should follow the prescribed journey instead of skipping around.

Example of Gamification in Education 

You might have heard of Duolingo, which is both an online experience and an app that represents the essence of gamification in education. Its goal is to teach people new languages for free.

Once you sign up for Duolingo, you can choose the pace at which you want to learn as well as the language you’re interested in. From there, you’re taken to your own dashboard, which displays the learning modules and your progress. Each day, you unlock new levels that take you deeper into the experience.

You can also use strengthening tests to continue practicing your language vocabulary. Participating in these modules improves your score and helps you earn badges. As you progress through the program, Duolingo will tell you how fluent you’ve become in the language in the form of a percentage.

For instance, if you decide to learn Spanish, you can be 4 percent fluent by the time you finish the first set of modules.

It’s visual, immersive, and detailed, but it’s also simple. You just work through each of the levels, collecting lingots (rewards that you can use in the online store) as well as strength on the running meter.

Duolingo also spaces out the online learning experience. You can only work through one level per day, so you’re forced to return every day to continue your education. Plus, if you visit every day, you build up “streaks.”

You’ll also notice that you can connect Duolingo to Facebook. This creates the community aspect of the gamification strategy. As you build fluency in a specific language, you can compare your pace to others who are also working toward fluency.

All of these features combine to create an exciting experience that wouldn’t work as well without the game mechanics involved.


Gamification sounds like a tech-heavy word, but it’s really not. You can create a game out of something as simple as flashcards offline, so you don’t need code-ninja skills to make the process work online.

You just need a bit of creativity and the desire to improve your online course.

Start by understanding the benefits of gamification. If you can create a better learning experience, an improved learning environment, and a learning strategy that appeals to all learning styles, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition.

Gamification also allows you to give your customers instant feedback and to make learning visible. There’s a huge impact on your bottom line because, as you attract more customers, you earn more money.

Once you’ve decided to gamify your online course, set up challenges and quests for your customers. Use storytelling and unlocking to help move your customers through the process, and reward their progress with badges and points. Give feedback along the way to encourage them, and consider interacting with your customers directly.

Most importantly, make sure that everyone understands the rules of the game. Otherwise, it becomes unfair.

Before you know it, you’ll have an immersive e-learning experience and you’ll have discovered the power of gamification on education.

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