11 Ingenious Ideas to Gamify Your Online Course

leads Oct 06, 2020

Want students to actually finish your course? Gamification is a brilliant strategy. In this guide, we'll share 11 ingenious ideas to gamify your online course.

It can be tough to keep students interested and motivated to finish your online courses.

There are just so many other things competing for your student's attention. And let's face it... most people have the attention span of a goldfish.

So how do you get your students to actually follow through with your course? It's a simple strategy called gamification.

Gamification is the application of game elements and principles in non-game contexts for exploiting essential mental desires. For example, it’s when you add competition in the learning process, implement rewards and leaderboards, wrap the course into levels, and so on.

Gamifying your course not only makes it more fun, but it also utilizes proven psychological principles to encourage students to complete each lesson.

In this article, we’ll show  you 11 ways to gamify online courses to engage and retain your students more effectively. But first, why is gamification important?

Why Should You Gamify Your Courses?

Besides increasing student engagement, gamifying your online course allows you to:

  • Keep your learners motivated to visit your website regularly
  • Creates a more memorable student experience
  • Accelerates the learning process
  • Personalizes learning
  • Increases student feedback
  • Increases testimonials and case studies

The number of online education businesses using gamification in their training is growing dramatically. It’s expected that the education gamification market will reach nearly 12 billion U.S. dollars by 2021:

Also, a recent study showed that 83% of students whose training software was gamified reported that they felt more motivated than those with non-gamified training:

Before You Gamify Your Course

Keep this in mind: moderation is the key.

Gamification is an approach to make the learning process more captivating, engaging, efficient. However, if you go too crazy with it, you can actually distract students from the course content.

Make sure to prioritize intrinsic motivation to encourage your students to enjoy the skill they're learning in and of itself. Students should be motivated first and foremost to achieve the intended outcome. Gamification is only a tool to help them stay motivated when the going gets tough.

Ok, are you ready to learn 11 ways to gamify your online course? Let's dive in!

1. Track & Reward Progress

A progress-tracking tool implemented in your courses will let students monitor their progress.

This way, students can see what they have already learned and the scope of work left to do to accomplish their goal.

You can also implement a rewarding system. This can be points, badges, or even tangible gifts to reward students for achieving specific milestones in your course.

For instance, you can reward learners for every successfully completed module, level, or mini-course.

Creating a leaderboard is another idea if you want to add a competitive spirit to your course.

2. Share Achievements

What can be more motivating than your students own achievements? Give them the ability to share their successes with the world on social media.

Adding simple social sharing buttons encourages students to work even more diligently to reach their goals faster, since the whole world is watching.

And, there is a bonus for you... word-of-mouth marketing for your online course!


3. Incrementally Unlock Content

When designing online training, you're faced with two options:

  • Open the content in a drip format — a time-based manner when the new materials are unlocked each week, for example, OR:
  • Provide access to the entire course at once.

These two approaches have their own advantages and drawbacks. But gamification opens up a third option which can be the best of both worlds:

Allow learners to unlock new lessons/modules only after the previous lesson/module is completed.

This approach allows you to make your courses more personalized by letting your students move through the course at their own pace. However, it also keeps students from feeling overwhelmed by having all the material available all at once.

If you notice that students tend to fall off at a certain point, include some deadlines for completing the assignments. Definite timeframes, especially when used along with rewards, is a powerful motivator for students to complete your course.

4. Gradually Increase the Challenge

A smooth learning curve helps your students to succeed. Successful students means awesome testimonials and case studies for your course.

Use the principle of gradually increasing challenges. For example, at the very beginning of your course, you can have students take a simple quiz that's not too difficult. Each subsequent quiz could be gradually more difficult.

Design each subsequent lesson building on the knowledge, abilities, and skills acquired in previous lessons. This way, your students are more likely to achieve mastery without getting frustrated along the way.

5. Incorporate Board Game Elements

A way to make learning more engaging and fun is to implement board game elements. Simply think about your favorite board game and ask yourself: what makes this fun? How can I incorporate elements of this game into my course?

For example, you could take the idea and/or design of Scrabble for completing certain tasks, exams, modules, or learning some new definitions.

Remember: everyone loves to play!

6. Allow for Second Chances

What if students fail to complete a quiz or test? Take the principle of video games where you have several “lives” to pass the level and move further. Here is the same. It’s better to return the users to the previous point and give them another try.

Make sure students don't get frustrated by allowing them to embrace failure and try again. Providing multiple attempts to pass the module, you encourage the learners to think out of the box, take risks, experiment, and just keep going.

By letting students learn from their mistakes, you'll also emphasize practice, help them master skills, and find the solution without the pressure of failure.

7. Include "Punishments"

We've talked about rewards and second chances. But what about punishments?

Yes, it might sound a little bit harsh, yet, punishments can also be used effectively.

For example, if the student fails to complete an assignment in time, you might take away points/badges. This adds value to the rewards and makes them feel more worthwhile.

Just make sure you also give students the opportunity to redeem themselves and earn those rewards back!

8. Incorporate Storytelling

Stories keep grab attention, increase engagement, and help students to remember concepts more easily. Stories also make your course stand out from all other online course.

Tell stories about your own struggles that your students are likely going through, and how you overcame them. Tell stories about previous students. Tell any kind of stories!

You can even turn your course itself into a story. Add fictional characters and a plot. Students will have so much fun immersing themselves in your course and completing "missions"!

9. Personalize the Learning Experience

Allow students to personalize your course and tailor it to their specific needs. For example, you could offer a few different options for completing your course depending on where students are starting from and where they want to go.

You could also allow students to customize their settings for a unique learning experience. For example, you could allow them to:

  • Select/create a user avatar or upload a photo/bio to their profile
  • Choose the theme of the interface
  • Choose which homework assignments to complete (test vs. presentation vs. group project, etc.)
  • Move through the course at their own pace (offering action-based content unlocking, and so on, as discussed earlier)


10. Allow Students to Team Up

Going through your course with other students is a lot more fun than doing it alone. So why not provide the opportunity for students to interact with one another, collaborate, and learn in teams?

Offer some group projects to pass the stage and accumulate points, get badges, etc. You could also provide a simple private community for students to talk with one another. This will encourage students to work better and increase the learning experience for their fellow students as well.

11. Simulate Real-Life Scenarios

People take online courses not so much for the knowledge itself but to develop important skills to improve their lives. Learning the concepts in theory is great, but sometimes this bears little relationship to reality and everyday situations.

That’s why it’s vitally important to make your courses practical and applicable to the problem students are trying to solve. For example, you could base homework assignments on realistic scenarios that simulate real-life situations. The more your students put what they've learned into practice, the more likely they are to succeed. And that's the most important thing.


Final Thoughts

Gamification has a huge impact on e-courses, making the learning process fun, engaging, and effective. Every good online course has at least a few gamification elements.

Now you have 11 brilliant ideas to try out. Choose one idea to start with, and gradually implement more as needed. Before you know it, students will be raving about your course and begging you for more!

Alexey Kutsenko is CMO at DDI Development company, that provides custom web & development services to worldwide clients. Alexey has vast experience in building marketing strategies for various clients, defining the client’s needs, and leading digital marketing strategies in the company.

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