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Gamification to Bring the Much Needed Motivation in Online Learning

Motivating employees to take online training is a consistent challenge for training managers. I am sure you also have faced this issue. Engagement comes before motivation. Developing engaging online courses will change your employees from mere spectators to active participants. Well then, how do we get their attention and trigger the KEY of motivation? Apply game mechanics to your online learning!

Motivation in Adults

Though we talk much about engagement in eLearning, the willingness to learn and making those efforts depends on employees. Motivation is of two types – extrinsic and intrinsic.

Rewards such as pay hike, promotions, and monetary rewards are extrinsic motivators.

Intrinsic motivation refers to performing an action/behavior for the sake of the inner satisfaction of having achieved something, happiness, feeling of fulfillment, and more. Intrinsic motivators often don’t have a physical manifestation. For example, the drive to excel, to accomplish something, being authoritative on a specific subject, gaining competency, are intrinsic motivators.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are not mutually exclusive; they are often interlinked. Though some learners take gamified up courses for external benefits initially, they enjoy learning as they go through the learning process and continue for their personal development & interest.

Gamification for Extrinsic Motivation

In online learning, you can add gamification elements such as scores, points, badges, leaderboards, levels, bonus points, rewards, cash incentives, and even link these to performance appraisal. All these factors motivate employees to take up the learning for the tangible rewards or outcomes.

Gamification for Intrinsic Motivation

Learners enjoy learning new things, and learning itself, but due to the complexity and dryness, they may often be on the verge of giving up. For them, gamifying the learning helps trigger intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation focuses on change in behavior, such as inculcating interest in the topic, encouraging research further, developing a positive image for learning, fulfillment, and more.

Andrzej Marczewski’s Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose (RAMP) theory suggests how you can bring in intrinsic motivation using gamification. When you use these four motivational drivers/factors, your gamification can trigger intrinsic motivation in your employees.

1. Relatedness – Social collaboration, connections, community

People like to learn in groups. Working as a group toward a common goal will bring amazing results. Integrating gamification elements in the social collaboration platform, i.e., a Learning Management System (LMS) can genuinely motivate your employees and foster healthy competition.

Some people learn some concepts easily while others find some other subjects simple. This facilitates the mutual exchange of help. Recognizing and displaying the name of an active participant on the leaderboard, a word of appreciation are additional things you can do apart from satisfying the learner’s ‘relatedness’ drive.

2. Autonomy: creativity, giving choice, freedom, responsibility

Leaving the choice to your learners, allowing them to take independent decisions based on the prevailing situations will bring out their creativity. Your gamified course should give them space and choice. For example, not restricting navigation and letting them choose learning modules not by order, but by interest.

When you have a course with many modules, give the gamified appeal by dividing them into levels. Allow your employees to take the modules of their choice first and make connections so that they can complete the important modules; give them the choice to leave out optional units.

It’s like leaving your employees with a task and encouraging them to do the way they like best, instead of micromanaging things. You can also provide choice within the modules by creating scenario-based or simulation games, where learners can choose as per their preferences.

3. Mastery: learning, personal development, levels

In the process of completing certain tasks, failing and succeeding, and progressing through stages, your employees will become familiar with certain aspects and attain a level of mastery. Affirming these with external awards such as points and badges will strengthen learner behavior.

To spark this behavior in learners, when you gamify the courses, give more weightage to important modules; provide a risk-free environment and offer constructive feedback for learner encouragement.

3. Purpose: altruism, meaning, reasoning

Encourage your learners who have the expertise by enabling them to help others by answering questions, participating in discussions, and sharing valuable information. Again you can strengthen this intrinsic motivation by rewards.

You can spark this using a gamified LMS or making additional provisions in your gamified courses. For example, if an active participant writes an informative blog on a complex concept based on the given training and receives good response from other learners, recognize him/her in a special way by showing their name on the leaderboard declaring as a ‘Star’ employee, or by giving a certificate of appreciation.

I hope integrating these elements in your online courses and LMS will provide congenial situations to induce extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. This will develop learner engagement in the long run.

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