Gamification: The Whys and Hows

Gamification is a hot topic in eLearning right now, but how do you make sure your organisation is doing it right?


To celebrate iDesignX this week, we’re diving into one of the hottest topics in learning design right now: gamification. Taking insight from Totara’s guide on gamification using Totara Learn, let us help guide you towards training with gamified content. In this article, we discuss why you should consider gamification and how to start incorporating game elements into your learning.

Why bother using games?

When done right, introducing gamified elements to learning in your organisation increases engagement and motivates learners. Whether courses are required or optional, gamified elements can encourage learners to prioritise their continued development. Simulation or Virtual Reality (VR) games are especially effective when teaching social skills and training for real world situations. 

The MATE Bystander Program, an award winning VR simulation developed by Androgogic for Griffith University, is a great example of how simulations can immerse learners in their training. The MATE Bystander program was developed to teach learners how to be active bystanders when faced with problematic behaviours related to gender-based violence. By immersing learners into real life scenarios, learners are able to recognise these behaviours and are equipped with the knowledge they need to stop those behaviours in their daily lives.

How to design gamified content?

People who enjoy games enjoy them for different reasons. Some learners might be competitive or achievers, some collectors or explorers, and others socialisers¹. Keeping a combination of these types of players in mind when designing your course will engage the broadest range of learners.

Courses can appeal to the competitors and achievers by assigning grades to completed activities, and then collating that data into a leaderboard. Collectors and explorers might benefit from content hidden with passwords, or collecting badges once a task is complete. Socialisers may enjoy discussion with other users through a forum or collaborative task. For more ideas for how to incorporate gamified elements into your Totara LMS, make sure to read Totara’s gamification guide.

VR and simulation games provide an immersive experience for learners, but when designing for these specific learning experiences, there are several things to take into account. First up you can consider the “Magic Circle”. The Magic Circle is a theory that a game won’t impact a player’s real life, and real life won’t impact the player’s game. Because of how the Magic Circle works, it’s unlikely learners will behave in a VR environment or simulation game the way they will in real life. It is possible, however, to maximise their learning by allowing players to replay simulations and explore consequences by choosing different outcomes. Furthermore, using forums or social environments to allow learners to discuss their in-game promotes internal reflection and deeper learning.

Now you’ve got an idea of what it takes to design a game or gamify your LMS, what are you waiting for? Got a question about adding gamification to your courses? Let us know! 


[1] Bartle, R. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: Players who suit MUDs. Journal of MUD research, 1(1), 19.