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How to Apply Gamification to Your Online Course - Instructional Design Ideas to Gamify eLearning



Gamification is the use of game elements and game techniques in non-game contexts.

This instructional strategy provides an effective learning environment, leading to a more engaged learning experience that facilitates better knowledge retention. It is a vastly growing trend and is being adopted by huge corporations.

Contrary to what some may think, gamification does not have to involve a complete submersion into a virtual world. It is actually quite simple for an instructional designer or course creator to utilize gamification techniques into an online course.

Some learning management systems even include unique game elements embedded in their system.

Game elements include components such as:

  • points
  • levels
  • rewards
  • badges
  • avatars
  • leaderboards
  • progression

It's also crucial that the designer understand game design techniques such as aesthetics and artistic approaches. It would help if you learned how to think like a game designer.

This takes time and strategic thought. You must also be able to apply non-game contexts.

For example, what are the learning objectives for the course you're developing?


Remember that the objective needs to be something other than succeeding in the game. The learner needs to have a purpose for participating other than simply playing the game. 

Why Use Gamification?

Why might using gamification in your online courses be valuable?

It's essential to remember that it is not always appropriate to use, but it can be an extremely powerful technique when used effectively.


Games have been around throughout all of human history. They link to fundamental aspects of how our minds work.

Gamification can teach us about psychology, design, strategy, and technology. It's a significant, emerging business practice. There are both internal and external motivators for why gamification is so engaging. External motivators include things like high grades. An internal motivator would be providing the learner with a sense of community within the course. Gamification is also a great technique that can help change behavior habits.


An example of this is a fascinating study conducted by Volkswagon where they implemented gamification to get people to obey the speed limit. Check out the video below to learn more...



Think Like a Game Designer

You may be wondering how you can train yourself to “think like a game designer,” not just a gamer.

Game design is a state of mind and is actually a skill that we can naturally cultivate. You need to be able to look at your problem like a game designer.

This is different than simply thinking like the actual gamer. You will have to start thinking about the game structure that you will be implementing in your online course.

The learners need to feel like they are “at play” when participating in the course.

The main goal is to:

  1. Get them playing.
  2. Keep them playing.

You need to create an experience that will genuinely engage them for an extended period of time.


How to Implement Gamification in eLearning

Instructional designers, eLearning developers, and course creators must understand how to implement gamification in their online courses effectively.

Necessary game components include:

  • Goals or learning objectives
  • Rules
  • A game-like attitude, where the learner voluntarily overcomes unnecessary challenges
  • Obstacles
  • Real-world game activities, such as:
    • Challenges (highest sales or grades get a prize)
    • Levels (level up tiers for higher sales or grades)
    • Teams (share info with one another)
    • Rewards (reward learners for their practices)
    • Badges (give badges for remarkable achievements)


The eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners Mastermind will teach you everything you need to know about thinking like a game designer and implementing gamification in an online course and everything else you need to know about being a successful instructional designer.



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