Gamification, can it be used to increase motivation and make e-learning apps more engaging and successful?
Games are traditionally made with entertainment in mind, but they also happen to be good for a lot of other things, like learning. Games give you a feeling of growth and accomplishment. Because, as it turns out, they are highly motivating. Understanding the secret of this motivation can help us design solutions that are much more engaging, fun and efficient! Capeesh strives to motivate people to learn through our app, and we utilise several gamification elements to accomplish this.
What is gamification?
Gamification is a tool many companies have turned to in the last couple of years, in their branding, on their websites, within their services and their solutions. Let’s first get an understanding of what it actually is: Gamification can be used in hopes of transferring some of the fun and enjoyment people associate with games, to tasks that may not always be fun or enjoyable on their own. Gamification is an umbrella term for functions and effects traditionally used in games, inserted within a context that isn’t in itself a game. This definition was coined by Deterding in 2011, at a time when the phenomena really started taking off.
It has been heavily researched since then, and is used in a number of different solutions. This includes services, practices and products, herein websites and apps, ranging from areas like health, socialising, advertisement, and of course, e-learning.
Image: Gamification adds game-elements to a non-game context.
E-learning on a gamified app
E-learning is a way of teaching based on formal education methods, but with the help of digital resources, like an app. With Capeesh, you can learn just about anything, with language support in the language of your choice. We make content especially tailored to your needs, served to you in an easy to use, fun and playful app. This opens for way more possibilities than a simple textbook does. The range of interactions that you don’t get in the book go from listening, speaking, speech evaluation, animations, direct feedback and scoring, animated role plays, and much more!
We have several different stages in our lessons that are closely related to mini-games. Like our puzzle stages, where you match phrases or words together in pairs, in a slot-machine looking mechanic. We also have multichoice stages, reminiscent of quizzes and of course spelling and “pick the right word”-stages that evoke playful feelings.
Image: Some of the many different stages found in the Capeesh app
This kind of e-learning gives a great variation in the exercises, thus keeping the learner focused (and not bored!) and making it much easier to remember the content.
Research shows that a learner’s emotions, positive or negative, will have a significant influence on their online learning behaviour. Obviously, we would like to keep things as positive as possible, for the best learning environment and results, but also for the user’s happiness, satisfaction and motivation.
Capeesh combines an e-learning platform with a gamified experience; we strive to make learning fun, rewarding and engaging for our users. To succeed in helping them reach their goals, whatever they may be, we have designed our solution in a way that motivates.
Gamification and motivation
Motivation is a key factor when learning anything new. You need a drive in order to put in the time and effort needed. Because let’s face it; learning takes some work. Our task is making that work more rewarding than it is demanding.
Games are highly motivating, people spend hours and strive to get at them better every day. By bringing elements from games into our solution, we hope to achieve a similar effect.
People are motivated differently. Some thrive largely on intrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from within. The desire to improve, feel accomplished and strive for personal growth is important to them. The degree to which an activity is associated with the goal increases their motivation. When you want to learn, this kind of motivation is already at play; learning is your goal.
But learning is not just something you want but often also something you need. Other kinds of motivation can therefore be helpful, like the exterior, or extrinsic, kind. This is where stimuli from your outward surroundings drive you, like rewards, recognition, praise or good grades. Extrinsic motivation can be many different things, and is often what we associate with gamification. Knowing what kind of motivation we want to trigger in our solution boils down to understanding our users, and understanding how to design these effects for them.
Designing the gamified experience
There are many elements of games that you can bring into a digital non-game solution to gamify it. To name a couple, you have animations, rewards in form of points and badges or social effects like chats and leaderboards. As we know, rewards drive extrinsic motivation. These are not just tangible or materialistic rewards, but also any kind of positive stimuli like sounds, music, points and animations. This will make people feel rewarded and like they are doing a good job, not to mention make the experience more playful and joyous.
Games are interactive media, so it is already closely related to interaction design. Interaction design, often called UX design, is the practice of designing interactions in a way that makes them user friendly. We will often follow a set of principles when designing, to make sure everything is tangible and intuitive. To do this it is important to do research on the target audience, their needs and their environments. As a UX designer, I know that adding features without understanding the target users is futile. Or at best, not effective.
Gamification isn’t a save-all
Although you can gamify your solution, it does not mean that it will improve the experience. Gamification has in the last 10 years become a widely researched and utilised concept, so much so that some run the risk of implementing it for “trendiness” rather than on a foundation of research and knowledge. You need to utilise game elements with understanding and attention to context and vision in order to achieve the right effect.
Social gamification can have the opposite effect. Although we see that comparisons like the ones we typically find in leaderboards and similar social gamification can have a positive effect on certain people’s motivation, it can in education lead to feelings of inferiority and stress. Compared to one’s peers, and facing disappointment, many might experience negative impacts instead.
Critics claim that gamification can be draining of people’s time and energy, and feel exploitative. So, just adding gamification for the sake of it might be more harmful than helpful. We need to understand the effects of it, and use it where it is fitting.
““Too much gamification” could lead to a tiring perception, and too much repetition can lead to a risk of habit so that the desire for the task fades. Additionally, intrinsic motivation could perhaps disappear“ Mazarakis, 2021
Without proper understanding, gamification runs the risk of not operating properly or at its full potential.
Some more ways Capeesh uses gamification
In Capeesh, we have continuous scoring that gives you points based on your answers. This is adapted to each lesson, so the experience feels meaningful and rational. The points do not come from nowhere, but are transparently tied to the answer you give. Transparency is important to make the player feel like they are in control, and that they can trust us to be fair with them. Which of course they can, so we want that to be obvious.
Seeing your responses give real-time effects also improves immersion. The score is shown after each interaction, increasing a bar of points. You will see whether you are doing well, but still stay focused on the task at hand. A given set of points will also earn you up to three stars. These stars can be collected in every lesson. Completing lessons and earning stars will change the lesson card in the main menu and give feelings of accomplishment.
Our sound design and animations are designed to give a lighthearted feeling, and up the excitement when you accomplish your goals. We know that praising students has a way better effect than scorning them, so we never deduct points, but keep focusing on the positives!
Games motivate people, and understanding the secret of this motivation can help us design solutions that are much more engaging, fun and efficient!
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