For those who aren’t sure what gamification is – it’s basically the use of game mechanics and theory to get people to engage with something they may not normally engage with. The fundamentals of game theory being: goals, rules and feedback.

The premise behind gamification is that while many people may enjoy playing games, very few enjoy going to work or studying, so the theory is that by making these less enjoyable activities more like a game, people will be able to engage with these tasks on a more productive level.

This technique has been used in the delivery of online courses for a number of years with varying degrees of success. Many learners find the gamification of training content “tacky” and “contrived” and almost in a sense patronising to the learner, but as this technique is refined and expanded on can we get to a point where it can be seamlessly integrated into instructional design techniques? Will there be a time where a learner won’t be aware they are learning as they enjoy the instructional content?

Does gamification work?

The gamification of e-learning unquestionably presents unique possibilities for learning technologists as they explore additional ways to educate and importantly engage learners.

It is widely recognised that adding interactive activities in e-learning are no longer optional extras, but essential to effective learning. However, it is important that the addition of game like elements into the e-learning programme are only applied in the context of the programme that allow the learner the opportunity to apply their retained knowledge to live situations, rather than distract and dazzle learners with wizardry from the overall learning goal.

It will be an interesting 2014 for the instructional design community, will we go further down the road of gamification or will we step back and try new ways of engaging our learners? In this author’s humble opinion, I feel it’s a fine line. Interactivity certainly has its place, but not at the expense of valuable content and the end goal of leaving the learner with a new set of skills and knowledge base.