by Dr. Laurie Korte, Solution Architect, Remote-Learner

A limitation of eLearning from a pedagogical point of view is that it cannot transmit emotion or engage the learner as an instructor can. For this lack of feeling or emotional interaction, eLearning administrators and instructors must compensate by stimulating learners through other means. One approach to this challenge is to add gamification  elements to an eLearning environment. A common example of gamification in an eLearning environment is badges.

Badges?  What are they?

Basically, badges are virtual artifacts that represent a completed action or accomplishment.

Why do they cause learners to react?

Do badges work because they break up the monotony of tedious mandatory actions enough to motivate learners to strive for more? No.

Badges work because we have to keep learners focused on what they need to achieve.

Badges can direct learners toward the paths that lead to their goals.

When a badge is awarded, it represents another level of achievement on the road toward a goal. It offers encouragement through a visual showcase of progress that builds learner’s confidence. Badges cause learners to react because they offer transparent and immediate feedback and recognition.

How do badges relate to gamification?

The basic idea behind gamification is to uncover content progressively by putting more focus on exercises, while offering the means (as well as rewards) for figuring out solutions. This does not imply creating a game. It means making learning more fun and engaging, without undermining its credibility. Gamification helps motivate learners toward study and because of the positive feedback they get, they become more stimulated to learn. Gamification can be the powerful boost your eLearning is lacking.

Things to consider when adding badges to your training environment:

  • While advancing within a course, a learner should be informed of the next steps so there are no unknown obstacles between the learner and their goals.
  • Consider giving your learners special badges that stand out from a standard badge when they accomplish difficult tasks or exercises.
  • Badges should compensate learners not only for academic achievements but also for proper behavior like helping peers, commenting, and adding value to the experience for others.
  • Offer the possibility to convert points or badges into virtual goods, charity donations, or even discounts for real world products and services.
  • Add blocks or plugins to provide a constant showcase of progress building to your learners.

Follow these practices and your learners will engage more with your eLearning environment and will be motivated to earn more badges in the future.  Anticipation is a strong motivator which can get learners excited and engaged for a longer period of time, and help build a desire for learning.

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