The gaming industry leads the way when it comes to creating and maintaining audience interest. It offers a level of motivation and engagement that education professionals strive to achieve with their students. Recognising there’s something to be learnt from the success of gaming, the online education industry is starting to integrate some of its motivational tools and techniques into digital learning programmes. By taking a more ‘gamified’ approach to product development, learning companies are hoping to help educators achieve a more captive audience.
Students may engage with education more readily if they view it as a fun activity. In one example, Professor Traci Sitzmann of the University of Colorado researched the effectiveness of simulation games (2010) and found that retention was nine per cent higher against a comparison group.
Simulation is just one way of bringing education to life. With many different techniques at use in education, we can begin to understand that gamification isn’t just about giving digital learning programmes a more engaging look. The tools and techniques at work are rooted in an understanding of our behaviour, motivation and engagement. Getting it right can mean success at helping students learn through an enriched educational experience.
When students embark on an activity, they like to know what they are aiming for, how they are progressing and when they have completed the task. In digital programmes, a simple progress bar is an example of a motivational tool because it keeps learners informed on where they are within the programme and the achievement that represents.
In the online environment, rewards can be innovative and varied because online sessions can be tracked and milestones or activities can automatically trigger reward responses
We all expect any effort we put into something to elicit some sort of a response, and are motivated by encouragement. Students need to see that there is a clear outcome from an activity and to be encouraged along the way. Instant feedback within digital programmes gives students a better understanding of how they are doing. For the language student, programmes with voice recognition technology is particularly useful as it means they can get immediate feedback on their pronunciation.
In addition to regular feedback, we must be sure to celebrate our students’ successes along their learning journey. Everyone likes recognition and it can come in many forms. Rewarding students as they progress through a digital learning programme can help take away the isolation that can be felt from learning outside of a group environment. One way to do so is through a digital certificate or the awarding of points. In the online environment, rewards can be innovative and varied because online sessions can be tracked and milestones or activities can automatically trigger reward responses. FourSquare, the location and rating application, took an interesting approach to rewarding people for their use of the app with its system of crowning people ‘Mayor of’ a venue when they had checked-in the most times. This strategically plays to the part of us that likes to see that what we do has an impact and that somewhere out there, it is recognised and acknowledged.
Setting goals, providing feedback and rewarding success are three simple tools digital learning programmes can use to motivate learners. Through the use of these techniques and high-quality content, online learning can be made to be more fun, more engaging and ultimately, more effective for learners.
Donavan Whyte is Vice President, EMEA Enterprise & Education at Rosetta Stone.