3 Things Your Gamified Learners Really Want (And One Thing they Don’t)

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The Spice Girls are a font of unrecognized genius.

Yes. Those Spice Girls. The fantastic British girl band of the 1990s.

LMS Gamification

I am aware that it’s 2016. I’m aware they haven’t produced anything since a brief 2012 reunion performance. I’m aware that I am probably alone in my lingering fangirl status.

Part of me wishes that I at least had 90s nostalgia to blame for this, but I’m a bit young to have experienced the fad itself, so I have to admit that my interest is completely sincere.

I appreciate them for their catchy music, their grrl power slogans, and their playful, never-too-serious attitude.

You also have to love their message.

This message can be found in their iconic 1996 single Wannabe, which I’m sure is now stuck in your head.

In the song, they demand you tell them what you want. What you really, really want. It’s the same question that just about everyone managing or creating eLearning content wants to know about their learners when implementing new content styles.

One of these popular new content styles is gamification. And, while popular, gamification can be easy to slip up in the implementation process.

Luckily we have recent gamification research to provide insight on exactly this kind of thing! And from it we’ve learned the crucial functionality learners and players appreciate in a gamified LMS, as well as the number one feature that flops.

So what is it your learners want?


You said it Ginger


As a gamer, I can personally tell you there’s nothing quite like the rush of satisfaction you get when you break through to another level.

At the risk of sounding like everyone else raving about PokemonGo right now, it’s a good example here. While I don’t play myself, my Facebook is full of screenshots my friends have taken of themselves playing the game. And more than showing off rare Pokemon, these screenshots are of them gaining a level. My friends love to show off that they’ve reached a new high score of Pokemon mastery.

People like doing well, and levels are an excellent indicator – they’re the most popular elements of gamification, in fact, with 76% of people who gamify looking for them. They also help people feel like they’ve gained real expertise and make them more confident in what they do. After all, they’re level twenty.


But the infrequency of levels isn’t enough. You need something to let your users know how they’re doing between levels.


Points are the number one most used aspect of gamification in gamified LMSs, at an 85% usage rate.

I’d even argue that points and a progress bar could be used interchangeably. Both are an indication of how far you’ve come in the game or learning process, and how close you are to achieving your goals.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: winning feels good. Points are a form of winning, and the human brain loves it. The sensation of winning gets us as fired up as athletics, even when we’re only sitting still and using our brains. Points are a concrete method of creating that intrinsically good feeling.

And it has an impact. From this list of top 25 best examples of business gamification, 10 of them explicitly reward users with points. Likely, many of the listings that don’t list points explicitly include them as well. They are the fastest and most effective way to inform your users of how well they’re doing.

Concrete Rewards

Remember a few years ago when the hot new things to complain about were participation awards? And everyone seemed to be so upset that every kid got a trophy?

People were so up in arms about this concept because rewards given willy-nilly are meaningless. If a trophy isn’t difficult to achieve, why would anyone be inspired to try harder to get one?


To combat this, give your learners rewards they’ll actually care about – our research showed that a full 49% of users want performance-based rewards tied to their gamified LMSs. Don’t just have an online badge saying, Good Job! Actually show them their efforts are appreciated.

Before you gamify, consider how you want the reward system to work. You have plenty of options, but don’t rely on gamification to be its own reward. Consider tying real-world work rewards to gamification performance, such as small bonuses, gift certificates, or company swag for top performers who surpass their goals.

And the one thing they don’t want? Competition

A good business functions as a team, and you want your team to work together, not against one another. Otherwise team members lose sight of objectives, and it’s  more difficult to get the cohesion and group focus you need to do well.

So why incorporate gamification elements that pit your learners against one another?

While there is a certain personality type that does well with a bit of friendly competition and rises to the challenge, as a rule your team is going to suffer and may even do worse if you bring in too many intra-competitive aspects. This is because leaderboards cause problems for 60% of your audience, the very people that gamified training stands to help the most. Leaderboards can create a sense of shame in your employees, which decreases motivation.

While there are ways to finesse a leaderboard (like using avatars to distance users from their in-game selves or allowing opt-in/opt-out functions), it’s better to avoid it wherever possible.

Gain a level in gamification

With these features on your checklist, finding a gamified LMS has never been easier. If you’ve used a gamified LMS, review it here.

What gamification elements have you incorporated into your eLearning? Have they been a hit? Have you seen the Spice World movie? Wasn’t it brilliant? Let me know what’s on your mind in the comments below.

Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.



We have been thinking about gamification (or game elements) and incentivization for a particular B2B product. I definitely agree with all of your points.

Maybe one nuance we are slowly teasing apart is how we provide some amount of competition, but for groups of people that should work well together. Rather than leader boards for just individuals we are thinking about how we do this for groupings of individuals.

The jury is still out for this. I think the idea of building cohesion between people and fostering teamwork is going to be a better focus for these organizations going forward.

Leader boards may work better if it is about connecting with each other rather than isolating.

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