Add-On vs. Integrated: The Ultimate eLearning Gamification Platform Showdown

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eLearning Gamification Platform

Ever heard the term brownie points?

In school, my friends and I would liberally exchange these mythical points.

“Get me a coke, it’s 30 brownie points.”

“50 brownie points to whoever gets to lunch fastest.”

“Help me pass this test and I’ll give you, like, a million brownie points.”

Were they anything tangible? No. Did they even exist? Nope. But did they make us move, push us forward, encourage us? Absolutely! They were so effective that we started assigning point values to everything.

We gamified our adolescent lives. Brownie points – and gamification – work because they’re extrinsically motivating. That is to say, winning points feels good. So good that we don’t even need to be winning anything concrete to get a rush from it.

Want to make your students more engaged, your employees more productive, or convince an 8th grader to bring you a coke? Make it a game and your learners will be flocking to your eLearning content faster than you can say “brownie points.”

When you look for ways to gamify your LMS, you’ve got two choices. Do you want an integrated system where the Learning Management system is inherently gamified, or do you want an add-on that provides a gaming boost to what you’ve already got? Different people take different options, and which one you choose needs to be based on your individual eLearning needs.

Integrated gamification functionality

If you want to go for an already fully-gamified LMS, there are a few things to consider. In such a system, the game features are inherently a part of the overall tool so all you have to do is enable them. Though this isn’t necessarily the only way to go about it; it’s more if you want a complete system where everything has game elements rather than just having gamification in one or two discrete modules.

This is actually the most popular mode, with 56% of gamification users preferring integration.

The potential downside to fully integrated gamification is that it can feel inescapable. Since not everyone is motivated in the same way, gamification may not be your unique culture’s ticket. If it’s not the method that works for your school or business, you’re going to have to overhaul the whole thing to get rid of the gaming features, rather than just disabling them for those who’d rather opt-out.

As The Huffington Post points out, gamification isn’t a panacea for corporate difficulties. And if your entire LMS is based around it and it flops, getting rid of it and finding a new system is going to be a pain.

TalentLMS is an example of an LMS that uses gamification without being entirely dependant on it. Since users can utilize or choose to ignore the incorporated gamified system with no repercussions, it’s a great choice for a mixed bag of learners. With badges, levels, and a leaderboard, it’s got the essentials on lock. It’s also pretty cheap, free for up to five users, and on the lower price range even after that. (Psst, it’s also compatible with Mozilla Open Badges, which I’ll get into later!)

Add-on gamification modules

But of course not all gamification software is built-in. Some of it comes in the form of add-ons that you can attach to your existing programs to get get gamification features not originally offered. And if it just isn’t working out, it’s much easier to separate the game portions from the actual work that lies at your LMS’s core.

However, an add-on might be too light if you’re looking for a more in-depth experience. And research suggests that if you’re going to gamify, a full system creates better results, specifically “higher overall positive impacts on almost every metric, and lower overall cost increases,” according to Capterra’s 2015 research.

eLearning Gamification Platform

Mozilla Open Badges is a great (and free!) example of this. It’s an open-source software that functions as a Firefox browser add-on (and also integrates with several LMSs). Badges are a great way to reward small achievements and keep track of milestones. Open Badges is highly customizable and allows you to create your own badges so you can make it specific to your school or business.

Also, consider Moodle. A wildly popular LMS for education, it’s been increasingly utilized by businesses. And it supports a host of plugins that you can use to do all sorts of things, including gamification. This one, called Level Up!, is free and adds points and levels to coursework. You can also experiment with MoodleBadges, a massive library of mighty snazzy badges and patches.

The bottom line

When it comes to integration vs. add-on, you can’t really say one is better than the other. What matters is which one is better for you and your learning content. The best option is always to explore thoroughly to discover what style suits your unique needs.

And of course, there’s always brownie points.

If you’ve used a gamified LMS – either as an add-on or fully integrated – review it so we know how it performed. What’s been your experience? Have you had better results with add-ons or integrated gamification? Add what you learned in the comments!

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

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Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.

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