Training Technology

Gamification and eLearning

Published by in Training Technology

Games create engagement – a necessity for any learning experience – however just how effective is gamification in improving learning outcomes? I recently listened to a fantastic interview with Bloomsburg University Professor Karl Kapp on the subject and I would like to bring up the main points in this post.


What is gamification?

Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, defines it as the use of game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning and solve problems. He says it’s much more than just adding rewards, points, and badges to processes to motivate people – it’s the instructional method, and not just the delivery system, that provides the elements for learning in a game situation i.e. we must ask what pieces in games makes them engaging such as interactivity, content, story.

Impact of gamification

A study done by Traci Sitzmann, an assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, found that “employees trained on video games learned more factual information, attained a higher skill level and retained information longer than workers who learned in less interactive environments.” She found that games provided a high level of instruction, but she also noted that it wasn’t just dependent on the game per se, but the interactivity or the elements that make the game engaging. In other words, the engagement of the learner in the game leads to learning.

Gamification is taking elements of gaming and adding them to traditional instruction. Instructional designers have been using some elements for years, like stories, case studies, or interactive activities – but Karl Kapp suggests gamification is more about taking into consideration interactivity and engagement first, and objectives second.

How do different types of games teach different content?

So what’s emerging is that effective gamification is not about layering goals and rewards on top of content, but rather about “adopting a game-thinking mentality in order to integrate game mechanics into learning in a planned approach. The ultimate goal is to create positive learning outcomes while users are engaged and motivated.”

Listed In the following table are which games are appropriate for certain types of content:

Instructional focus

Best game types

Teaching facts (declarative knowledge games, i.e. the only way to learn it is through memorization)

matching games, multiple choice, organization – drag/drop

Conceptual knowledge games

examples, non-examples, results of conceptual understanding

Procedural/ rules-based knowledge

board games in which you predict and apply rules, observe consequences of rules

Problem solving knowledge games

Branching simulation, using a virtual world (where a person is behind an avatar which means infinite branching)

While there are clearly situations where gamification can engage and deliver, Kapp warns us that games are not a solution for every instructional program. For more on the gamification of learning and instruction, I highly recommend Kapp’s book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies For Training And Education.

Enterprise gamification

Gamification hasn’t just affected training – gamification of the workplace or Enterprsie gamification is a fast-growing business. Companies are now also “gamifying” various business processes to motivate employees, fundraise for causes, and market products.

Tech-industry research firm Gartner estimates that by 2014, “some 70% of large companies will use the techniques for at least one business process. Market researcher M2 Research estimates revenue from gamification software, consulting and marketing will reach $938 million by 2014 from less than $100 million this year.”

While gamification has proved effective gaming, experts say companies need to make sure that the games are not just doling out meaningless awards or badges. Overuse will cause gamification to be “trivialized and non-impactful.”

The bottom line?

Gamification is on fire but isn’t a strategy for everyone and everything. A little background information and the right tools however will enable us to strike when the time is right.

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

About the Author

Roberta Gogos

Roberta Gogos

Roberta Gogos a strategic marketer with over ten years of experience in the elearning/HR tech industry. She is also co-founder of Vieras - a SaaS reputation management platform for hospitality - and contributes to a number of blogs and online magazines that focus on social media, marketing, technology, and elearning/HR tech. She can be contacted on Twitter @rgogos or via LinkedIn.



Comment by Krzysztof Hasiński on

Could you add our submission to this category then?


Comment by JP Medved on

Hi Krzysztof,

We’re considering adding that as a category in the future; the market for gamification platforms is not quite big enough at the moment. However, GetBadges looks like it’s targeted at developers, so it may be a good fit in our Application Development directory (



Comment by Krzysztof Hasiński on

Hey, we just submitted GetBadges ( for review as a gamification platform and received a notice that no categories match our platform. 🙁 How come there is no way to submit gamification platforms if there is an article like this on your blog? Is it some kind of mistake? Please fix it 🙂

Comment by Akanksha Garg on

Learning games and e-Learning are now closer than ever. Unlike games for entertainment, in learning games motivation and engagement are not the main goal. Yes, they definitely help the learners get engaged but the ultimate goal is the mastery of knowledge and skills which are important in the workplace. The ultimate goal is the outcome of the gaming experience – the transfer of knowledge or skills gained onto the job. Some tips to make games in learning more effective –

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