Gamification (4)— E-Learning

Today I’d like to introduce you to this book called Deliberate Fun by Dr. Jonathan Peters. Interestingly, Deliberate Fun carries great content to help business owners understand the motivations behind different types of people.

What is e-learning?

Because society today is moving rapidly, companies are utilizing e-learning (learning supported by technology and the internet) to advance towards competitive new skills. In 2015, the global e-learning industry reached $107 billion and market experts expect this to escalate up to $325 billion by 2025.

E-learning with gamification

Gamification is a great way to improve the e-learning curve. It inspires the notion of play as an important part of the human learning experience. In the book Actionable Gamification, author Yu-Kai Chou defines the term “gamification” as the idea of combining education and entertainment together. In 2015, shared that 40% out of 1000 organizations worldwide have prioritized gamification as their best learning tool to improve business operations. 90% of employees reported that they feel more productive from utilizing gamification.

*Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. ”

— Yu-Kai Chou, Actionable Gamification. 2015.
Epic Meaning & Calling
  • Epic Meaning & Calling
  • Development & Accomplishment
  • Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
  • Ownership & Possession
  • Social Influence & Relatedness
  • Scarcity & Impatience
  • Unpredictability & Curiosity
  • Loss & Avoidance

Two types of Gamification Drives, Yu-Kai Chou, 9 Oct. 2019. (Source here)*

Yu-Kai Chou invented the Octalysis map to analyze different games and define which gamification category each game classifies under. Gamification should be balanced on both sides to satisfy user motivations.

The Octalysis chart shows Yu-Kai Chou’s 8 core drives and divided them into 2 types — extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is a short turn that is based on outer motivations like game mechanics (i.e. leaderboards, badges, and points). Intrinsic motivation is a long turn based on inner motivations like self-love and self-improvement.

In another book called Deliberate Fun: A Purposeful Application of Game Mechanics to Learning Experiences, Dr. Jonathan Peters teaches the importance of understanding our users with four questions: who, what, why, and how.

Who: Who are the learners?

What: What might be “fun” for those particular learners?

Why: Why do learners like competition? Why do learners like to be focused quietly instead?

How: How can we make our observations on human behavior benefit what will work and not work for our learners?

What is fun for you may not be fun for someone else…Self-hugging is the concept that everyone believes everyone else has the same motivation as they have. This tendency causes us to create learning experiences that we enjoy, not necessarily what our learners will enjoy. — Johnathan Peters Ph.D., Deliberate Fun, 2020

We need to understand what triggers extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. We can do this by focusing on the potential learners and not by relying on our own assumptions. To find how learners become more motivated, additional gamification factors, such as storytelling, visuals, challenges, rewards, and feedback, are great catalyzers for user engagement. It gets people to learn from the action — the practice of doing.

Gamification Training

According to the National Training Laboratories, “learning by doing” helped them grow retention rates by up to 75% compared to just sitting still and listening to a classroom lecture.

Below are some e-learning elements to help increase engagement and retain learning better:

  1. Avatar: Avatars are a good combination of reality and creativity. The learner can have an emotional connection aspect into the e-learning experience and gain a sense of ownership of the avatar. This will make the learner motivated and achieve more for the avatar. According to the research, learners will stick to something when they feel like they are in control.
  2. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better: Unlike in real life, where people tend to play safe, people love to experiment, take risks, and try again since there is nothing to lose. Remember, the best learning experiences come from facing trials and errors. Therefore, it’s important to provide great feedback. Since people are more open-minded to take the risks, they are also more motivated to improve.
  3. Stimulation: By integrating AR/VR, learners can immerse themselves in the environment and respond to the situation in real-time. Especially for the medical, aerospace, hazardous environment without putting the learner in a dangerous situation.
  4. Storytelling: A good game usually involves good storytelling. Just like avatars, you can draw an emotional connection with users if there is a compelling story. In games, learners often return and want to explore more. Many will enjoy a good narrative, game-based learning that targets not only the brain but also the heart.
  5. Challenge: By increasing the challenge each time, learners can develop skills, overcome the challenges, and achieve the goal. By defining the meanings behind each challenge, they will feel a sense of achievement and feel accomplished. For example, implementing a quest, or mission, will keep players more engaged and motivated to continue with the expectation that, if done well, they can win.
  6. Creativity & Surprise: Whether it’s building your own world or crafting something with limitless possibilities, creativity will help learners to engage more and surprise learners each time when learning (i.e. games like Lego and Minecraft). By including these elements for e-learning, users will feel encouraged to learn more and arouse their curiosity and explore the possibility of the knowledge.
  7. Leaderboard and social recognition (Badges & Points): Leaderboards, badges, and points increase learners to participate and share with their friends more. Gaining recognition from others is a great motivator to continue and aim to do better. It draws back to having an emotional connection where receiving validation merits can boost a learner’s self-esteem. Competitions with peers may also increase user engagement as well.
  8. Define the goal: Goals are achieved through various tasks and are often organized through levels of difficulty from easy, medium, and to advanced. With each level, goals are set accordingly so that users can achieve their next level with step-by-step improvements.
  9. Progress and instant feedback: Make sure the user knows the rules of the game and set time to play. Visualizing the progress and giving learners instant feedback and comments would help them to achieve the goal. Games usually provide feedback at the end of each level or task so learners can correct the mistake to achieve the goal.
  10. Create a community: Create a community that will increase the retention of the users to allow them to feel like they belong to a group or a part of the tribe. Users often perform better in an immersive environment, where they can give and receive feedback. By sharing, learning, and growing with a community, users may be empowered and will build better learning habits from each other.

Here are some examples of gamification for learning:

  1. Duolingo: Duolingo is considered one of the most successful language-learning apps using gamification. Studies have shown that Duolingo learners’ scores on reading and listening tests match university students who completed four semesters of language study. Duolingo learners reach four semesters of language proficiency in half the time as U.S. university students through gamification.
Duolingo’s mobile app (Source here)

2. Yousician: Yousician changes the way the learners learn music in an approachable and convenient way. Learners can choose their own lessons and play their instrument(s) with fun games to unlock the next level. Currently, there are lessons for guitars, bass, piano, ukulele, and singing available. Learners can follow their own pace and keep learning and playing.

3. McDonald’s Till Training: Fast-food franchise McDonald’s partnered with City & Guilds Group Kineo in developing a more effective way to train their employees. Their goal is so that McDonald’s will be able to enhance their customer experience through a better till system — an improved and fun POS system for sales. The system highlights game features like lifelines and bonuses, along with feedback elements like customer responses and scores, to engage the trainees. Trainees have noted that this platform gave them the freedom to test their skills and learn from mistakes they could have made in the actual work setting. You can also play the game here.

4. RoboGarden: RoboGarden is a friendly game app that helps kids learn how to code. It provides practical, yet fun ways to code Blockly, JavaScript, and Python from scratch. Learners can choose different game options to choose from, such as missions, adventures, journeys, and even other worlds! The app provides rewards and immediate feedback on quizzes to help them become better coders. Since RoboGarden claims that they “can teach anyone coding,” you can try playing their “Hour of Code” game here.

Screenshot of RoboGarden (Video Source here)

5. Deloitte’s Leadership Academy: Deloitte is the second largest professional services network worldwide. They taught over 50,000 executives in over 150 corporations using their online executive training program Leadership Academy. By incorporating premium content from Ivy League universities, like Stanford and Harvard, and gamification drives for motivation (i.e. leaderboards and reward badges), Deloitte found a 47% increase of learners returning every day and a 50% increase of learners completing the course.

Screenshot of Deloitte’s Leadership Training (Source here)

So is gamification useful for e-learning?

The answer is “yes!” Gamification can improve learning curves and make learning fun, especially for younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials. The best learning experience one can have is when he or she doesn’t even realize it. Not only can it help individuals learn better with a subject, but they will find entertainment with its fun game-like experience and want to revisit learning again… and again.


Chou, Author Yu-kai. “Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework — Yu-Kai Chou.” Yu-Kai Chou, 9 Oct. 2019,

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