LMS and Gamification

LMS and Gamification

Gamification in LMS.... Sounds like a perfect solution!!! Hold on to that thought. Let us first understand both LMS and Gamification concepts independently before we start correlating if and how implementation of Gamification would encourage usage of an LMS and how this can result in better performance of users or expected outcomes.

Let's start with the LMS

An LMS is all about managing your training needs. Training needs differ from organization to organization, institute to institute and also from individuals to user groups. An LMS should at minimum address the following primary needs -

  1. Should be easy to use and require minimum to no training for users.
  2. Should allow delivery of all types of content to the users- courses (all/major compliance), videos, documents, etc.
  3. Should have the capability to manage offline or online classroom training.
  4. Should have efficient tracking and reporting mechanism.

I may have missed out on many features that you think are a necessity of any LMS, but I feel the above listed line items primarily define an LMS. Everything else is specific to how you would use it and what is required to be addressed. For example:

  • Competency and Skill management: May be a must have for some organizations while not for some.
  • Social networking: For some it is part of their training process, but for some, this is not required. Some organizations have policies that prohibit their users to socialize on the system.

Let's understand some basics about Gamification

Gamification is a much more complex concept than it sounds. While it may include awards, rewards, points, levels and badges, it is surely not limited to it and requires a deeper understanding of human behavior for a successful implementation. It is about taking elements of gaming and adding them to traditional instruction like stories, case studies, or interactive activities. I would like to broadly define Gamification as - 'Anything that keeps me motivated and engaged to perform/complete/compete/achieve the required job.

Gamification as a learning tool creates engagement, which keeps the user hooked on. A study done by the University of Colorado Denver Business School found that employees trained on video games learned more factual information, attained a higher skill level and attained information longer than workers who learned in less interactive environments. Gamification definitely creates impact, but thorough research has to be conducted before any Gamification concept is implemented, as a concept wrongly implemented can have disastrous results. The primary reason for this is that each human being might react differently to the same thing.

Let's start correlating Gamification and the LMS.

One important note about having a successful Gamification implementation within LMS is that it needs to be aided with all the resources that would motivate the user group within the system but most importantly outside the system as well. The reason why this is important is because an LMS would only be a tool for tracking, managing and communicating information, which can serve to motivate to a certain extent only but needs to be truly supported through rich gamified content and rewards/acknowledgements both within and outside the system.

Following are few points you should consider for successfully implementing an LMS with Gamification-

  1. Understand your user group: This is very important. You need to know your users and their generic backgrounds and how much time they would be spending on the system.
  2. Build content for Gamification: The content that is delivered through the system needs to be rich and engaging. The main objective of bundling LMS and Gamification together is to increase user engagement and promote content while they are on the LMS.
  3. Promote the concept outside the system: To encourage user participation, an environment needs to be created for people through promotions, competitions and rewards outside the system. People need to be given recognition outside the system for their achievements within the system.
  4. Tracking: The LMS needs to provide efficient tracking to allow optimum system usage. For example: The administrator needs to get a report on how many users are earning what points, achieving what levels within what time to analyze and understand if anything needs to be fixed to make things more attractive/competitive. Another example would be, the administrators should be able to get a report on content usage and time spent by users to understand if the content is good enough or is required to be updated/removed in the context of Gamification.
  5. Continuous evolution: For Gamification to work successfully for a long period of time, the system needs to evolve continuously. Peoples' likes and dislikes change over a period of time, especially when we talk in the context of Gamification. You must be very familiar with this common trait - you would be interested in a game till the time it is competitive for you. But as soon as you achieve your goal, the game becomes less interesting and you move on to a new game for some new challenge. Hence the Gamification team needs to be on their toes to build and evolve content that would provide new challenge to their users.

To summarize, with the emergence of digital natives, it would become increasingly hard for organizations to keep their learners motivated and engaged by conventional methods of learning. Game-based interaction, interfaces, design and metaphors is definitely the way forward for learning organizations to deliver meaningful learning in an innovative way which will drive results. And implementation of an LMS with Gamification is the best bet. All that is needed is a good understanding of the users, backing from stakeholders and a good measure of time to implement it successfully.

Have you implemented gamification in your organization? Please share your experiences, views and thoughts in the comment section below.