Gamification is revolutionizing the field of learning and development. That was the main thrust of the Game On! Gamification Strategies for Instructional Designers and Trainers skills seminar I led at the recent ASTD Chicagoland Chapter meeting at the DePaul University School for New Learning on September 18th. Using micro-credentials to reward users for acquiring new knowledge or improving skill sets is a potential growth area for associations looking to enhance eLearning initiatives and increase learner engagement, but the concept of gamification extends far beyond the use of badges and achievements. Gamification can be a more foundational process of transforming products or services so that they take on engaging properties of game playing in order to teach a concept or process to the learner more successfully.

Here at Web Courseworks, we have been fortunate to work with clients who are enthusiastic about using gamification to create better eLearning. A quick rundown of some success stories may help to highlight my five ways to integrate gamification.


  1. Gain Social Media Muscle – Strive to generate group discussion and create reasons for learners to log in again and again. When the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) came to us with the question of how they could attract more members and simultaneously teach court reporters about ethical behavior and decision making, we designed a game-based eLearning solution called Courting Disaster. In addition to the simulation experience, learners can connect and share their experiences on Facebook. According to the NCRA website, since the launch of Courting Disaster in September 2012, more than 3,000 people have used that game as a professional development opportunity to earn continuing education units (CEUs) and explore the challenges reporters face each day.
  2. Build Community – An effective game tackles a real problem within an industry and offers a real solution. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)an organization that deals with a global community of athletes and coachesleverageWADAd our simulation engine to engage its target audience through scenario-based learning designed to address. The CoachTrue game allows learners to participate in virtual conversations with troubled athletes in branching scenario format. In turn, the PlayTrue Challenge empowers young to make positive choices regarding performance enhancing substances. This game has been translated into multiple languages to reach a broad audience and influence athletic communities across the globe.
  3. Promote Interactive Learning – Proper context is important when you are trying to teach technical skills. This is an essential point. I find the message “sticks” a lot better when a learner has the opportunity to perform a task in a simulated environment, rather than just read a slide of text or hear an explanation of how to do something. Think of ways to create relevant context for learning experiences.
  4. Enhance Search Engine Optimization – “Casual” games—meaning games with simple rules and no requirements for long-term commitmentcan drive traffic to your association’s website. When the Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute at the University of Minnesota needed a way to interest high school and college students in civil engineering, we helped create an online game called Gridlock BusterGridlock, which has received more than 1.2 million plays worldwide and helped spread the organization’s message about the engineering and traffic-control occupation. How can your association harness the power of online gaming?
  5. Encourage Event Attendance – Marketing through an online game can be controversial, but deftly executed games can generate enough buzz to make an impact on attendance and draw a new crowd.

These are just a few of our gamification success stories. I made an effort in the seminar to generally address how to incorporate key gamification techniques such as strategy, points systems, leaderboards, rewards and social elements to grab and hold interest and maximize learner involvement. I also used a game at the seminar session to drive home some main points. It’s important to walk the talk and help people learn by playing, right? After splitting seminar attendees into “project planning committees,” I challenged the group to select core characteristics of their game program. Active participation from an enthusiastic group of attendees made the exercise a success. It’s always inspiring to see a group of experts come together and develop strategies on the fly, and I feel confident that the lessons from the seminar will carry through to future eLearning initiatives.

If you missed my seminar and you want to learn more about how you can incorporate gamification into your eLearning, see my book, MindMeld: Micro-collaboration Between eLearning Designers and Instructor Experts, in which I focus on how collaboration between stakeholders, designers, developers, and subject matter experts can lead to fun and informative eLearning.

If you’re still trying to generate buy-in from live training traditionalists for online learning initiatives, I am co-presenting a session with Andy Hicken and Chad Jackson of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) that covers strategies for planning, communicating, and promoting blended learning at Training Magazine’s Online Learning Conference 2014 in Chicago on September 22nd. We will explain CHEST’s CourseStage LMS success story and explore the MOOC model for blended learning, so I hope to see you there!