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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

Keep it simple: gamification and e-learning


Keep it simple: gamification and e-learning

Ryan O'Neill

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Everyone has heard the word. 

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But when is it appropriate to gamify a custom e-learning course? When does it unhelpfully frustrate learners rather than engage them?

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You get the idea. It’s easy to go overboard with game concepts. More often than not, simpler is better. This isn’t to say that gamification is bad. It’s a great way to engage users and make the learning experience more fun for them. You just need to know where to draw the line.

Let’s take a look at a few key things to help you decide whether you want to add gaming elements to your course. Or not.


Just because you are utilizing gamification elements doesn’t mean you are making a game. 

Remember when your grade school teacher gave you a gold star for behaving yourself in class (for once)? That was the gamification of a desired behavior. This didn’t mean that you all of a sudden thought that school was a super fun game that you couldn’t wait to get to. But it did use a small reward structure to indicate to you that you did something right. 


You want to frustrate your learners with your e-learning content, not your system for motivating them. 

Going back to the grade school example, if your teacher’s reward structure was obtuse and confusing, it would be frustrating for the wrong reasons. Too much time would be spent trying to figure out how to earn the stars than paying attention to why you earned the star. And that time spent figuring out the system itself takes up time that should be spent figuring out simple addition skills or learning how to read.


Here are some game elements and some examples of games that they can be found in:

  • Points: In most games, but let’s go with…pinball
  • Leaderboards: High score screens for Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, etc.
  • Challenges: Chess, Checkers, two-player video games
  • Timed Activities: Candy Crush, most sports
  • Achievements/Badges: Steam community achievements, records in baseball
  • Story: Role-playing games

You can use these as tactics to motivate your learners. The key is to make sure they are meaningful, and not overused to the point of being frustrating or annoying.

Okay, continuing with the grade school example: Class dismissed.