The digital revolution is all around us. Just think about how we communicate, how we travel, how we meet new people, and of course, how we learn. Schools and universities need to adapt to this digital reality and provide their students with all the tools they need in order to become successful.

Traditional teaching methods will never go out of style, but they demand a lot of resources. Teachers will always see better results from small classes of 12 students than from 50-student ones. There simply isn’t enough time to find out and respond to each student individual needs.

This is where e-learning steps in, bringing along the power of big data. The performance of each student in an online course is more straightforward than that in a traditional one.

But the online learning experience looses part of the human touch, making it difficult for students to keep their interest in the learning materials and strive to move forward through them.

For students to be engaged and motivated during an online course, e-learning professionals had to find creative solutions. One that stirred the learning waters and generated a lot of buzz in the e-learning arena is gamification — including gaming principles and mechanics in a non-gaming context, aka learning materials.

At first glance, fun games are weirdly associated with the serious nature of learning. But playing games trigger some subconscious reactions in learners’ brains, which keep their interest high for longer periods of time and make them want to play more and more.

While there are many aspects to this, making progress through the learning process is one of significant importance. Finishing something that we’ve started makes us feel proud, smarter, successful, and ready for an even bigger challenge. All these feelings can be awaken in each learner through the use of gamification. Even the smallest change can lead to big results.

Climbing a mountain

Learners are like mountain hikers. They need to see how big the mountain is, how difficult it can be to climb it, what and how many resources they’d need for the journey, and how much time will be necessary to reach the top.

Teachers can include this mountain metaphor in their online courses, using the right words, and the right rewards.

Each journey begins with a single step and more steps take us closer to our destination:

One step = a class activity. Any class activity is meant to help students learn, be it an article, a presentation, a video, an audio file, a game, a group interaction, or any other form. They must be short and interconnected.

A trip = a class. A class is all activities from above, just like a trip means the sum of all steps taken from point A to point B.

A camp = a learning module or chapter. Some learning modules may require just one class, while others need more time (and steps). When hikers set camp, they gather around the fire, tell stories of their journey so far, and plan for the next day. In the learning dimension, a camp is where a test happens.

The top of the mountain = the final exam. After gathering as many steps and checking in at as many camps as possible, hikers get closer to their destination — the top of the mountain. The same is true for students, who need to face and pass the final test.

Gathering points

As a teacher, you can get as creative as you wish with the metaphor you’ll use in your gamified online course. Go ahead and make your students pirates to find a hidden treasure, astronauts to go to the Moon, or gardeners who grow the most exquisite flower on Earth.

What needs to be clear, no matter their avatars, is their journey through the learning process. You can use points, or stars, or flowers, to count for their progress, and let them know exactly where they are: what levels they’ve completed, what are their “work in progress”, and how many more steps are there until the learning destination.

Each class can have a short test at the end of it on what were the daily activities, and students earn points based on their knowledge. Each module should come with a serious test, and students should be able to plan for their results based on the points they already have. When the test comes with the real grade, they can compare themselves against their expectations. The same stands true for the final test, based on the points of the e-learning modules.

What’s more, the data that comes with all points helps teachers identify patterns in learning and knowledge transfer. Also, any problems that occur can be addressed immediately, for each student.

Making progress in learning with gamification

The learning process may have a lot of destinations. But then again, there are many mountains in this world. From Mount Wycheproof to Mount Everest, students will have better results if they know their steps, camps, and mountain tops. The journey never ends.

Author: Livia M

Livia is the lead online voice of NEO by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about education technology for K-12 and higher ed, gamification, BYOD, as well as other ed-tech subjects.