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If eLearning courses had the same addictive qualities and fan fervor, it’s unlikely any student would walk away from a course without Learning something. Here are five strategies eLearning could borrow from casual gaming, complete with simple tips to improve eLearning courses.
1. Reward the Learner
One reason Candy Crush and other casual games are so addictive is the constant reward cycle the games present. Levels only take a few minutes, so users are able to feel rewarded frequently throughout their play experience. Moreover, every time a player completes a move, visual and auditory cues play (such as words like “sweet!” or “delicious!” or loud bells and whistles) to let the player know they’ve accomplished something. These accomplishments trigger a rush of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that sends pleasure to the brain) letting us know we should continue the action. Dopamine reinforces behavior and subconsciously encourages the player to continue seeking the accomplishments and rewards.
Here are some ways to use this tactic to create rewarding eLearning:
2. Keep It Simple
Engrossing simplicity occurs when an activity is simple and repetitive but attractive to the user. Just as most gamers look for consistent gratification, they are also looking for simplicity. Simple tasks, such as matching three candies or flicking a bird, are easy and accessible to anyone. The games have to be attractive enough, however, to still be engrossing. In addition to rewards, quick levels, and attractive game design (simple, with bright colors and identifiable patterns) make the players want to continue to play. Here are some tips to help you keep it simple:
3. Structure the Goals and Objectives
Most eLearning courses offer overarching goals and Learning objectives, but casual game design has mastered the art of goal setting. In Candy Crush, immediate goals (such as matching three candies) support larger goals (beat the level) which in turn lead to ultimate goals (move to the next area). This not only makes the large goals seem more achievable, but also increases the number of achievements and rewards for the player. It also makes the game more addictive and fast-paced, as the player is more likely to tell him-or-herself “one more life” or “five more moves.” Here are some ways to structure your course in a similar way:
4. Increase the Difficulty
A significant reason Candy Crush is so addictive is the early levels are easy to beat, giving the player satisfaction and desire to continue playing, with increasingly difficult levels throughout the game to create a challenge. To be entertained, humans need an activity to be challenging enough to stave off boredom, but not so challenging they give up. One way to achieve this balance is to stagger the course difficulty by making later goals build on skills acquired earlier. This also forces the player to practice their knowledge and skills and, in eLearning, ensures Learning happens consistently throughout the course. Below are some tips concerning difficulty:
5. Implement Competition
Humans are competitive animals. In an interview with The Guardian, cyber psychologist Bernie Good explained part of the reason games like Farmville are so compelling is we want to show off our superiority over other players. This is known as the “peacock effect”—and it shows players are much more driven to play a game if they can show off their achievements and “wealth” to their friends. If you can introduce a competitive aspect to a course, learners will be significantly more incentivized to pay attention and internalize the Learning. To create competition, try these tips:
By following in the footsteps of Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and more, your eLearning courses will have users Learning more, enjoying their experience, and spending more time with the course. If you’d like to learn more about effective game design in training, try Gamification Vs. Game-Based Learning.