By Sach Chaudhari, CEO, and Jake Israel, Marketing Manager, Paradiso Solutions
We all like to play games in some form. Games have been instilled in us from the earliest stages of childhood and what makes them so powerful is the underlying emotion behind it all: “Action = Reward”.
There is more to this than “congratulations you got an answer correct” or the classical conditioning of Pavlov’s dogs. Placing a point value within each step of the learning process creates an opportunity to harness a number of human characteristics such as self-consciousness, competition, pride, exploration, socialization, judgment, and enjoyment.
The goal is to engage because when the learner is engaged he or she will have an easier time assimilating and remembering the learning material. If the brain is bored then it will naturally wonder and have a difficult time comprehending the learning material. On the other hand if the information is too difficult to comprehend our brains will find it difficult establishing the neural pathways necessary for the information to stick and be quickly accessible.
Game companies have investigated this field for decades and have become experts at effectively training users during the “onboarding” process when new employees acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become effective members of their workplace.
Engaging and under budget
Companies today are still grappling with the same issues they had 20 years ago: trying to deliver easy to learn, engaging material, developing long term content retention, while doing it fast so the “onboarding” process is scalable.
However, it is hardly considered “cost effective” to introduce a new game for every course. The material has to be effective, cover the topic in depth, and ignite that organic desire to learn and continue learning which can be costly and time consuming to develop.
Look at the problem from a different perspective. If a manufacturing company needed to find a way to deliver product faster it would first speed up its manufacturing process. The manufacturing process however will soon settle on a speed that it cannot surpass with the days’ current technology so management will then need to examine the speed of its transport capabilities.
Think of your LMS as the Transportation and the Training as the product. Companies have been concentrating on the product in the training process for too long. The LMS interface however is the one place that is continually in contact with the user and this means it’s the best place to engage with them and speed up the training process.
The LMS Scoreboard is the connection to these characteristics; it is a constant on the page so that the user sees who is directly below and above them in overall score. As the game industry has discovered, users do not like to know who is “#1” unless it’s them. Knowing that you are lowly ranked can be demoralizing and counter-productive toward the goal of facilitating the learning process. Giving the score of only two users directly above gives the learner an accomplishable goal within grasp that they naturally set for themselves.
Learners will define their own unique competition and gravitate toward a desire to “out-perform”, which is often its own reward. Users who are not competitive are faced with the dilemma of low scores and self-consciously have a need to not under achieve. Over achievers meanwhile fight for the #1 spot even if that means taking extra classes. Inner office competition naturally arises and helps build bonds and strengthen community within the organization as co-workers begin recognizing with whom they are competing with.
Feed the ego, it’s good for ROI
Badges give a unique opportunity to give special recognition for accomplishments. People take pride in what they do and they should. Organizations can be the first to congratulate the user. Users are encouraged by the merit of their accomplishments which fuels their desire to progress in the learning process no matter how interesting the material may or may not be.
If a learner is the top performer in a specific course or class they are notified automatically and will get a badge assigned to them. Triggers are set within the reporting function where badges are sent to learners when they have done something of note. These can be shown on social media where “friends” can “like” or comment on the users public profile. Badges are also shown on the scoreboard based on predetermined criteria selected by admin.
Badges are not just for use inside a company because the “certification function” can be setup to release a digital badge for external usage as well. Without a doubt, Mozilla OpenBadges is a wonderful tool.
Expanding the knowledge database
Users earn points through criteria decided by the LMS admin, for example the amount of “likes” and number of questions answered. This helps the organization to build a robust knowledge database. Answering questions in the forum is another way that users can earn points. This is done to encourage users to engage in group problem solving which strengthens the organization’s inner community.
It is suggested that even users that need their activity monitored are rewarded for activity and encouraged to write articles for extra points which helps shape and mold their behavior toward more fruitful results. Points and badges are a way for these users to gain the credit they seek for their knowledge and abilities. The point system helps organizations to identify and reward these users.
Comprehension based training time and advancement
A unique feature of training using Point System Integration in your LMS is that training time is based on the level of aptitude that the user shows. If they show strong comprehension in a particular subject the system has embedded triggers set to recognize this and advance them further faster. This helps decrease the amount of time spent covering topics that are too basic for this particular user.
In contrast the system will add extra questions when a user is not scoring well and needs to continue covering the topic. These users are given type specific encouragement (eg; Perseverance badges). In both circumstances users are given rewards and encouragements unique to their efforts. A nice advantage to having this is that a user who is just trying to finish by pressing each answer is naturally punished by the mechanics of the system and has to repeat questions or receive extra questions.
An advanced profile page integrated for single sign on allows the user to access all internal system tools. Below is an example of a recent project we did with Moodle LMS.
Shown in profile:
- 3 boxes
- My Courses
- Current forums
- What’s new in the company
- My Tools (i.e. Flash Cards)
- Tests/Courses and Scores
- Class Entrance
A native feature to all LMS systems is the progress bar which shows how far a user is within the course based on percentage. After completion reports will tell you the overall score. If customized it might tell you what section the user had trouble in.
The Leaderboard function does all of this and hands out badges based on these qualities so that not just admin and managers know which users are exceptional in a certain area, but co-workers as well know who the go to person is if they have extra questions about a subject. This is a really nice feature for some who may have a terrible time with one subject but excel in another. For one, there is a decreased likelihood of having their self-esteem lowered. Secondly they know that their high aptitude is recognized so they can feel at ease about this short coming in the other area.
Integrating with LMS
Most LMS systems like Sumtotal, Saba, Moodle, Totara, etc. do not come with scoreboards, point systems and leaderboards but these modules can be customized as per client´s requirements. From our experience building gamification into LMS we have discovered it much easier to build these modules on an open source LMS such as Moodle and Totara.
Open source software usually has a much more flexible architecture that is constantly being refined and improved by the open source community. Although one can also customize or extend closed source systems´ such as Saba, Sumtotal it comes with an extra cost because of their proprietary nature.
In closing I would like to remind the reader that I am not saying that eLearning courses are in anyway a thing of the past. The maximum potential of Learning Management Systems are not yet close to being reached but the use of points and scoreboards is a step towards further engaging the learner in order to create an enriched learning environment where users enjoy learning and remember more afterward.
About Sach Chaudhari
Sach Chaudhari is an expert in the field of eLearning platform development. He is the CEO of Paradiso Solutions (www.ParadisoSolutions.com) which focuses on developing eLearning platforms. Sach is based in Silicon Valley. He studied business at Harvard Business School and computer science at the University of Cincinnati. He has various patents in software engineering under his name. Before starting Paradiso Solutions, Sach worked at various start-up and fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley.