How to Create Virtual Rewards for E-Learning
I want to share with you two things I’ve learned about developing great learning experiences:

  1. Learners love personalized experiences.
  2. Learning is best when it motivates as well as educates.

These truths used to get overlooked a lot, but nowadays they’re increasingly becoming a standard expectation. One simple method that ties together personalization with motivation is to award digital prizes for learning achievements.

Here, I’m going to show you how to integrate a simple digital rewards structure into an interaction. It’s pretty easy once you see how to do it, and the technique is transferrable to many e-learning projects. You can apply these exact same steps to expand an interaction of your own.

In this example, we have a math skills interaction for primary school children. In it, the learner traverses a map breaking codes. Each code a learner cracks successfully unlocks a new challenge. And for every attempt, learners receive a prize: correct answers merit an awesome prize, and for incorrect answers learners get a not-so-awesome prize. When they reach the end of the course, they are shown all the prizes they’ve won—magic wands and smelly socks alike.

C:\Users\Veronica\Desktop\blog2.PNGThe trick is to create a virtual bag where learners can throw the swag they grab along the way. This way, the rewards become a more tangible presence throughout the interaction. Here’s how to build the bag-o-swag and make it work.

Step 1: Create Your Prizes 

To create your prizes, come up with a couple of suitable and entertaining offerings, then scout out some images you can use to represent them.

The sample interaction uses five questions, with two potential rewards for each: one for the right answer and another for anything that’s not-so-right. Altogether, that’s ten unique digital rewards.

Step 2: Customize Layers 

Next, customize your feedback screens with the prize and anything else you like. All the questions in this interaction are built on one slide—the base layer holds the map and multiple slide layers hold the questions and the different feedback screens. If you need to refresh the basics of working with layers, check out this article. You can also inspect the source file provided in this post.

This is how my layers panel looks:

When learners answer a question correctly, they proceed to the correct feedback layer for that question. It looks something like this:

C:\Users\Veronica\Google Drive\01 Storyline Developer BIZ\04 Blog\Articulate Blog\2016-01 Crack the code blog post\blog10.PNG

If learners answer incorrectly, they are taken to a try again screen. There, they get useful feedback and are given a second chance. If they are incorrect a second time, they go to the incorrect feedback layer, which looks something like this:

C:\Users\Veronica\Google Drive\01 Storyline Developer BIZ\04 Blog\Articulate Blog\2016-01 Crack the code blog post\blog11.PNG

These layers are where the learner discovers the reward for their efforts—amazing or not-so-much. Now we need to make sure that Articulate Storyline knows whether the learner earned the magic wand or the paper plane.

Step 3: Create Variables for the Rewards

The key here is to create one true/false variable for each pair of rewards. In this example, that makes for five variables, as shown in the image below.

The five variables in question are set to a value of False. In the next step, we’ll see why.

Tip: I like to name the variables for easy recognition. From a technical view, you can name your variables anything you like, but a descriptive name can make human efforts faster.

Step 4: Create Triggers on the Correct Feedback Layers

Next, you need to add a trigger on each correct feedback layer. The trigger will change the value of the relevant variable to True, as shown in the image below. In doing so, it tells Storyline that the learner has answered this question correctly, and therefore earned the correct answer prize. If the variable is not adjusted, then it remains False, which indicates that the learner answered that question incorrectly.

Tip: As with many things Storyline, you can usually achieve the same result in more than one way. For this trigger, we could also adjust the variable when the timeline starts on the layer rather than when the learner clicks the Next button.

Once you create your first trigger, copy and paste it to the other correct feedback layers, updating the variable you need to adjust each time.

Step 5: Create Your Results Screen

You’ve got prizes. You’ve got variables. You’ve got triggers. All that’s left is to let the learner take a peek in their bag to appreciate their swag. Doing this is easy. Simply create a screen to appear at the end of the interaction. On that page, show the learner all the prizes they won.

C:\Users\Veronica\Google Drive\01 Storyline Developer BIZ\04 Blog\Articulate Blog\2016-01 Crack the code blog post\blog8.PNG

If you’re like me, a screencast always helps make following along in a tutorial easier.  So here is a short video on how to make your results screen. The bullets below summarize the basics.

  1. For each question, position both the correct and incorrect prize images directly on top of one another. Only one will ever need to be visible and this will be toggled by the variable values and a state change.
  2. Change the initial state of all the prizes to Hidden.
  3. Add a new trigger for each correct answer prize to Change state of [prize 1 correct basketball] to Normal when the timeline reaches [X] seconds on the condition that the variable prize1 correct basketball is equal to True.
  4. Do the same for each incorrect answer prize but change the final part to is equal to False. Storyline will now check the value of each variable and show the appropriate reward.


C:\Users\Veronica\Google Drive\01 Storyline Developer BIZ\04 Blog\Articulate Blog\2016-01 Crack the code blog post\blog12.PNG

  1. Test it! I like to go through the interaction several times in Preview Mode first. Make sure each time you go through it, you try different things: the correct answer, the incorrect answer, the back buttons.... Try everything you can so you can catch any potential issues. You never know what the learner is going to do, so try to “break it.” Once you have done that in Preview Mode, publish it for web or LMS and test it the same way again.

Rewarding learners with virtual swag is that easy! Of course, this is only one simple way you can reward your learners as they progress. I’d love to hear how you personalize your courses to motivate your learners. You can grab the free download for this example right here. I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Veronica Budnikas is an e-learning developer with a passion for clean and simple designs, facilitating comprehension, and enhancing learning. Veronica has a Masters of Online Education and years of rich experience in instructional design, training, content management, and more. Discovering that online education allowed her to make the best of her training experience and instructional design skills, she's been focused on the tech-side ever since. See more of her work on her website and follow her on Twitter at @verobudnikas.


Tania Vercoelen

This is a really cool example of a motivational technique! I love how the learners still receive something even though they got the question wrong. I think that helps motivate them to try get a better reward next time. Most examples I have seen the learner is not rewarded when they get something wrong so this is a great idea. I am interested to hear what ideas others have for motivational techniques. I usually use points and badges but I would like to explore more opportunities. In my Kitchen Master game I was thinking about rewarding the learner with a recipe that they could collect and add to their recipe book. In the end I just stuck with badges (Junior Chef, Assistant Chef, Head Chef badge etc). One idea I use for badges i... Expand

Ellen Avino
Veronica Budnikas

Hey Tania, thanks for your feedback! It would be great to see what other motivation techniques people share. I remember Kitchen Master really well, it's so engaging and looks so inviting. I really like your idea of giving the learner the opportunity to receive a particular 'level' of badge or prize... I can hear a cheesy presenter voice going "and now.... in the green corner.... playing for a gold badge...." I also think that the language one uses can help motivate learners. It sounds like a small thing that will have no impact, but at least for me it really does, it makes the experience much more engaging. For example, in your Kitchen Master, you ask "are you ready to become the ultimate kitchen master" rather than starting the course with something like "Click the button to lear... Expand