"Gamified" e-learning - what examples have you seen or built?

May 01, 2012

I recently read Karl Kapp's new book on Gamification... it was an interesting read, and kind of cool to think about the possibilities of how gamifying content can make a course more engaging and effective.

Curious to know what your take is on gamifying e-learning ... what examples have you seen? What made them effective (or not)?

Have you built any gamified content in your own courses? Got anything you can share?

26 Replies
Emma Cockbill


Well being a very strong advocate of game base learning, and believe that there is so much potential, especially in education. I am working for Pora Ora and I don't want to overly plug it, (but it seems relevant for this thread!). So far the response from teachers, parents and children has been really popular. 

The children do not focus on the learning part, but get very involved in the gaming aspect. They learn along the way without the pressure of having to grasp something quickly. With internet safety quests and other adventures, their learning experience is  multi-faceted. From logic, maths, geography and co-ordination through to creativity , reading and spelling, they are challenged without fear of failing. 

The interactive element where children can communicate with other players (if the parent allows) means that they end up helping each other out. It is really great, and most importantly - a lot of fun!


Phil Mayor

Hi Jeanette

As you know I love games in learning.  I would also agree with Emma that games are a great way for children to learn.  I am building a course about Sun awareness for children and the majority of it is games with learning attached.

I would love to share some stuff, but it is in Storyline so will have too wait a little bit.  Thanks for the heads up on the book, I have it ordered now


Brian Houle

What struck me about game-based learning is how closely those techniques come to accepted models of adult learning.  (I'm thinking specifically about application of learned experience in simulated decision-making, choice and self-direction,  storytelling for problem solving, etc).  Right now, I'm working on two courses in which I'm looking at applying some game-based learning structures, but I don't want to get too ambitious.  I've got several friends who work in the video game industry, and I'm acutely aware of how much time and effort has to go into testing even a basic game system.  (I, too, am building them in Storyline, so can't share them just yet -- but Storyline does make all sorts of GBL possible without resorting to Flash .

James Gee's book was my first foray into games and education. I suspect a lot of teachers though, especially those of younger children, have been using GBL techniques for a long time beneath the radar.  But, the thing that made GBL click for me in terms of e-learning awhile ago was Connect with Haji Kamal.  It's fairly close to what we've come to understand as an e-learning scenario, but I found the multiple narrative paths and the way the advisers' input complicates the context in which you've got to make your decisions pretty compelling.  Moreover, it's a great example of GBL with intrinsic rewards (i.e., I kept at it until I got Haji Kamal to agree to help) through trial-and-error.  It does not employ other GBL structures (like resource management, for instance), but I think it's a great example of what's possible, and it's not too far removed from what many of us have been doing all along.  Heck, a lot of us have probably been doing some GBL without realizing it.

Great discussion, Jeanette.  Thanks for bringing it up!


Jeanette Brooks

@Emma - I agree, there is so much potential! Speaking of the social aspects of games and learning, one of my kids is having a lot of fun right now with Minecraft... he and a few of his friends from school play it together, each from their own home, and they've constructed little villages and systems and are setting up kind of a mini community. It's pretty fun to watch. They usually get on Skype and talk to each other while playing, and I see some interesting things happening as far as teamwork and negotiation skills!

Also regarding kids - my kids helped me build a project called How to Build a Green Monster, which is one of the examples I posted in this blog post, and it was interesting to put kids in the role of game builder rather than game player. Seems like there is a lot of untapped potential there... getting kids to imagine and create, while learning along the way.

@Brian - I love the Haji Kamal example too! And I think you're right about a lot of developers using gamification without necessarily realizing it or calling it that. You mentioned you are working on a couple potential game-based projects...what is the content about? Would love to hear more about them.

@Phil- Get your samples ready to share! It's almost showtime!

Emma Cockbill

Hello again!

Kids building a game sounds fantastic, I know that here at Pora Ora we get lots of requests and ideas sent in by the kids. They have fantastic ideas and we try to incorporate them where we can. They feel like their contribution matters and love seeing things come to life. From designing new Pora Pals (pets) to outfits and game ideas, they are amazing. 

No matter how young at heart we are, no adult can ever truly recreate the wilderness that is a child's imagination! We love their input. 

I also agree with the ever important negotiation aspects in community gaming. Children learn team work quickly and it this type of teamwork which is very important later on.

 Education is a journey that has no final destination. It is a constant in all of our lives, which is why we should be open to different methods and styles.

Brian Houle

Jeanette Brooks said:

@Brian - I love the Haji Kamal example too! And I think you're right about a lot of developers using gamification without necessarily realizing it or calling it that. You mentioned you are working on a couple potential game-based projects...what is the content about? Would love to hear more about them.

Hi, Jeanette:

One is a course on the confidentiality of medical records for folks who handle such information -- this course is still in its infancy.

The other one is farther along.  It's a writing for the web course for folks responsible for maintaining web content, but who are novices at the whole affair.  It's sort themed along the lines of a reality TV show in which the main character (the novice web writer) has on her team a few different personalities with differing perspectives on how web content should be produced: the "tech" guy who knows just enough to be dangerous and is a bit of a hipshooter; the pragmatic, long-time employee who wants to produce content from an internal audience perspective rather than a customer audience perspective; the supervisor who leaves the project up to his staff but steps in the muddy the waters every so often, etc.

The learner has to navigate the novice web writer through four general content areas: audience research/profiling,  plain-language writing/tone, the organizational style reqs, and maintenance strategies each with one or more related activities which will be presented as "missions".  

(Here's where the exploratory part comes in -- I've got the static content.  The question is how and whether to "gamify" it.  Here are my thoughts).

My goal is to have these missions presented non-linearly, but with the option of letting the learner branch off into another mission if it turns out the current one needs some resource gained from one of its fellows.

For instance, one of the guiding principles of web writing (or any writing) is to know your audience.  Part of the course is to encourage web writers to create audience profiles so they can better target their content.  If the learner heads off to create content before working up an audience profile, I want in-game factors to make if clear that, while they could sally forth without them, the in-game rewards encourage defining their audience first.  

I think this is where resource management comes in.  For this course, I'm thinking of incorporating: worktime, persistent hits (i.e., how many people come to the site and stay or maybe the average time a visitor spend on the site without going elsewhere), and/or customer satisfaction in the form of positive feedback about the site).  Worktime and persistent hits would be in the form of a progress bar while good feedback would be sort of like "tokens."  The point of all this would be to show that while certain aspect of writing web content can be time consuming (worktime), they ultimately will contribute to the production of a better website (persistent hits) and more customer satisfaction.

All of which may contribute to a fourth resource: job performance.

I have to say, though, that setting up a course with resource management is daunting, and it probably won't happen in the initial version.  There's tons more to learn about the ins-and-outs of balancing that and making it work.  But, I've got my eye on coming up with perhaps a generic structure that can be tested and deployed in the future.  For now, I'm erring on the side of conservatism.

But Storyline sure does open up a ton of very cool possibilities in this area. ;)


Jeanette Brooks

Your course sounds cool, Brian! I can see where it would be fun to maybe even incorporate a scenario where the web writers' performance results in some kind of business outcome too (in addition to hits or time spent on the site). Like maybe a change in sales, or a decrease in support calls, or something like that. It would be fun to maybe create a split-screen scenario, where the learner makes choices and takes actions on one side of the screen, and on the other side of the screen is a character (i.e., a potential customer) browsing their web content, and showing responses or reactions based on the web writers' work. Like, for effective web content they would be engaged and ultimately make a purchase.

That sort of job-based scenario type of challenge kind of reminds me of this course that Tim Buteyn created during the Storyline beta. Fun stuff!

Also, Phil and anyone else who's interested & able, feel free to post any of your Storyline games here if you like, since the product is live now.

Phil Mayor

I cant post my childrens elearning yet but here are a few things I put together for the beta, more games than learning, but it only needs a bit of tweaking




I have a few more, but really need to find them on my server

Steve Flowers

There were some discussions in the old forums that are relevant to this thread but it doesn't seem like they're available any more

In the context of this thread, I think a layer of game mechanics or behavior can benefit the application to an activity or challenge. There are a slew of qualities that could indicate the presence of a game but for the most part, I think the definition is subjective. Here are the components of mine (informed by literature and a lifetime of gaming), think one or more.

  • Adds a degree of *authentic and relevant* fun or challenge (puzzle, conflict, or competition) that encourages participation
  • Offers alternate fictional context (space, place, or characterization in 1st or 3rd person)
  • Offers some outcomes that are uncertain, unpredictable, or surprising
  • Operates by a consistent ruleset that aligns with the goal fo the activity
  • Offers progression of mastery of a direct or abstracted skill
  • Provides game like affordances and interaction patterns
  • Provides a connected flow through the experience

Here's a screenshot representation of a course we built many years ago that contained many of these elements though we didn't call it a game. This one provided progression of mastery through a directly applicable skill, adds a degree of challenge, and uses game-like affordances and interaction patterns to provide a connected flow through the experience. As far as I know, the Marines are still using this one (about 7 years later). Our studies indicated that it was effective in preparing non-combat personnel to operate and field repair some really complex machinery. This was a cool one to build.

This one uses pseudo gestural actions (drag and drop to the right location) with a chained multiple choice pie menu. What part, what order, where, then what, then what else? We limited the chains in progression to 3 to 7 steps depending on the complexity of the operation and gated progression. You couldn't move on without mastering a sequence and subsequent sequences built on previous sequences. I remember we tried a timer for these but it didn't seem to make a significant difference so we took it out (unnecessary challenge element).

We talked about some of this in a thread on multiple choice questions and higher level learning:


I remixed one of Clark Quinn's models awhile back. I like the considerations in this model that would lean towards qualities of a game (primarily challenge). I have a blog in progress for this one and another concept I'm calling "design formations" that deals with decoupling ourselves from dogmatic expectations of boxing up preparation, practice, support and measurement into a single package. Hope to have those done this weekend

Helene Caura

I created a demo recently of a very simple game, that could be customised to the clients' needs: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/20246908/Risk%20Pursuit%20output%20_%20V2/story.html

Note that only the Credit and Compliance areas are functional for this demo. It works on iPads too.

I'm planning to add an avatar at the beginning and other bonuses.

Russ Sawchuk

Our 96 Nursing Games are by far the most popular learning activities on our website. I modified the HTML5 games so that the results are exported and stored in a database. This allows us to keep track of which games are most popular and the results. The StoryLine games are also very popular, but we do not track the results.

I now try and include at least a couple of games in all of our online courses.


Christopher Lind

My team and I oversee the training for our "sales" division, and I'm driving a gamification initiative right now. While our existing training really lays the foundation for what you need to do, we wanted to take it to an application level without the resourcing requirements of in-person role-play.

We've got a pretty solid RPG style game strategy and are a good way into the first game that allows our audience to simulate virtual role-play with a "choose your own adventure" type approach. We also incorporated a variety of badges in the game to distinguish between an acceptable and exceptional game path (With some paths that lead to a game-over scenario of course). 

So far, it has been an absolute blast to build and Storyline makes it pretty straightforward. I've posted some of the progress on Twitter.

Elizabeth Israel

Just finished taking some of the gamification and learning courses through coursera.  Interesting to see the differences between gaming for children/K-12 market and adults in a corporate setting.  One of the best examples of gaming that I have seen was a presentation done by Cisco Systems (networking company) about 2 years ago and presented at the e-learning guild conference.  It was rather interesting and engaging (imo); I wanted to take part from where I was sitting!  However; the price of development and implementation was way beyond what most training/learning groups can afford. 

Ridvan  Saglam

Hi @Jessica,

Thanks for your comment. I can say that it's all about triggers of Storyline. 

For truck animation, I used 'entrance and exit animations' .

For timer, I created all seconds on Photoshop and arranged them on timeline (It takes a bit long time

So, It's a drag and drop quiz, and I added letters some simple animation.

I improved my game then, you can download a new version here; https://www.dropbox.com/s/yeadhly1w8u6sq1/Save%20the%20pumpkin%20unit%209.rar

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