Gamified Stamp

The Best Ways to Foster Motivation in Online Courses are More Fun than You Think

Was your last online course fun?  Well, today I participated in a research project by taking a short online course. The topic was social media safety for teens and it was boooring. It was all long texts, no visuals, no interaction, no fun. Here’s an example of one of the few inputs that were supposed to teach me something:

text lecture pixelated

One of the main lectures about Internet safety in social media. This is only half the page (I had to scroll). Am I supposed to learn something here? (pixelated to protect copyrights of the owner)

It was not the lack of technology

Since the eLearning platform behind it offers many professional features to make your course interesting and interactive it wasn’t the technology that failed.

It was not the lack of motivation

Nor was it the content – since I am developing an online course for iPad & iPhone safety for kids myself I was already interested in the topic (intrinsic motivation – yay!). And they did have a couple of pretty important facts in there that I would love to be able to recall now – but I can’t. Why? Because that course showed a total lack of learning design basics.

It was simply the lack of learning design

And I am not even talking about Gamification (yet), but about basic principles that learning psychology research has known for more than 20 years now. Plus the insights about online courses and mobile learning from the more recently.

Kind of important stuff when you design an online course is:

  • Chunk information into digestible bits
    Do not use long-winded, scrollable boring text deserts. Feed one spoon at a time to the hungry
  • Use visuals, interaction and variance
    Insert pictures, interesting formatting, drag & drop, more than one question type
  • Give the learner instant feedback
    Show real-time feedback for every single question that has been answered. Let the learner know immediately how they are doing and use that in the beginning for making them aware of where they had no idea what dangers are lurking on the Internet for their kids (then they want to know – they will be immediately intrinsically motivated to move on!)

Ok, and where is the fun part now?

That IS the fun part (ok, part of it): making any kind of online learning fun is much easier than you think. If the learning designer of the social media course only had followed the three very basic principles above their course would have been more fun already! Plus, I would have been able to recall some of the info they wanted to get across (learning impact). But of course, there’s more. Let’s look at the research. Ok, now I am talking about gamification. Soooorry.

Gamification? Isn’t that just points, badges and leaderboards?

Actually … no (*). There’s more. But even PBL (points, badges, and leaderboards) can make your online course more fun and therefore create a bigger learning impact if used wisely. That’s where I got interested in the research and dove into the „why“ and then „how“. Because, let’s be honest, even with a decent basic learning design you will still have problems: In online courses with many online learners, motivation and scarce social interaction are still problematic, due to the effects of isolation in a seemingly empty online environment. You’re looking at a screen for crying out loud! However, gamification has proven to encourage the development of motivation and engagement in online learning social contexts. So I analysed the gamification elements relevant to online learning in respect to their efficacy towards intrinsic motivation, competition and cooperation as well as to social learning. Turns out that research can sometimes come pretty handy.

Gamified Stamp

Tadaaa: Here’s the most important ingredients for your engaging online class. Seriously. It’s fun!

Spoiler alert: It’s NOT about the ingredients! The prerequisites to success are Game Thinking, freedom of choice and variety. Next, you add the other ingredients like the following two key components for gamification in online learning:

  • Freedom to fail
    Failing in games is fun, right? Turns out that is also true for learning!
  • Rapid Feedback
    realtime, unambiguous, visual, multimedia-based

The mindful reader (cool that you are still with me!) might recall that some of these matches the basic learning design principles I cited before, like variety, using visuals, interaction and real-time feedback.  But wait – there’s more!

So, the Gamification components with major effects on intrinsic motivation are

  • Freedom to fail (retry-button! Epic fails!)
  • storytelling (narrative)
  • meaningful goals
  • rapid feedback
  • challenges

The story element can be quite powerful: you don’t have to write an epic Hollywood plot – use cartoons, characters, themes and tonality to make your course a little more playful and therefore more fun.

So, this is what you need to gamify any online learning experience – be it a self-paced coding class or a company training with learning groups. Because:

„Fun is just another word for learning“

(Raph Koster, 2010)

For online courses with more than a handful people, you’ll need to look at social learning wisdom as well. But that is stuff for another post.

*) Deterding et al. define Gamification as „the use of game design elements in non-game contexts.” (Deterding et al., 2011, p. 9). Or how eLearning guru and bestseller author Prof. Karl Kapp describes it: „Gamification encompasses the idea of adding game elements, game thinking, and game mechanics to learning content.” (Kapp, 2012, pos. 949).
Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification”. In Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference on Envisioning Future Media Environments – MindTrek ’11 (S. 9–11). New York: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/2181037.2181040
Koster, R. (2010). Theory of Fun for Game Design [Kindle Edition]. Paraglyph. Phoenix: Paraglyph Press. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2
Slezák, G. K. Förderung von Motivation und sozialem Lernen in MOOCs mit Gamification. Available only at http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.34376.21767
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Bitte lächeln :-) Smileys lösen ähnliche Reaktionen im Gehirn aus wie echte Gesichter

Offenbar hat das menschliche Gehirn die Sprache der Emoticons bereits gelernt. Sieht es ein liegendes Smiley, reagiert es darauf wie auf richtige menschliche Gesichter. Das hat eine Studie australischer Forscher ergeben.

Gaby K. Slezák’s insight:

Nicht wirklich neu, aber nun auch von Hirnforschern belegt und als nonverbales Element wichtig für die Kommunikation über digitale Medien  (E-Mail, Facebook, Chat, Powerpoint Slides etc.): Emoticons wirken auf uns  ähnlich wie echte menschliche Gesichter; d.h. wir erkennen die kleinen Smileys schneller, nehmen sie als wichtiger wahr (z.B. als den Text  bzw. die sachliche Information drumherum) und reagieren entsprechend ähnlich emotional darauf. Hier die Studie im Original

See on www.focus.de

Advantages of 3D for Learning – And the Secret Ingredient

Karl Kapp’s listed today some of the advantages of 3D environments (virtual worlds) for learning. Take a look at this list if someone (your boss, client) asks you why they should allow you to set up the next employee-training or any other course in a 3D world.

Although Kapp, one of TrainingIndustry.com’s 2007 „Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals“, sums the advantages up pretty nicely, I’d like to add the following two aspects that in my experience had the most impact on successful and sustainable learning situations:

1) One of the most important aspects in any learning environment: fun. Having fun is the most emotional engagement you can get (and that secures sustainable learning). Students have fun in 3D environments, especially if they’re designed to include casual games or playful training situations. But the three dimensional, immersive online environment is already so much fun for youth that this alone works to your advantage.

UPDATE: Jacob Everist has a background in dealing with East Asians from living in Korea Taiwan and China and writes in his blog that „Particularly in East Asia, education is considered hard work. If something is fun, it is not taken seriously. “ Interesting aspect that could also be said about some „typical“ Germans (I am German, but lived abroad a lot) 🙂

2) The water cooler effect. This is true for business trainings or meetings; studies show that the informal socializing in-between or after sessions is as important in virtual worlds as in the real world. Only that you don’t need to pay for airline tickets, hotels and catering.

My Sky Campus in Second Life: Example of a 3D learning environment with extensive multimedia capabilities (YouTube screen, 10 m high presentation screen, interactive web displays) and a recreational area with bean bags, cocktail bar and many fun features you can’t experience in real life classrooms or seminar settings

If we still missed some aspects (I added some in the comments) please comment here or in Karl Kapp’s blog!

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Arts & politics, anyone? Not only teens in Google’s Lively

There’s not only rampaging teenagers and dirty sex in Lively, Google’s virtual world of cartoon-like chat rooms. Or would you have thought that you’d find an art gallery with the title „Captured fractions of human history“ here?

Lively Gallery

This room belongs to Yaniv, a 36-year-old Jew from Israel who decorated walls and floor of his room with animated slideshows covering politics, art and history. The pictures in the background are constantly updating themselves. We talked about religion and problems between fundamentalist Arabs and Jews and I learned that I would have been treated differently if I hadn’t told him I was married. Since you can pretend to be anything in a virtual world, carrying any name you choose, it is a good example of how important it is to take „virtuality“ seriously – social conventions are in the backpack of anybody logging into virtual worlds.

Because once you feel immersed you act like you would in the „real world“ – even if you’re just displayed like a cartoon-like Avatar.

If you use Windows you can have a look at the Exambitions Gallery right now (yeah I know that’s lame – Google doesn’t love Mac users):
www.lively.com/dr?rid=7746274979763050908

P.S. naturally I’ll never know if Yaniv isn’t, in fact, a teenager anyway (although I’m pretty sure because of our conversation)…nevertheless he created something interesting with that simple platform. Oh by the way here’s my „virtual meeting & presentation room“ in Lively, just in case. Here’s a picture of it (for Mac users – blame Google, not me):

Consiliera’s (that’s me) virtual meeting room in Lively

The Psychology Of MMO Players: Community Managers and Psychologists Speak

A group of MMO community managers and psychologists from the University of Texas came together at GDC Austin to examine common scenarios.

community managers „are being the police, the therapists, the legal system, the arbitrators.“

Dr. Gosling urges the industry to take advice from outside disciplines, such as psychologists, and even consider specialization in different aspects of community management.

Read the full blog post here: AGDC: The Psychology Of MMO Players: Community Managers, Psychologists Speak >>

If you don’t “get” Facebook and Twitter, read this NY Times article

Blog post listing the highlights of an excellent New York Times article by Clive Thompson (who is also columnist in Wired magazine) about:

– the psychological and sociological view: ambient awareness and weak ties

– how microblogging and social networking is having effects a small-town life has

If you don’t “get” Facebook and Twitter, read this NY Times article on Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog >>