Published on

October 31, 2022

The Power of Gamification in Adult Learning

Jannik Weichert photo

Jannik Weichert

Managing Director


Learning Hub

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Gamification in adult learning

Gamification is the use of game-based elements and mechanics, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, in non-game contexts in order to engage and motivate people. In the context of adult learning, gamification can be an effective tool to increase retention and motivation, as it provides a sense of progress, competition, and achievement. Gamification can also make learning more enjoyable and interactive, which can be especially useful in online learning environments. In this blog post, we will explore the various ways in which gamification can be used to enhance adult learning and discuss some best practices for implementing gamification in learning programs.

What is gamification in an adult learning context?

Gamification describes strategies that bring elements, often used in and associated with games, into a non-game environment. 

However, gamification is not only about turning the workplace into a game. It's rather about motivating workers, driving higher employee productivity, and improving business outcomes. Gamification techniques tailor game mechanics and motivational methods to add competition to the work environment and foster employee behavior needed to achieve critical business goals.


Gamification thus can be used to educate, motivate, and engage employees, optimize workflows, and attract (young) professionals.

It typically utilizes four different levers to show its potential:

1. Motivation

Employees are motivated by the opportunity to get rewards and recognition.

2. A Sense of Control

‍Gamified tasks give employees the feeling of being in power, which taps into their intrinsic motivations.

3. Cues to Action

Employees are prompted to complete tasks. Gamification features within an app or a platform can help them know where they are and where they are going.

4. A Sense of Competition

‍People are competitive by nature. They like to set goals and compete with themselves or others.

Why gamification is important in adult learning

Primarily younger generations are used to being incentivized in everything that they are doing: receiving positive feedback from their smartwatch when walking or standing for a specific time, collecting rewards points at their favorite coffee shop, or saving miles with each airline ticket purchase. Yet, when it comes to learning relevant skills and gaining knowledge in their careers, they often don’t get any feedback on their performance. It is usually expected that employees enjoy learning for the sake of merely gaining theoretical knowledge.

This outdated kind of information transmission simply does not fit the spirit of our time anymore.

Gamification is the primary method to engage employees and can be implemented into various aspects of their job, e.g. conveying important information, teaching valuable skills, and boosting team performance.

 8 benefits of gamification

When done correctly, gamification can boost employee productivity and engagement significantly.

Gamification can be a powerful tool to foster a more positive work environment. The effects it can have on participants and employees can differ depending on the gamification methods introduced to the environment:

1. Increased Motivation

‍Usage of goals, achievements, and rewards systems encourages motivation, increases satisfaction, and sequentially performance.

2. Improved Productivity

‍This comes as a result of a more relaxed and collaborative environment and increased motivation.

3. Strengthens Communication

Communication between different teams and departments often improves and becomes more fluid.

4. Favors Employees Engagement

Gamification features increase the sense of belonging into the team and also the identification with the companies goals.

5. Introduces Innovative Dynamics

Game-based learning to develop skills helps the growth of both the business and the employee, ultimately resulting in potential organizational innovation.

6. Develops Specific Skills

Gamifying training programs helps employees with learning effectively.

7. Transparency of Individual Performance

Leaderboards, scores, levels, and badges help to showcase accomplishments and improvement especially in areas where its hard to measure performance, e.g. learning and skill-building.

8.Transmits Corporate Image

Nowadays, most employers aim to position themselves as innovative, forward-thinking, and inclusive. Gamification helps to portray that image inside and out.

Impact from implementing gamification methods. Source: Anadea

 3 risks of gamification in adult learning

Gamification methods portray very subtle but yet powerful tools. Therefore, the risks of implementing some tactics are relatively small.

The following points describe the most commonly made assumptions or mistakes when implementing gamification features into the workplace:

1. Heavy Usage

Like with many other things in life, more is not always better. Over-exploitation of games-based motivation can cause fatigue and make employees feel stressed.

2. Poor Execution

Poor execution of gamification techniques causes another risk. Game elements should be implemented carefully in a work environment to meet business objectives.

3. Holy Grail Syndrome

Like with many other methods, gamification is not the holy grail to an innovative organizational culture. When implementing gamification principles, one should not over-estimate the effects it will have on employee satisfaction. Changing the corporate culture for the better is a complex undertaking in which gamification might represent one of many steps to implement a positive change.

 3 use cases for gamification in adult learning

1. Onboarding
As a new hire, the onboarding day usually comes with mixed emotions. On the one hand, excitement about tackling a new challenge at a new job in possibly even a new company. On the other hand, disillusionment when the first hours or even days are spent along watching dull videos, reading manuals, and working through mounts of paperwork.

2. Improving Training Results
‍An organization creates a win-win situation where the employees are engaged and much more inclined to remember the knowledge they are being taught. Using interactive and playfully competitive methods, organizations can make learning more fun, ultimately leading to a better-educated workforce.

3. Make Routine Training More Engaging

Most employees dread going through compliance or safety training. Even though the transferred knowledge is highly relevant. Merely designing the process to be more fun, results in employees that internalize the information and are less likely to forget it.

Top 3 Learner-Engaging-Gamification Features:

This wouldn’t be an all-encompassing blog post about gamification features without mentioning our own tips and tricks. Here are our top 3 favorite learner-engaging-gamification features that our learners absolutely love:

1. Learning points

Learners can earn points based on their learning activity on edyoucated. Points help our learners getting a feeling of their achievements and is the basis to compare their progress with their peers.

2. Leaderboards & team vs. team competitions

We are always amazed by the response we get from clients and how competitive they get in challenging other teams. That friendly competition ultimately drives them to continue learning new skills and gain knowledge constantly.

3. Setting learning goals

Our latest feature allows learners to set their own weekly learning goals, which sequentially helps them improving on a continuous level.

Actually, most of those methods don’t even require an app or platform solution. For example: simply count the number of courses completed or hours spend on training classes manually and create a physical leaderboard within your office. You’ll be surprised that the psychological effect is the same.

Adding gamification into existing learning materials and processes

Introducing gamification to boost employee engagement doesn’t have to be a complex and complicated change within your learning structures.

Few Learning Management Systems (LMS) already provide a couple of gamification features (e.g. avatars and process bars), which can be easily implemented.

Though, whoever wants a more comprehensive and holistic integration of gamification principles to maximize learning efficiency and effectiveness, should probably look at some Learning Experience Platforms (LXP). An LXP has a learner-first approach to delivering learning materials and is probably the best way to engage employees in advanced training.

Find out more about LXPs and LMSs and check out all the differences.

Get started on further increasing learner engagement

Gamification has proven to be an effective way to engage learners. By incorporating game-like elements, such as rewards and challenges, into the learning process, learners are able to stay motivated and engaged in the material. However, gamification is just one tool in the toolbox when it comes to boosting learner engagement. There are many other strategies that can be used to keep learners engaged, like making it personal or by providing the right and relevant content. Of course, the effectiveness of such activities have to be measure to. So the question is, what are good metrics and what more strategies can be used.

Find out more, in this 6 tips guide to increase learner motivation.

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edyoucated is funded by leading research institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).

Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB)