Gamification: 3 Tips for Creating Engaging Online Content

By Aidora Abdullah

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed higher educational institutions worldwide to rapidly adjust from face-to-face teaching to a fully online delivery mode. 

Students who were not used to online delivery were forced to become active remote learners. Educators with limited remote teaching experience were expected to immediately transition to online teaching.  

The challenge for academics was to deliver engaging online content to students who are generally less attentive when learning remotely. One way to create engaging online content is with gamification.  

What is gamification?

Gamification is the use of game design and game mechanics in non-game settings, like online learning. While gamification can aid in learning, it is more useful in terms of engagement, with things like badges, points, and levels into online courses, 

This action helps recreate the fun of a gaming experience,  boosting engagement and retention. 

Gamification may be traced all the way back to the nineteenth century. S&H Green Stamps – early forms of trading cards — were offered to supermarkets and other shops by Sperry & Hutchinson. The stamps would then be used by the business owners to reward their consumers.

While gamification has evolved over time, you may observe that some individuals, particularly youngsters, still collect trading cards. This is the most basic kind of gamification in that it encourages competition, offers a reward, and only necessitates a small amount of effort.

How does gamification work?  

Consider the millions of individuals who have downloaded Colour Switch and Call of Duty on their smartphones and tablets if you don’t believe gamification can work. While these games are solely for entertainment, they bring in a lot of profit for their developers. 

For example, when a user plays a game and they get paid in rewards, they would want to spend money to get items that will allow them to level up quickly as they will reap more benefits in the game if they are at a higher level. This spending is one of the ways gamification helps in boosting a brand’s revenue.

Human beings are born with a desire to compete, but the need for competition varies among each individual. Nevertheless, if you give them a problem to solve or a quiz to take, they will eventually rise to the occasion, especially if they are rewarded in some way.

Therefore, teachers can come up with their own version of Call of Duty. They can create a gamification strategy to motivate their students to compete, level up, and put their knowledge to the test.

People like competition, but they adore rewards even more. If you think about it, this is how our society operates. Hence, in order for an educational game to succeed, students must enjoy playing it. 

What could be a reward for one student may be a non-reward or even a discouragement for another. So, teachers can fit their reward system to what best suits their students. For example, if it’s for a younger classroom, a gold star sticker reward system might work best whereas, for an older crowd, a point incentive will work better than a sticker.

3 Tips for creating engagement online with gamification

Many educators are told to gamify their online lessons but are not sure where to start. This can be an overwhelming process for some.  However, implementing gamification does not have to be daunting. Here are three tips to get started with gamification.


Use game mechanics

First, start with using just one game mechanic like points, instead of implementing various types in one go.  Points are not as exciting as badges or levels but are very easy to implement.  For example, points can be awarded to students who have completed various online activities.  

These points can then be accumulated to contribute to a percentage of the coursework marks.  Other game mechanics like badges can be added later; when the educator feels more confident to explore and use more advanced gamification mechanics.  

Figure 1.0 – Using points for an online discussion


Take a storytelling approach

For some students, courses can be challenging to complete when taught in a linear manner. Storytelling takes the learner on a journey that is both compelling and engaging. Educators can do this by creating challenges.  

Through breaking content into smaller, but challenging, ‘missions’, the student can be captivated and entertained, keeping learners’ attention and helping them to focus on completing the course.  The game mechanic(s) used can also help create a sense of competition, and challenge students to set and reach goals. 

Figure 2.0: Storytelling with missions in an Ethical Hacking & Countermeasures course


Include immediate feedback 

Feedback enables learners to gauge their understanding and motivate them to move ahead.  Feedback can be as simple as using the “raise hand” or “chat” features available on virtual platforms, or by using online polling to capture learners’ responses and provide quick, detailed feedback.  

It is also equally important for educators to obtain student feedback on the gamification activities conducted.  Their feedback helps educators know what worked, and what they found enjoyable, or otherwise. This in turn helps further enhance the gamified content for future lessons.  







Figure 3.0: Example of student feedback using Google Forms

Why does gamification work?

Gamification works because elicits emotions associated with a pleasant user experience. Here are some other reasons why gamification increases online engagement in virtual learning.


Reinforces good behaviour

To take a simplified example, while training a dog, you reward it with biscuits. The dog is rewarded for good behaviour with a goodie. Because it is rewarded for its excellent behaviour, it will continue to do so. 

When it comes to gamification, the same thing happens. Students can earn a prize after they complete something. So they will repeat the process over and over. It is used to reinforce a habit or a behaviour.


Gives a sense of accomplishment

One of the most effective psychological motivators of human behaviour is achievement. Everything we do is aimed at achieving a goal. 

If you can make your student feel like they’ve accomplished something, they’ll be more engaged in the classroom. When a student completes a task, something as easy as allocating points or giving a prize, creates a milestone and the sensation of finishing a level.


Promotes teamwork and collaboration

Community and teamwork are two additional important psychological factors. Because humans are social beings, we enjoy multiplayer games.  

This is a good example of gamification. Teachers can develop loyalty and a good user experience if they can make students feel like they’re part of a team or community in their online classes.


In conclusion, creating engaging online lessons using gamification is not a difficult process.  Start by using something simple like points, then add more game mechanics later.  Let course content become exciting ‘missions’ instead of dull topics that students must complete. 

Finally, always include student feedback, to help enhance and improve the gamified content, and ensure students remain motivated and engaged to complete the courses and keep coming back for more.

If you’re a student whose study plan and schedules have been disrupted by the pandemic, contact us and speak to someone on our team today. We’d love to help get you back on track.


06 July 2021


Science and Technology