You’re considering - or already using - gamification in learning and your mission is clear: You want to increase engagement and motivation by harnessing the power of what humans inherently love to do - play games. Now take your gamification design to the next level by making progress obvious for your players.

Design a System for Making Progress Obvious in Gamification for Learning - Increase Engagement, Create Challenges, and Instill a Sense of Accomplishment.


We all want to master the world around us. We want to master complexity. The beauty of the game environment is we have the “freedom to fail” without serious or life-threatening consequences. Done right, we can also have a continual sense of accomplishment.So, just as we do in instructional design for non-gamified e-learning courses, we can chunk things into small components, which give us opportunities to show progress. This framework from a recent gamification project I worked on will give you some ideas for how to make progress obvious for your players.The Gamification ChallengeIn a recent game-based learning project, we started with “Challenges.” A challenge represented the smallest unit, a single activity. This might be a completing a drag-and-drop activity, watching a video, or listening to a scenario followed by multiple-choice questions. The activity is naturally appropriate to the objectives and the content.Challenges should be short—we kept ours under three minutes. Brief activities are more likely to hold the player’s attention and allow the player to get immediate feedback.Indicating completion with a checkmark, star, or some other indication provides a sense of accomplishment.The Gamification Mission Next, we grouped related Challenges together to create Missions. Each Mission covered different topics.For example, in game-based learning for a sales audience, you might create a Mission for each stage in the sales cycle. Within each Mission, the player practices and gets feedback on common activities during that part of the cycle by completing Challenges.As with Challenges, it’s important to design clear indicators for what’s been completed, what’s in progress, and what hasn’t started.  The Gamification LevelsIn instructional design, we often talk about “scaffolding” learning. Scaffolding is, in essence, making it easier (with more support) in the beginning, and then removing that support and adding complexity as the player progresses. That’s essentially what you do with creating game levels. In most games, levels are sequential—that is, players have to complete Level 1 before Level 2 is unlocked.What differentiates one level from another? In our project, we increased the difficulty of the material and imposed tougher time constraints as players moved up the levels.My advice: Make it hard, but not too hard. Test your assumptions. (User testing is very helpful here, which is another topic!)Another differentiator in levels is rewards, which might be a points system. In our project, players earn more points in a Level 2 activity than in a Level 1 activity. This increases competition, whether the player is competing with others or looking to increase his or her own score.The Gamification Chance FactorFinally, even though you are setting up a structure, you don’t want to lose the opportunity for fun and the element of surprise or chance. So, look for ways to bake that into your gamification design.Here’s an example. In our project we offered a “double or nothing” opportunity—players could “bet” their points on a more difficult bonus question. The chance to participate in a “double or nothing” challenge would appear randomly and players would need to balance risk and reward. This is a non-linear and fun way to progress through the game. Though Challenge, Mission, and Levels are standard terms in gaming and gamification design, you may decide to create a nomenclature reflective of your content or your organization. The names may change, but the goal remains the same: create a system that makes progress obvious for your learners. Challenges, a sense of accomplishment, and the surprise factor of chance are all essential parts of the winning formula for effective gamification design.Interested to learn more about the effectiveness of gamification in corporate training? Check out this interactive gamification infographic from SweetRush: 4 Reasons Games Work.