How To Make Your eLearning Gamification Strategy SMART

How To Make Your eLearning Gamification Strategy SMART
Summary: A SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) eLearning gamification strategy is a sure-fire way to boost user engagement and increase the effectiveness of your training program. Learn how to leverage the 5 SMART criteria to make gamification work for you.

Train SMART, Not Hard: 5 Criteria To Guide Your Gamification Strategy

Gamification is an effective way to increase learner engagement―as long as you get it right.

Merely slapping a few game-inspired features onto your eLearning portal won't do. For your gamification strategy to work, you need to make it SMART and apply it appropriately at the right amount.

Getting The SMARTs

A SMART-with-all-capitals eLearning gamification strategy is one that follows the guiding principles encoded in the SMART acronym. One with Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals.

Here's how each of the SMART goals principles applies to your gamification strategy:


Any gamification elements that you use must be familiar and well understood by your learners. The goal of adding gamification is to get your learners to study their training courses harder―not to puzzle them with your overly complex gamification. The simpler the gamification features you use are, the better.

When in doubt stick to tried and true gamification elements such as badges, points, and levels. They are simple but very effective. In fact, in TalentLMS' 2018 gamification survey of over 400 U.S. corporate employees, those same simple gamification elements were ranked as the highest motivators (even when compared to real-life rewards and real-life penalties).


Gamification elements work better when they are directly measurable.

Measurability allows learners to gauge their own progress quickly, and it lets them compare their status with that of others. It lets training managers increase engagement in both self-driven and competitive learners. Achieving measurability depends on the kind of gamification elements that you use.

Some common gamification elements, like as points and levels, are inherently measurable. Others, such as badges, are more of a mixed bag. A dozen or so badges in hierarchical order, for example, are great. Hundreds of badges with no apparent relationship between them, on the other hand, make it impossible for learners to compare their statuses. A learner with 10 badges is not necessarily a better player than another with 5 badges, for example, as the latter’s badges might be more difficult to obtain, or they might not even be comparable at all.

To promote measurability, keep the number of non-quantifiable elements such as badges low and give them a clear hierarchy. Treat them like army rank insignia, as opposed to commemorative pins awarded for any random achievement. Speaking of measurability, don't forget to take advantage of the lowly leaderboard. It makes your learners' overall ranking accessible in one clear and easily comparable listing.


To effectively motivate your learners, your gamification goals should be achievable. Few things are more frustrating than games that are impossibly hard—and the same thing holds for the gamification elements in your training program. Whether you use points, badges, levels, or other kinds of rewards, they must be achievable by your learners. This doesn't mean that obtaining them should always be easy. You should allow learners to start earning points quickly while ramping up the difficulty as they progress to keep things challenging.

This approach requires an LMS, like TalentLMS, with a flexible gamification engine that makes all available gamification parameters (points, badges, levels, rewards, leaderboards, and so on) customizable. This will allow instructors to design and fine-tune a gamification strategy that matches your learners' abilities and the desired difficulty and pacing of your learning program.


Your gamification elements should also be relevant to your learners’ work life.

Remember, the end goal of your gamification strategy is to drive learner engagement—not to turn your training into a mere game. Linking rewards collected within the LMS to real-life rewards for the employee (bonuses, extra days off, creative office perks, and so on), will increase their motivational potential ten-fold.

Similarly, getting your managers to consider a learner's gamification points when ranking them up for a promotion (or a raise), turns your training program into a vital career advancement tool.


Last, but not least, your gamification strategy should be time-bound. In other words, you should tie your gamification elements to your training program's schedules and deadlines (e.g., have your learners collect as many points as they can in the span of each course module).

Time-based gamification helps your learners build the discipline that they need to follow through with their study. It also motivates them to finish with each lesson unit in time, and even try to beat the other learners to it.


And so concludes our SMART guide to an effective gamification strategy.

Have you tried gamifying your training program yet? If yes, I'd love to hear your experiences, as well as any gamification tips you might like to share with other readers. In the meantime, you can take TalentLMS for a test-drive to see for yourself how gamification can alter the way you set training goals.

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