The Rise Of eLearning Gamificationalism

The Rise Of eLearning Gamificationalism
Summary: The eLearning industry in 2016 is full of monsters, superheroes, points, badges, and leaderboards. Learning Management Systems are becoming a legitimate alternative to Playstations and Xboxes. It looks like people these days can't learn anything unless they're amused to death. How on earth did we get here? Let us talk about gamificationalism.

The Age Of Gamificationalism

So, what is gamificationalism?

In the beginning, eLearning's only purpose was to make learning content available anytime and everywhere. Good content was scarce, and users were happy with it as long there was no alternative. Eventually they became overwhelmed with all kinds of information, and eLearning had to wage a lopsided battle for their fickle attention against the rest of the online world. Tough luck!

Back in 2011, Gartner fortunetellers first put gamification on their graph of emerging technologies, predicting it would gain mainstream adoption in 5-10 years. In 2015, gamification was removed from the same graph, meaning it was no more than a buzzword bubble. Around the same year, the eLearning gamification party began.

Gamification was a gift from the sky for eLearning folks, as it could answer almost any engagement-related question. Despite some occasional criticism, it became widely considered as the ultimate approach to gaining user attention. The industry uncritically adopted the idea, turning it into idealism, leaving little or no space for alternatives.

We’re focusing so much on fun in learning that we no longer see the rest of the world.

Welcome to the age of gamificationalism!

But wait! What was that problem we're solving again? Information overload! Adding gaming elements to the system doesn't reduce the amount of information – on the contrary, it only increases the noise. It might help convey some messages better, but using disturbance to gain user attention can't be sustainable in the long run.

Gamificationalism And Information

The good news is that people still want to learn – it’s just the way they learn that's changed. It’s simply impossible to absorb all the knowledge available. Today, it's become more important to know how to find the right information and use it at the point of need.

It's up to eLearning to support this process – to identify users' needs and offer them the right information at the right time. Instead of dispensing gamification happy pills, eLearning should make users genuinely happier by making their lives easier.

Change is already underway. Raising awareness about the importance of informal learning will likely require strong e-support, and we can soon expect to see the rise of next-generation social networks to facilitate it.

We have yet to experience a great step forward in formal learning, too. The technology of identifying individual user needs in a given moment is already well-used in advertising. Similar technology could soon enough be used in eLearning to predict learning needs and identify knowledge gaps.

But let’s not stop here. The rise of artificial intelligence will blur the boundaries between formal and informal learning. It’s not just that virtual assistants will be able to engage conversations on social networks and provide meaningful information on demand. Sooner or later we can expect them to use social channels to nudge individuals with pieces of information, brain teasers or small tasks, all to keep them up-to-date and compliant.

Back to reality: Gamification is still considered as an emerging eLearning technology and will probably be around for a while. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It has been demonstrated that gaming elements can have positive effects. But we need to keep our minds open for other technologies too – and more importantly, learn how to combine all kinds of approaches in the most efficient way. Democracy before demagogy – all for the benefit of learners!