Can Gamification Boost Learning for Business and Education

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Patricia Dimick
A freelance writer who's primarily a fun mom, occasionally a table tennis freak, passionate coffee drinker, nature lover and DIY enthusiast.

Gamification refers to the application of game theory and mechanics to real-world settings. Businesses and educational institutions have accepted gamification because of its power to change and improve learning and performance by framing problems and challenges as games.

For a long time, people have enjoyed engaging with difficult situations and adversaries through the use of game consoles. People seem to enjoy learning about a problem and then using their wits, instincts, and skills to overcome the problem, score points and move to the next level.

Gamification uses gaming principles to teach decision-making and problem-solving skills in real-life situations. In the context of eLearning, gamification can lead to the development of innovative concepts and technologies that add value to businesses and the world.


Utilizing technology that was designed for youth and adapting it for business shouldn’t surprise you. After all, social media was created with young people in mind, and businesses now use it to market, sell, and provide customer service. Many adults should feel relief that the technology used to create video games can now provide useful and profitable results. Gamification can boost learning for business and education. Here’s how:


In the world of teaching, there is a learning pyramid which compares different learning methods with their associated percentages of retention. Passive learning techniques, such as reading, help people retain about ten percent of the material. Active learning methods, such as practicing (even through simulation), can cause learners to retain 90 percent of their material. Unfortunately, corporate, educational and training efforts have traditionally been a passive experience, despite the fact that students benefit by interacting with their subject matter. Gamification can change that. Through gameplay, people interact and manipulate with information and concepts, and learn from the various outcomes.

Mobile technology, now ubiquitous, can further enhance the power of gamification because people can learn at any time from any location using smartphones and tablets. Trainers can also use game consoles to increase the level of interaction users have with the training material.


Companies around the world now embrace gaming dynamics as a way to reduce the number of disengaged employees and learners, and increase the performance of their existing workforce. Gamification expert Gabe Zichermann attributes 75 percent of the strategy’s high engagement rate to psychology, and 25 percent of its success to technology. As a result, learners engaged through gamification strategies retain more of the information presented to them and can recall that information during their work.

Hewlett-Packard, an international technology company, developed a gamification tool called Net Promoter Score to help employees learn to behave in ways that contributed to the value of the HP brand. As participants moved from one course to another, their score followed them, giving them an incentive to master the material.



Humans have a competitive nature that fuels the success of gamification strategies, which helps to explain why traditional learning has failed to deliver satisfactory results in the business world. In the past, employees sat through training sessions and no one could advance or achieve recognition until they took a test.

In a competitive setting, people naturally stay focused on their goals and stay engaged because they know they get results in real time. As people strive to do their best, they learn faster and retain more information than they can in a traditional classroom setting.

Treehouse, a virtual trainer for app development, programming, and business skills, promotes gamification by allowing students to choose their desired outcomes by selecting a particular track. The company then breaks each training track into smaller sections that make learning easy. A tracker monitors student performance and allocates points based on their progress. Various student achievements help students predict their salary potential and can improve their prospect for employment.


Gamification provides the basis for many emerging technologies used for education. Models used in games have facilitated the development of eLearning platforms and other resources that provide feedback about the learning experience.

During game play, participants have access to self-diagnostic information that tells them how well they have performed. Similarly, when learners participate in game-based training, they get immediate feedback about the effectiveness of their actions and their knowledge of the material. The assessment capabilities of game-based learning also help instructors and trainers evaluate the overall quality of their system and identify participants who might need additional training to help them get to the next level.


Gamification works best as a motivational tool. When used in the business world, game strategies leverage intrinsic human motivation to increase participation and motivate learning through the pursuit of rewards. The approach also employs the autonomy of learners by allowing them to determine the speed and the amount of learning they achieve. When people feel empowered, they tend to gain more than they would if they felt like outside forces controlled them.

Cisco successfully used a gamified solution to develop a global social media program. As employees participated in training, they could achieve three levels and four sub-levels of certifications. The competitive nature of the program inspired more than 650 workers to complete more than 13,000 courses to develop mastery in social media skills.

You have already read how gamification can boost learning for business and education. As technology evolves, you should expect to see game theory and mechanics used in new ways in more organizations. When you wisely invest in a gamification strategy, you will develop an engaged, motivated workforce that will make your company stronger and more profitable.


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