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Panos Kraniotis

Rosetta Stone

Regional Director, Europe

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Using techniques from the gaming industry to motivate learners


The gaming industry is phenomenally good at user engagement. Games have a way of drawing players in and keeping them hooked. The training industry would be wise to take note and learn from this.

By incorporating motivational techniques used in video games into training programmes, higher levels of learner engagement can be achieved. This use of gaming tools and techniques is widely known as ‘gamification.’

Gamification is used in a wide variety of contexts to help achieve results. It can help to deliver more compelling, engaging and motivating learning programmes by drawing on tactics rooted in an understanding of human behaviour and incorporating aspects of this to keep learners interested.

Some of these tactics are quite subtle – the inclusion of a progress bar so the learner knows how far along they are in the programme; rewarding training completion in some way, and so on.

Gamification doesn’t have to be complicated, but an understanding of how it works can help training providers implement programmes that learners will complete – cutting down on training abandonment – and that they will enjoy.

The following are five gamification techniques that can be used in training:

  1. Clear learning outcomes – Learners like to know what’s expected from the training. What will the learning outcomes be? What are they expected to achieve? How are they going to get there?
  2. Progress updates – Show learners how they’re progressing on the way to achieving the goals set. A simple progress bar is an example of a motivational tool because it keeps learners informed on where they are within the programme and how much more they have to do to complete the training.
  3. Encouragement – People are motivated by encouragement and expect their efforts to stimulate some sort of a response. Motivation comes from the acknowledgement and recognition that they have achieved something. Rewarding learners as they progress through a digital learning programme also helps take away the isolation that can be felt from learning outside of a group environment. This can be in the form of a simple, “well done” or other validation.
  4. Reward and recognition – People like to work towards something. This could be a training certificate or a points goal. Racking up points is a classic way of motivating people to keep going and gives them an indication of how well they’re performing. In the online learning environment, rewards can be innovative and varied because online sessions can be tracked and milestones or activities can automatically trigger reward responses. FourSquare, the location and rating application, took an interesting approach to rewarding people for their use of the app with its system of crowning people ‘Mayor of’ a venue when they had checked-in the most times. This appeals to the part of human nature that craves recognition and acknowledgement.   
  5. Competition – People tend to compare their achievements against those of others.  Scoreboards that rank participants in a programme can play to the competitive nature of people. Of course, this has to be approached sensitively as it can also be de-motivating to some who might feel negative pressure from such exposure.

Interactive, digital learning programmes provide an ideal environment for learning new skills and maintaining and building on existing ones. As all training requires commitment, programmes that consider not only what has to be learned, but also how learner engagement can be maximised, are likely to see better outcomes.

Tools and techniques used to great effect in the gaming arena can help engage and motivate learners, providing an enriched training experience and helping companies meet business objectives through a skilled workforce.

Author Profile Picture
Panos Kraniotis

Regional Director, Europe

Read more from Panos Kraniotis

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