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Gamification Pitfalls to Avoid

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In my blog post on using gamification in your courses, I wrote about why educators are using gamification in teaching and learning. If you are considering using gamification in your courses, beware of pitfalls.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Srividya Kumar wrote,

When gamification is not thought through and designed well, it can have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

Srividya indicates that gamification can be like walking a tightrope in order to get it right. She goes on to provide some pitfalls to watch out for. The pitfalls she suggests you avoid are:

1. Superficial Engagement

Having learners fall over themselves to earn goodies, or compete to achieve top position on a leaderboard is great, but if these are the only reasons that spur learners to perform the desired behaviors, then it’s not going to last very long. Extrinsic motivators can only go so far to engage and motivate. Make sure to have more intrinsic motivators than extrinsic motivators.

2. Unintended Consequences

Think long and hard about the motivators, rewards, and consequences. While encouraging and rewarding the right behaviors does definitely motivate people, sometimes unintended, and even undesirable behaviors can be the side effects of a gamification initiative, as evidenced by the cobra effect.

3. Rewarding the Wrong Behaviors

Avoid Kerr’s folly, rewarding A while hoping for B. Your reward structure shouldn’t undermine your goal. You should be clear about the goal and the outcomes you are aiming for. Measure and reward what is important, not what is easy.

4. Rewards That Learners Don’t Find Valuable

You may have received a gift that you really didn’t like or could not find much use for and struggled to tell the person that you did not like or could not use the gift. That’s exactly what would happen if you throw a bunch of worthless badges at learners, without thinking about whether they would find these badges valuable. Avoid this situation by thinking about whether your learners will find your rewards useful/exciting.

I’m sure you can think of other pitfalls to avoid. Please use the comments below to let us know your thoughts on this topic.

If you are interested reading more about these pitfalls, refer to the “4 Gamification Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” blog post.

Photo Credit: Pitfall Str | CC BY 2.0

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