eLearning · Gamification · Instructional Design

Is Gamification just another Instructional Designer’s hat?

Very recently, a job seeker asked me about the qualification required to attain a job in my domain (as an Instructional Designer). I still remember that weird look in his face after hearing me reply “Good English and some Common Sense”.  There has been quite a debate in the industry on whether the Instructional Designer should have a degree, if yes in which domain? in Education? in Literature? in Psychology? or in Instructional Design itself?

I’ve seen IDs with a Bachelor in Arts degree outperform someone with a certification in Instructional Design from a reputed institute. The reason behind this has been quoted in a post published by The Rapid E-Learning Blog in 2013. It reads “College degrees may not build the skills you need in the real world”. This is true and has been the reason why Instructional Designers are one-of-a-kind professionals that come from massively diverse backgrounds yet find great success in their careers. As long as you have the passion to perform as a good ID and take control of your own learning to be one, it doesn’t require a degree to be a good Instructional Designer.

Mr Instructional Designer! Let’s look at the hats you’re currently wearing:

  • Firstly, a Content Writer/Developer
  • A Subject Matter Expert of every subject you work on (You can’t teach what you don’t understand)
  • Of course an Instructional Strategist, who’ll be deciding upon the best possible method to deliver the content
  • Storyboard developer with great ideas for visualizing the content
  • A Language Expert who’ll make sure there aren’t any grammatical errors in the course and also that the terms used are comfortable for the proposed learners
  • Finally, as a learner to review the course and see if all the previous hats have done their job properly

 Who teaches you all these?

In most of the cases, instructional designers are trained in-house. Remember that Bloom’s Taxonomy class? You can learn standard procedures for ID such as how to perform training need analysis, how to analyse the content, how to write learning objectives and how to develop a storyboard from many resources on the world wide web. You’ll slowly get a hang of these with practice as you continue to work on more and more E-learning projects. Some of you may even attend one-on-one or online sessions to understand these concepts deeper and stay ahead of others.

Can Gamification be self-taught?


Training IDs on Gamification isn’t the same as other instructional strategies. I still remember my first Gamification session where at least half the Instructional Designers who attended, sat with a big question mark on their face. This is because there are hearing many terms they thought would never appear in a learning context. They’re used to the term Learner whereas now they had to settle with Player. They don’t quite understand when someone says “Experience Points” or “Leaderboards” or “Badges and trophies”. This isn’t their mistake.

We’re trying to bring the elements of a totally different medium into E-learning domain to make the learning more effective and engaging. You cannot expect them to master the Gamification concept just the way they’ve learnt the other instructional methodologies via a book or an online course, since this is an experiential concept and requires a special approach.

So how do we teach Gamification?

Get them to play. This might sound a little strange but it is indeed the best way you can quickly communicate the concepts of gamification to your IDs. The author Karl Kapp rightly mentioned in his book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction”, your first assignment to learn the Gamification concept is to go and play a game. Before you try to extract the elements of a concept and implement them in another, it is important for you to understand how and why these elements work in their present domain. Without knowing this, you’ll only end up using them in an inappropriate context which is definitely not good for the learner.

Try this approach instead:

  1. Firstly, select few members from your eLearning development team to form a Gamification committee
  2. Get a gaming console set up in your conference room (Could be any but I don’t recommend a Nintendo Wii unless you want to turn it into a personal yoga room for your employees)
  3. Ask your G-committee to research and purchase some of the most successful games for your console
  4. Prepare a training calendar to train the team
  5. During the sessions, have your team members play the games for some time and then facilitate a group discussion on what are the elements that grabbed their interest in the game and what is that they disliked
  6. Try to extend these conversations to using these elements in a learning context
  7. Have the gamification committee note down the ideas discussed during the session and send a monthly report of observations to everyone for further thought processing
  8. Slowly take it a step further by presenting a learning challenge in front your team before playing the game and later ask them to try to use the elements of the game to solve the given problem

This is a good way to get them well equipped with ideas as Gamification is a concept that requires special approach to learn and understand. If your team is too busy working on projects and cannot handle additional responsibility of working as a G-committee, you can hire a game designer to conduct the sessions for your team (There are many designers looking for a job out there and it shouldn’t be difficult for you to get a part-timer).

Gamification has the potential to be one of the most effective instructional methodologies which not only makes the process of learning fun, but also memorable. I would love to know how you are getting your team ready to play the gamification card to win the learning battle. Do share your ideas through comments.


4 thoughts on “Is Gamification just another Instructional Designer’s hat?

  1. You are right when you say that degree won’t make one a super ID, it is:
    • All about getting to the depths and finding out what works and what does not.
    • Like a muscle that one can strengthen on practice.
    • About donning multiple hats: Creator, a facilitator (not the classroom facilitator) and a learner.
    My experience: Only people with the:
    • Immense curiosity to learn more,
    • Make learning easier
    • Interest to make lives better can survive and thrive in this field.
    Coming to the second point on gamification: This post was very comforting, especially for someone who is allergic to games! I work in a company which lives and breathes gamified learning. Structural gamification is my only comfort zone and not otherwise. Please let me know if you conduct any sessions on it, I want to be a part of it.


  2. Thank you Samyuktha. Being a Super ID demands that effort to understand how the learner thinks and to structure and design the training accordingly. Happy to know that you’re currently working on gamified learning programs. I’m planning for few webinars on Game Based Learning & Gamification. I’ll send you an invite once things are ready. Thanks for coming by.


  3. While I appreciate the application of Carl Kapp’s advice to play games in order to understand them, I’d caution against relying on console games as a model. Some of the most popular and frequently downloaded games are mobile apps like Angry Birds, Flappy Bird, Word With Friends, Candy Crush, and now Pokemon Go. Don’t limit yourself to first-person shooters. Look at the broad range of games for ideas.


    1. Thank you for the valid points Richard. The reason i stressed more on console games is because they include key game elements such as story, characters, plot and more which will be helpful while developing gamified courses..


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