WordPress Gamification: A key LMS plugin feature

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The other day my son was working on math at our kitchen table. My wife incentivized his progress with skittles—one for each problem he got right. This, of course, did the trick and he was motivated to get his whole worksheet done. Maybe a bit too fast though.

He made two or three mistakes and she wanted him to spend more time finding and correcting them. So she told him that if he could find the three mistakes and correct them, he'd get two extra skittles for each fixed error.

As you can imagine, he poured over his work, found the mistakes and fixed them. Immediately looking up to see if he'd done a good job and could get his additional six skittles.

The entire thing took place in the few minutes it took me to walk from my home office to the kitchen, grab a glass, put ice in it, and pour myself some ice tea before returning to my office. There have been days, in the not so recent past, where a worksheet of this length could have taken an hour.

The skittles did their trick.

You want high engagement, right?

In a 2014 study I read at the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, the average course sees an enrollment of more than 40,000 students but an average of only 6% completion rates. This was for massive open online courses (MOOCs) that have popped up all over the place online.

If you're building an eCourse or online learning site, 6% completion rates isn't really your target, right?

Enter WordPress gamification.

You need the magic skittles trick so that all your online audience powers thru your content in a faster and more engaged way.

When you add a little gamification, you tend to see several things happen at once:

  • Students can make mistakes: by defining point totals differently, you can invite students to find and repair their mistakes without shame.
  • Students can compete: leader boards can help motivate different kinds of students (either to top the list or to beat a friend)
  • Students stay engaged: the points people earn provide immediate feedback that can drive deeper engagement
  • You can guide and focus behavior: how you allocate point totals will drive people towards the actions you want taken

These four results can be seen across many different kinds of online learning sites – from video courses to customer (or employee) onboarding to online certification sites.

According to Growth Engineering, “One industry survey found that almost 80% of learners would be more productive if their work was more game-like. It was found that over 60% of them would be motivated by leaderboards, and that 89% would be more engaged if their online learning had a points system.”

Isn't that what we all want when building out an online course?

Not all gamification is the same

There are a lot of different kinds of motivations when you look at the people who are enrolling in your online course.

  • Mastery: people want to learn, grow and achieve all that they can
  • Relationships: people want to connect with others
  • Secrets: people want to know the algorithms of your reward framework
  • Rewards: people want external rewards
  • Dominance: people want to rule everyone else

What this means is that your approach to gamification should take these different motivations into account. As you can imagine, people don't fall into a single category of motivation and likely show more than one motivator.

Nevertheless, a leaderboard may drive those who are driven by dominance or even mastery, but it won't do anything for someone looking to get a gift certificate from your site as a prize for finishing first.

This means, especially when building your online course in WordPress, that you must pick an LMS plugin (or set of plugins) that provides you a variety of ways to leverage gamification on the site.

WordPress Gamification

When we're talking about gamification on your WordPress online learning site, there are several places where you can drive deeper engagement.

Site Registration Points or Badges

Many sites that house several online courses forget that the simple act of inviting people to register (even before picking a class) can create a way to invite deeper engagement. Plus, if you allocate points or badges, it will drive (for some) a more rapid desire to get started.

Course Registration Points or Badges

In the same way that site registration can inspire deeper and faster engagement, course registration is a great way to give people enough points or badges to really get things going. Instead of giving them 10 points (like you might for each lesson accomplished), try giving them 100 to start.

Lesson Completion Points or Badges

Every lesson inspires people to start the next. And some people will binge watch like they do Nettflix. The easy way to do it is to award points for the completion of each lesson. Certain lessons may deliver special badges because students have hit the mid-point, or moved past the hardest lesson. Reward them!

Quiz Points or Badges

Every right answer could get you points. Every wrong answer could get you more points for a second try. Alternatively, first-time right answers get you 10 points while second-time right answers get you five. Be creative!

Course Completion Points or Badges

As I mentioned before, tons of people will start courses. Your focus should be on helping them finish them. That's what will have the greatest impact. So make sure you do what you can to inspire completion with points and badges.

Course Leaderboard Points or Badges

Don't just have a leaderboard for the site, have one for each course. Help people know where the bar is for excellence and see which folks rise to the challenge. You may want to add emails into your system to let them know when they're close or have reached the top of the leaderboard too.

Site Leaderboard

The best of the best will be inspired to stretch for “best in show” kind of recognition. So consider a site leaderboard that will attract the fiercest competitors to your site. It's amazing what people will do for bragging rights.

Prize Rewards based on Points

If you're giving out all those points, make sure you have a way for people to turn them into something. Some sites can use plugins to have them redeemed for further courses (for free). Others may create redemption solutions like gift cards. Either way, have a plan!

LMS Plugins that support Gamification

Every one of these plugins offers a fantastic way to build an online learning site using WordPress. Different plugins have different approaches, and you'll have to determine which is right for you. But I've seen each of these power awesome sites!

LifterLMS

The folks behind LifterLMS really understand gamification. It's rolled into their entire plugin – with badges, emails and certificates. In many ways, this is what you'd want for every LMS plugin. It's a free plugin that has a lot of paid add-ons for additional features (like payment gateways, etc).

WP Courseware

I use this plugin the most, and love many of its features and integrations. To get the gamification you'll want, look at their extension that connects you to another plugin called WPAchievements. This creates a ridiculously powerful gamified LMS site.

LearnDash

LearnDash rolled in gamification years ago into their core plugin. Their CEO, Justin Ferriman, has a deep understanding of how to use gamification features for your online course and has written about it on the LearnDash blog. Additionally, they integrate with BadgeOS, another WordPress plugin that offers badges.

Sensei

Sensei is a plugin created by the folks behind WooCommerce. So the good news is that you can use the points and rewards extension for WooCommerce to give customers points when they purchase access to a course. Beyond that, you can connect your sensei courses to BadgeOS by using their connector extension.

Online learning is better with gamification

As you can see, there are a lot of options for you. At this point, it can likely feel a bit overwhelming, but here's the good news. Online learning is better with gamification. So don't worry about building the best and most complete solution ever.

Instead, start small and add some of the achievement badges or points and see how things go. You can always add more as you go along. And each time you add more, your site will be rewarded with increased engagement.

Over time you'll note which things work really well and which don't. Modify, tweak, and keep going.

Want to talk to someone who has done it already? That's always the best approach.

If that's the case, you'll want to talk to my friend Shawn, who moved WP101 over to LifterLMS and has seen the engagements feature do its work.

Of course, I'm available on Clarity as well.

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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