Exams have always scared us as kids. Even as adults, how often have we squirmed at the thought of a test? Direct question-answer assessments for many of us, in fact, are dull at their best and intimidating at their worst. The anxiety before a test even brings down performance for some of us. Is it a surprise then that this unrest for assessments extends into the e-learning world?
As a learner journeys towards the close of an already intensive e-learning experience, the stress to perform well in the assessment could get compounded with the monotony of moving through a long chain of questions. This can cause the assessment to seem like an unavoidable burden.
However, assessments cannot be done away with. They form an integral part of the learning cycle and help to reinforce learning, instill learner confidence and foster satisfaction. They are also an essential component of measuring the level of learning that is realized. How then do we make assessments more appealing?
An interesting option that is gaining popularity.
The magic of games is that they get the player hooked. We’ve all experienced this at least once in our lives. Good games are fun and engaging, and motivate players to try until they succeed.
So why not leverage these features and revamp assessments to be less like question papers and more like games? The desire for victory that a game would set off in a learner could then be used to elicit competent performance.
Gamification can be achieved in many different ways. Let’s take a look at five simple ideas for gamifying post-assessments.
The simplest touch of gamification in an assessment would be to add in the basic game elements of points, rewards, and badges. Design the assessment such that points are accumulated for every correctly answered question, rewards are granted at fixed checkpoints, and upon test completion, a badge is bestowed upon the learner based on the overall score.
- Display a “points counter” on screen so the learner can see their performance quantified and, as a result, be motivated to do better as they move along.
- Include rewards at periodic intervals during the assessment for further motivation. The rewards could be based on varied parameters like number of correct answers given (E.g. An ‘Expert Reward’), speed of answering correctly (E.g. An ‘Express Reward’), or displaying proficiency in particular areas within the content (E.g. A ‘Claims Expert’ reward for a Claims System course).
- To increase relevance and enthusiasm, for badge names, use terms or ideas from the learner’s role in their organization or from the course content (E.g. ‘Service Management Guru’ for a service management course). Fashion the badges to look like actual artifacts the learner would receive within their organization.
Including partly correct answers that fetch partial points or wrong answers that deduct points increases the engagement and the challenge. Further, tangible rewards, badges, and certificates are a few other ways of encouraging learners.
In case of a curriculum, points the learner gains (or even rewards/badges) can carry forward from course to course and result in the learner winning a final award or trophy.
Making an assessment flexible such that the learner is allowed to switch between questions can be a way to comfort them, to allow them some degree of control over an otherwise rigid activity, and to enhance their engagement and motivation. If the learner is unable to answer even after a swap, it can suggest to them that their learning was insufficient and can hence urge them to learn again thoroughly.
- If there are points for each correct answer, intensify the challenge by deducting points for a question swap.
- As a corollary to the tactic above, award extra points for consistently refraining from a question swap.
- Frame questions carefully so that even if swaps are offered, the learner is still tested in all the areas that the course content has covered.
Being completely self-driven as they are, e-learning courses tend to be solitary journeys. While this has its benefits, turning a few aspects of a course into shared experiences can also prove to be useful. For assessments, it brings in the excitement of a group activity and infuses a healthy competition. One effective way to achieve that is through leaderboards that announce top scorers.
- Display the latest leaderboard right before a learner starts to take the assessment. This will introduce the competition factor from the beginning of the assessment and motivate the learner to make it onto the board.
- After the learner completes the assessment, display the updated leaderboard.
- If the learner makes it onto the board, it will instill confidence and foster satisfaction.
- If not, they will be driven to retake the assessment (sometimes only after retaking the course) so they can do better.
- Against the leaders’ names, display the number of points gathered, rewards earned and badges procured to add more exciting facets to the competition.
- Gather assessment questions with one-word or two-word answers and create a single crossword puzzle that includes them all. Convert the questions into crisp clues and hide their answers in the crossword for the learner to unravel.
- Introduce an unsolved jigsaw puzzle at the start of the assessment with most pieces missing. Offer one piece for each correctly answered question. The drive to complete the puzzle can work as a motivating factor for the learner to continue with the assessment and get questions right. To maintain relevance, keep this jigsaw related to the course content. It could be interesting good-to-know information or a useful job-aid.
- Integrate a hangman game into the assessment so that the hangman stick-figure builds a piece each with each incorrect answer. The hangman completes once the count of incorrect answers crosses a fixed number. This can turn even a plain question-answer assessment into something fun.
- Create a format similar to the popular gameshow “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, where multiple-choice questions are posed in a sequence with the goal of procuring a final prize, while offering limited “lifelines” to encourage the learner. The final prize can be customized as per the course, and for “lifelines”, a few engaging strategies for can be:
- Hints – One-liners that contains clues to the answer
- “50-50” – 2 out of 4 answer choices disappear
- “Double Dip” – Two chances at answering a question
- Throw in a dash of luck into the assessment by converting it into a board game. The learner can virtually roll a pair of dice and progress through the places on the board, each of which will have a question for the learner to answer.
- Keep the contents of the board game relevant to the course.
- Design the board in such a way that the more accurate the learner’s answers are, the more likely they are to get farther ahead.
- Move the learner back for wrong answers, push them bonus places forward for consistently answering correctly, and include other game elements or board strategies to make the game more exciting and engaging.
A variety of puzzles can be used as or alongside questions to stimulate the learner to solve them and keep them focused on completing the assessment successfully.
Post-assessments can also be completely game-based, wherein the entire assessment is a single game rather than a set of individually gamified questions. In this approach, questions are woven into the game’s mechanics and the learner answers them in order to progress through the game.
A key benefit of gamified post-assessments is that if the learner doesn’t win at the end, they are persuaded to retake the course and attempt the gamified assessment once more. Essentially, this results in focused and outcome-driven learning.
Besides intensive instructional and graphic effort, gamifying post-assessments typically requires considerable technological support. The tracking and display of gamified elements needs to be programmed into the e-learning course. Such technical dependencies and their feasibility needs to be identified at the outset of solution design.
The five ideas presented above provide a mere glimpse into the numerous approaches and methods that can be devised to gamify post-assessments. Don’t stop at a single idea. Gamification combinations can be used in assessments as well. The learner, however, must not be overwhelmed by it all. While being sufficiently complex and challenging, gamification must not cause a cognitive overload.
In diligently gamified assessments, learners don’t just pass tests, but win them. Start gamifying assessments today, and give learners a chance at celebrating their learning!