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  • Mark Gash

Gamification & rewards to engage your digital audience

From an early age, we’re introduced to reward systems, whether that’s a star chart for learning to tie your shoelaces or playing Monopoly with the family. We are taught that by following rules or learning new skills, we are rewarded with toys, money or Happy Meals.


We carry this through into adulthood - we are conditioned to believe that gaining qualifications and working hard results in cars, holidays and nice houses. Whether that plays out or not is somewhat irrelevant, the point is, we are engineered to play games.

Supermarkets and coffee shops use this as the basis of their loyalty card schemes - the more we spend, the more points we accrue on our reward cards, which keeps us coming back for more.

Facebook and scammers use it to mine us for our personal data - how many times have you given away the name of your first pet and your mother’s maiden name to discover your adult movie star moniker? (my official answer is “none” but if I had, it would be Scruffles Armstrong).

This has been used to great effect in e-learning for a number of years and is known as gamification. Like undertaking your weekly big food shop, e-learning courses have often been seen as a thankless chore, so it became necessary to find a way to reward people for completing them.


Digital rewards can be badges or points, which can be used in a number of ways. In a professional learning environment, a digital badge can contain meta-data explaining the criteria a person needed to fulfil to earn the badge. The badge can be used as part of a digital CV or attached to a profile on sites such as LinkedIn, providing verified proof that an individual has achieved a certain qualification or proficiency in a subject. Alternatively, digital rewards can take the form of prizes, such as vouchers or points to be spent on real-world items and experiences.

Gamification isn’t limited to e-learning, it’s for websites too

Whether your audience consists of enrolled learners, shoppers or virtual tourists, gamification is a powerful tool to engage and retain them on your website or LMS. The mechanism for earning rewards can even be more important than the reward itself and there are a number of ways to introduce gamification to your digital platform.

Levelling-up

Collecting points for purchasing items is a tried-and-tested way to gamify the shopping experience and is easy to implement both on and offline. But sometimes the aim of a website or platform isn’t to encourage a purchase, it’s to explore and consume content. Using points collection as a basis, you can introduce a level-up feature, which uses a graphical element to show user progression as they navigate a site. This could be a simple star chart, with rewards unlocked for earning a certain amount of stars. To encourage course completion on the Land Based Learning platform, we used a seed growing into a tree.


Treasure hunts

In the same vein as levelling-up, a treasure hunt involves hiding elements around a website for visitors to collect. Your audience will need to visit key pages to find all pieces of the treasure hunt and unlock rewards. We implemented this on Over the Wall’s Camp in the Cloud site, where visitors had to collect bottles of Newman’s Own sauces, which sponsors the charity.


Interactive video

Rather than present a linear video for your audience to watch, why not add in clickable hotspots, questions and branching storylines at crucial points in the action? User decisions and interaction can directly affect the flow of the video and you can reward them based on their outcomes. We recently completed an underage drinking awareness course that uses interactive video to help young people make sensible choices around alcohol.


Explorable maps

Websites and digital platforms rely on familiar text-based menu systems to make it simple for visitors to navigate them. The problem here is that users will often go directly to the page they are looking for without exploring other pages and content that may be of interest or that you want them to engage with. One way to gamify the navigation experience is to introduce a visual map as an additional navigation element. This could be a layout of a building with different rooms to enter or an environment such as a landscape with clickable hotspots. Users need to navigate the map to discover information or unlock rewards. We created a North Pole-themed explorable map for the Leeds Children’s Hospital Christmas Party, requiring kids to click different map elements to access the various activities, videos and live streams for the event.


360° worlds

A step up from an explorable map is a virtual 360° world. If you have a real-world location that welcomes visitors, you can replicate this online by recreating locations, scenes and rooms that visitors can enter and view with a full 360° panorama. Each of these scenes can contain pop-up panels, images, videos and activities that provide in-context information about the scene. As with the maps, each scene can contain rewards, points or vouchers that encourage users to explore and interact with the platform. We built a photorealistic 360° world for the Barretstown children’s camp, whose real-world camp had to close due to COVID-19.



Gamification is the perfect way to engage and retain your online audience and elevate your website or digital platform above your competitors. With options available to suit all budgets, contact adaptiVLE to discuss how we can help gamify your product or service.

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