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Microlearning Game Mechanics


February 10, 2020



Microlearning Game Mechanics

Gamification has been in existence for several years. However, it is only since 2010 that corporates have begun to use this learning engagement as part of their training strategy.

This is a learning strategy that mixes game mechanics and content to engage learners and thereby turn the entire learning process into a game. The main aim of elearning gamification in a real-world context is to motivate learners and give them the confidence to improve their performance in a given activity.

Corporate training departments have begun to focus on gamification for a variety of training needs analysis ranging from onboarding, induction, application-based simulation, and soft skills training courses.

From gamification research, it has been found to work because they utilize existing core experiences and amplify them using motivational techniques, such as feedback, achievements, and rewards.

Game Mechanic for Training #1 – Microlearning nuggets

Microlearning is a short, focused, bite-sized piece of training that is typically 5-7 minutes long. The content in the microlearning nugget is designed to address a specific learning objective or outcome.

The nugget can be a stand-along job aide, part of several nuggets in a learning path, or a support feature for ILT/VILT programs. It is an engaging, high-impact, interactive training that is typically offered on mobile learning formats (mobile devices).

The main reason for adopting microlearning is the diminished attention spans of learners. Owing to the short duration of these nuggets, learners prefer to consume the content in one go to achieve a specific goal or task.

Game Mechanic for Training #2 – Benefits of gamification for micro learning apps

A 2013 Gartner report showed that rewards, recognition, and competition were the biggest motivating factors for employees. Gamification taps into these motivating factors, thus, making them one of the most effective training strategies in recent times.

Gamification works since employees:

  • Are inherently motivated to complete training and the chance to win recognition
  • Are confident to complete a task since the microlearning would have increased their perceived capability
  • Can fail and try again without having to worry about negative feedback
  • Get to view the immediate feedback about their performance

Game Mechanic for Training #3 – Gamified microlearning activities

These microlearning activities can be used for formal training, performance support, and skill proficiency. The nuggets can be designed to provide experiential learning as well as leverage collaborative and social learning. These short, task-based activities can also be used for improving problem-solving skills, application of learning, and proficiency gain.

Game Mechanic for Training #4 – Game design elements

The game industry is often considered as “industry of positive emotions”. This is because their product (i.e. games) tend to inspire and motivate players to do better. But beyond game mechanics, other common gaming design elements in a game make it a wholesome learning experience.

Here are some elements and how they stimulate emotions in the player (learner):

Achievement (Progress)

  • Points
  • Badges
  • Levels
  • Leader boards
  • Progression bars
  • Certificates

Emotional connect:

Players get a sense of satisfaction after reaching a level or achieving a skill. This is the same type of recognition enjoyed by learners.

The progress in the game motivates the player to put more effort while leader boards, points, and badges ups the social standing among peers.

In training, the achievement is signalled by obtaining the course completion certificate.


  • Tools and other resources
  • Power-ups
  • Bonuses
  • Collectible items

Emotional connect:

Rewards can be made part of the learning experience.

Reward schedules (variable, fixed) are great game mechanics. Rewards can be made available on completion of a certain level or an action.

Rewards are a form of extrinsic motivation and recognition for the time, effort, and skills attained.


  • Journey of the hero

Emotional connect:

This can be a story with a setting where the player must avert a disaster or beating other competitors with a narrative that is interesting and motivating.

The learning experience can be made more interesting and immersive by adding characters, conflicts, and resolutions based on learner choices.


  • Time out
  • Count down

Emotional connect:

A common feature in games is the use of a countdown timer to provide a sense of urgency to the learner.


  • Avatars
  • Character selection

Emotional connect:

Games offer players with the option of selecting and customizing avatars, color themes.

Information input by the learner (such as names) is used within the environment or narrative.

This type of personalization improves learner engagement and motivation.


  • Animated rollover
  • Toggle
  • Easter eggs

Emotional connect:

A hover-state animation, sound effect or a cut-screen narration provide satisfying moments for learners.

These details matter when creating a great learning experience.

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Guest Author Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown is a senior technical editor and writer that has worked in the education and technology sectors for two decades. Their background experience includes curriculum development and course book creation.

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