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Engaging the Indoor Kids: Three Gamification Techniques That Will Appeal to Introverts

Gamification in instructional design has been around for long enough to generate its share of criticisms. For example, one of the more prominent selling points of a gamified training course is that competition motivates learners to keep moving forward. While this is true with some learners, competition makes others uncomfortable, usually hurting their motivation to continue.

Sometimes, using competition to teach or train with the expectation of a specified, measurable result just won’t cut it. While extroverts typically thrive with competition, many introverts don’t respond well to competitive techniques, resulting in less overall motivation. While everyone’s personality has varied aspects of introvert and extrovert within them, it is important to note that competition is not universally motivating.

In fact, according to Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he presents research that elaborates on how extrinsic motivation, like providing incentives for being more competitive, doesn’t always hold up. Additionally, research conducted by Liad Bareket-Bojmel, Guy Hochman, and Dan Ariely showed that employees who win competitive rewards like cash or recognition are helpful with small bounds in performance, but they don’t sustain their enthusiasm over time.

While fans of Gamification often tout competition as one of its selling points, it’s still possible to use gamified learning activities to engage more introverted learners. Here are a few things to consider:

Leveraging Intrinsic Motivation Through Badges

While extrinsic motivation may be more effective for competitive individuals (extroverts), using methods that target intrinsic motivation can help the less-competitive individuals (introverts). A great gamification method to implement is achievement badges.

Digital badges are small tokens that learners can collect – much like achievements in a video game. These are effective techniques because they are competitive in a different way – they get the individual to “compete” with themselves. It is no different than guiding a video-game avatar to the end of a level in order to move onto the next.

When an individual moves through a series of challenges, they attain a badge that signifies their achievement. It’s a great way for them to gauge their success, without having to compete outwardly with others.

Using Polls to Engage Opinions Instead of Arguments

Polls engage individuals into a question and answer format, while avoiding the argumentative (and more competitive) aspects of discussion. Instead of being put on the spot, learners can engage with the material at their own pace, provide their answers, and then see the results of others.

For example, a social poll was created at The Open University using Elucidate, an eLearning tool that helps instructors build custom themes (like polls). The “Finding The Truth” poll has learners run through three cases that dive into the aspects of the criminal justice system.

After they review the information, they decide on a verdict (“guilty” or “not guilty”) and find out what other learners decided as well. This is a useful engagement tool for introverts because they can move at their own pace, and they aren’t put on the spot. But, it is also effective because they can still see the results of others and weigh it against their original choice.

The nice thing about polls is that they are like a choose-your-own-adventure game. They can be thought provoking and engaging to individuals – especially introverts – without being overly competitive.

Provide Clear Instructions and Feedback

Introverts like to work on their own so they don’t have to worry about what other people are doing. With gamified activities, it is also a good idea to provide clear instructions and feedback so introverts can move at their own pace uninterrupted.

An example is The Open University’s “The Food We Eat?” quiz (once again using Elucidate) depicting pictures of food items up close – more precisely, microscopically close. The instructions are clear and simple: You look at the images and decide if they are food or not (click on one of the big “food” or “not” circled answers).

The intro provides clear-cut instructions that gives a quick overview of what the quiz is about (How much do you know about the food you eat?) and then informs the learner what they will do and how to get started.

The feedback part comes in when you start the quiz. Learners are presented with a picture and then they decide whether it is food or not. Once learners make a selection, they get to find out whether their choice was correct or not. It’s a fairly simple form of feedback, but the technique can be applied to just about any kind of instructional course.

To sum up, using both clear instructions and feedback works for any type of learner, but it is especially useful for introverts.

If gamification is something that you or your company is looking to explore, these strategies will make sure that you’re engaging both introverts and extroverts alike. Please feel free to let us know what you think about these techniques, or if you have an approach of your own that can help engage introverted learners.