Gamification in the e-learning of SoSafe

Gamification is being increasingly used in the context of e-learning or web-based trainings. But what exactly does this term mean and why is integrating gamification elements into employee trainings useful from a learning psychology point of view?

Cyber security & gamification – How does that fit together?

The human factorplays a critical role in cyber security. Around 90 per cent of all cyberattacks are directed against employees rather than the IT systems themselves. Cybercriminals primarily prey on emotions such as trust, praise, or curiosity. Their main gateway are phishing mails which they often send in large numbers to the employees. Despite technical filters, it is not always possible to prevent such unsolicited emails from reaching the employees’ inboxes. The human factor should therefore always be part of a modern multi-layer security strategy.

However, building up a “human firewall” is not easy. A possible reason for this is that employees often perceive cyber security as being a dry subject, which results in a general lack of interest. How can cyber security training be designed to be a joyful and motivating experience for the employees – with the aim of achieving sustainable effects? One possible answer to this question is the use of interactive e-learning modules in which gamification is used.

What exactly is gamification?

Gamification refers to the transfer of game-typical elements into non-game contexts. The idea is to promote a certain behavior like engagement among the users. Gamification has its origins in the computer games industry. Various other sectors have transferred typical elements of computer games to other contexts, for example to the field of e-learning.

How is gamification used in e-learning?

By addressing psychological needs, gamification exploits people’s natural instinct to play. The use of gamification is therefore not only suitable for children and young people but appeals equally to all age groups and genders. There is a degree of playfulness in everyone, which is why generally all organizations can benefit from the use of gamification in web-based trainings.

Computer games follow certain game mechanisms, some of which, are used in web-based trainings too. The aim is to playfully impart knowledge to the users to induce a sustainable behavioral change. In addition, gamification makes learning more enjoyable for the users and increases their motivation.

Gamification elements and psychological needs

Computer games use numerous elements to increase the fun for users. The following lists shows which of these elements can also be found in e-learning courses using gamification. The psychological needs that are responsible for the positive effects of gamification are also explained in the list.

1. Points = Reward

Points are a simple way to reward the learners after a successful lesson. They provide the learners with direct positive feedback which functions as an additional motivator. The more the users learn, the more points they receive.

What lies behind this: People like getting rewards. Even as a child, we happily complete tasks if we receive a reward for doing so. Gamification builds on this early learned behavior and motivates the user though regular positive feedback.

2. Story = Entertainment

People love stories. A continuous storyline generates attention and arouses the learners’ interest; they want to know how the story continues.

What lies behind this: Entertainment – people like to have fun. Incorporating a story into an e-learning course leads to users having more fun while learning and being more interested in the content.

3. Quests and challenges = Altruism and reward

In the course of e-learning, users are given tasks to complete either individually or as a team. In combination with a story, the learners are usually asked to complete the tasks to help others.

What lies behind this: People are social beings who have a strong need to help others. Helping others makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us the feeling of being needed by others. Gamification addresses this need by asking learners to help the protagonists of a story, for example to prevent a negative event from happening (e.g., fraud, pollution). After completing the task, the users receive a reward which further boosts their motivation.

4. Progress bar and level = Progress

A simple progress bar can have a big impact. As long as the bar is not completely filled, the learners feel motivated to continue the task till the bar shows 100 percent. When the progress bar is finally filled, learners earn points and advance to higher levels. Hereby, a development process is described which fills the users with pride and motivates them to continue learning.

What lies behind this: People want to make progress in life and become better. Progress bars and level ups create the impression of progress, development, and success.

5. Badges = Acknowledgement

Badges are an effective way of visually representing a person’s status or success. The desire to collect as many and as high-quality badges as possible motivates the users to continue.

What lies behind this:Pride in one’s achievements is part of the human culture. Badges address the psychological need for recognition, as this makes one’s own success visible to oneself (and occasionally to other users).

Gamification elements – consciously used a useful addition

By integrating the above elements, gamification can add considerable value to e-learning by meeting various psychological needs whereby learners have more fun and, as a result, are more motivated. It should be noted that it is important not to isolate the elements, but to integrate them meaningfully into the learning process. By contrast, if individual elements are used without a content-related connection, this can diminish their effect or be perceived as disruptive by the users.

Gamification should be used consciously and purposefully to complement web-based trainings in a meaningful way. In this context, purposefully means that not all game-typical elements are well suited for the use in e-learning. Negative examples in cyber security training include, for example, jump ‘n’ run or shoot ’em up elements originating from the field of casual games (simple computer games). These elements are fun, but they are not well suited for the use in e-learning because there is no meaningful connection between the cyber security content and the game principle.

Playful awareness building with the e-learning of SoSafe

By integrating gamification elements, the human instinct to play can also be stimulated in corporate e-learning. A win-win situation for both sides because both the organization and the employees benefit from a learning environment that is fun and motivating.

Especially when it comes to the topic of cyber security – a topic which is hard to access for many people – it is important to get all employees on board and motivate them to learn. As a consequence, the e-learning of SoSafe also employs gamification elements. In the entertaining modules, the users help the two protagonists, Sarah and Ian, to protect their company from cybercriminals and ward off numerous threats in the field of cyber security. The modules can be tailored to specific industries and motivate the learners through small rewards such as experience points and badges. In this way, cyber security awareness can be developed from level to level in a playful way.

Since the use of gamification in e-learning also depends on personal preferences, the gamification function in the modules of SoSafe is an optional componentwhich can be deactivated individually. Hence, each organization can decide for itself whether gamification elements should be included in the web-based training.

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Über SoSafe

Die Awareness-Plattform von SoSafe sensibilisiert und schult Mitarbeitende kontinuierlich im Umgang mit den Themen IT-Sicherheit und Datenschutz. Phishing-Simulationen und interaktive E-Learnings bringen den Mitarbeitenden auf effektive und nachhaltige Art und Weise bei, worauf etwa bei der Nutzung von E-Mails, Passwörtern oder personenbezogenen Daten besonders zu achten ist. Das Unternehmen erhält ein anonymes, aber differenziertes Reporting und kann Awareness-Building so messbar machen – vollkommen DSGVO-konform.