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Stine Snekkenes is Motimate Creative Studio’s trained pedagogist and resident expert in the method and practice of creating online courses. Her experience working with diverse organizations has proven just how important well-thought-out design and communication is to creating successful online learning. Stine has made it her mission to help learning teams everywhere design and deliver the best learning content that they possibly can.

In this post, I’ll be exploring the difference between game-based learning and gamifying learning content, because there is a difference and it’s a distinction that can deeply impact the way you deliver training. As this is a fast-evolving area, definitions of these concepts are manifold and not always entirely clear. Knowing which approach to take to delivering your training can seem like a bit of a minefield. 

The conscious application of games to the task of learning is sewn into the fabric of human history and development, the first known games having been played as long as 4,000 years ago. Even then, some had distinct educational purposes with games such as Mancala, Kalaha and versions of Chess used to teach strategy, mathematics and logic in Africa and Asia. ­­Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, believed in games as the first stepping-stone towards attaining knowledge. In the 17th century John Amos Comenisus, of the central European medieval kingdom of Moravia, acknowledged the role of fun in learning, proposing that games be fully integrated with learning processes. His work forms the basis on which 20th century academics Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky established the pedagogy of games at university level, paving the way for games in the world of corporate learning today.

How Games Help Us Learn 

Games are engaging because they present a motivating sense of challenge and competition, placing learning in context and making less engaging topics fun. Structured properly, games help us retain learning because we learn best through repetition and practice. When completed successfully, games offer a sense of achievement, a reaction that triggers the release of the chemical dopamine in our brains, the effect of which makes us want to go back for more. 

In this sense, games could be said to offer both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but it is primarily the extrinsic motivators that well-designed online learning taps into, because we want learners to complete levels, retain information, and keep on engaging with the learning.

To Game or to Gamify, That is the Question!

If you google the terms gamification or game-based learning, you’ll find a lot of different definitions. There is, however, a significant and important distinction to be made between the two. 

Gamification implies the integration of engagement software and techniques (known as game mechanics) to existing training content – using tools such as quizzes, swipe games and unlockable and timed content together with recognition and reward systems such as badges, points, scores, leader boards, certificates – to create a tangible sense of challenge, competition, progression and achievement. In game-based learning (or gaming), the lesson itself becomes a game. This approach requires that learning content be designed from scratch – identifying its purpose and designing a game aimed specifically at achieving this goal. This is experiential learning and, at its most sophisticated, it might make use of 3D virtual environments, Virtual Reality, personalized learning pathways, and collaborative, team-based online games.

Choosing the Right Approach for Your Learning Strategy

Both gamified and game-based learning have their merits. In any learning context, making the decision to choose one approach over the other will depend on three key elements:

Learning goals

Depending on the content type and purpose of the training, you might favor one approach over the other. Gamification lends itself well to the delivery of more process driven training topics, such as basic onboarding and functional training. In this sense, it’s a great approach for onboarding new employees.

Game-based learning allows you to communicate more complex learning scenarios. You might use it to teach more strategic thought and develop problem-solving skills. It’s also great for engaging learners on less engaging topics – like this life-saving VR based health and safety training game created for Norwegian power grid operator, Statnett. This game enables employees to experience potentially dangerous work situations in a life-like arena.

In 2009, pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme became the first international company to implement a game, Merchants, to teach its employees negotiation, communication and time-management skills. After 5 years of training Merchants yielded a 25% improvement in skills covered and an 8% productivity increase in roles from senior management to executive level at Merck. The company cut training costs by 58% and revealed a 98% course completion ratio, as well as a 99% rate of application of course content. Pretty good results, and we’ve come a long way since then.

Time and cost 

Creating tailored games can be a costly exercise. Redesigning existing training content, or potentially completely scrapping what you have and starting from scratch takes time that you might not have. 

If you’re not a gaming company and you don’t have the skills required to create this content in-house you’ll have to bring in experts like Motimate Creative Studio to help you design and build your games. So, you might want to reserve this approach for special projects and more strategic training. 


Whether you’re gamifying or gaming, you’ll need the infrastructure to support delivery. Some learning management systems are often not game conversant, but there are ways around this. If you’re using Motimate, you’ll know that it is super easy to add gamification to your courses. It’s faster, simpler and the outcomes are very often just as effective. And, if you do have a game you want your users to engage with, you can link through to it directly from Motimate. 

REMA1000, a leading Scandinavian grocery chain and long-time Motimate client, created a custom-built game as part of their on-boarding program. They then linked the game to Motimate, so new recruits can log in to Motimate and simply click a link to play the game. 

Deciding whether to gamify or to game aspects of your corporate training is the first step in creating engaging, effective training, but then you need to do it. 

At Motimate Creative Studio, we are really passionate about game mechanics and game-based learning. If you’d like some advice on the best approach to take or some support delivering your training content, get in touch with me or a member of my expert team.

Stine Snekkenes is Motimate Creative Studio’s trained pedagogist and resident expert in the method and practice of creating online courses. Her experience working with diverse organizations has proven just how important well-thought-out design and communication is in creating successful online learning. Stine has made it her mission to help learning teams everywhere design and deliver the best learning content that they possibly can.

What is micro-learning?

Micro-learning, or nano-learning, describes the practice of providing learners with short, focused units of learning content. The idea is to break content up into short lessons, focused on individual morsels of information, to make it more easily absorbed by learners.

Micro-learning has rapidly gained traction in organizational learning because it works in synergy with people’s busy schedules. It can be difficult to take time out of our working lives to dedicate to learning new skills and absorbing information that is important to our jobs. Micro-learning helps us to learn in short bursts so that we can learn faster – whilst we are commuting or during other moments of pause in our day. It also helps us to learn as we perform work tasks, so that we can apply the information in real-time, a concept known as learning in the flow of work

What does it mean for your learning content? 

We are used to digesting information on-demand, on our mobile phones. Micro-learning is a useful approach to creating content that works on a mobile phone.

At Motimate Creative Studio, there are a key set of principles that we apply when creating strong micro-learning content. I’m going to tell you what these are and how they work…

Break it up

Divide content up into individual content blocks. Assign just one key lesson per block. Dividing information up into manageable chunks helps learners digest and remember the information. 

Keep it short

Use short sentences. Make a single point in each sentence. Don’t use extra words.  

Use visuals

Imagery and graphics help punctuate word-heavy content, helping to break it up and bring it to life. They are also a useful tool for conveying messages and concepts faster and with fewer words.

Mix up your formats 

Applying alternative formats to content blocks helps make the learning more engaging by stimulating alternative parts of our brain, helping to make the information more memorable. Duller subjects can be made more engaging by using alternative formats to text, for example:

So, how does this transform the learning content? Here’s how we, at Motimate Creative Studio applied Micro-learning principles to communicate important messaging about cyber security to our customers.

Cyber security is of great importance, but when we are busy, we do not always pay as much attention to the risks as we should. At Motimate Creative Studio, we took a long piece of text about how to offset the risks of cyber-crime and turned it into something intensely more engaging and memorable delivering far greater benefit to Motimate’s users.  

The difference is obvious at-a-glance. The first is simply paragraphs of black and white text. The second is colorful, visual, and presented in sections. Which course would you rather follow?



 Here’s how we did it in 5 steps . . .

  1. We kick-started the course with a set of direct questions to set clear objectives and map out a learning path, so the learner immediately knows what they will achieve by completing the course. 

2. Cyber-security can be a bit of a dry subject, so we used an animated video to introduce the topic and engage learners with the course. 

3. We divided information into easy-to-digest chunks with a dedicated section for each element of the module – delivering just one learning point at a time.

4. We also broke the text up, using short sentences to convey meaning and punctuating it with visually stimulating colorful graphics.

5. And we made it interactive, putting the individual in control of their own learning. We did this by including two buttons, requiring two separate actions at the end of every section:

1.    Validate completion of the section with a slider button 

2.    Actively select ‘Next’ to move to the next session.

Here’s what that looks like:

If you would like to find out more about how you can revolutionize your learning assets and create really engaging courses using micro-learning, get in touch with the team at Motimate Creative Studio today.

🎁 Welcome to Awesome Learning. Unwrapped. 🎁

Throughout December, our Creative Studio are sharing new hints, tips, and Motimate surprises. From design pointers to GIF-spiration and combatting short attention spans, there’ll be opportunities to learn something new every day.

We’ve created a Moti for each new tip, exclusively available for members of our Motimakers community.

Get unwrapping, and check back here every working day in the run up to Christmas to unveil more hints and tips. We’ll also keep you posted on social media.

Disclaimer: The Motimakers community is exclusively available to Motimate customers only.

Merry Christmas and a mighty Motimate new year!

Wishing all our customers, partners and friends a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year from everyone here at Motimate 

Our Creative Studio has got one final Moti for you to unwrap…

Tip #1: Be unboring

Learning shouldn’t be a chore, or something that makes you snore. Keep things lively with a mix of text, video, and image content.

And why not throw in a surprise or two?

Tip #2: Show, don’t tell

With a digital course, the only thing missing is the teacher – the person who’s on hand to explain, provide examples, and highlight the key points.

This is how you can recreate that role in your Motis.

Tip #3: Have a clear learning objective

Can you sum up the end goal of your learning content in a single sentence? 

If not, you might need to refine it again.

Tip #4: Think micro

This is everything you need to know about the power of learning in bitesize chunks. 

Tip#5: Know your audience

Read the room! Here are some things to consider when designing a new training course.

Tip #6: Use quizzes to reinforce learning

Quizzes are a great way to reinforce learning. Here are some of the best quiz options in Motimate…

Tip #7: Keep it colourful

Did you know? Colour can improve our ability to remember both words and pictures, and play a positive role in understanding new things.

Life doesn’t happen in black and white, so learning shouldn’t either!

Tip #8: Be unique

There’s no one quite like you, so put yourself in the lesson too. Here’s how…

Tip #9: How to deal with shrinking attention spans

Some studies say that the human attention span is close to that of a goldfish.

Here’s how to avoid your audience becoming distracted…

Tip #10: Blend it

The best lessons involve a mix of approaches. This is how to combine online and in-person learning with Motimate

Tip# 11: Get the learner involved

A study in 2018 found that 67% of students are more motivated by interactive courses – here’s how to make your Motis more hands-on

Tip #12: Colour it in

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. But only if you get it right. 

These are some straightforward but smart rules to get you started…

Tip #13: Add a little seasoning to your sentences

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Nailing your tone of voice will help your sentences since –and learners learn!

Tip #14: Now it’s personal

Doesn’t it feel nice when something’s been made just for you? Here are some simple tips for making your Motis more personal

Tip #15 isn’t a tip: it’s a trend

We’ve looked back over the past 12 months, to see which online learning trends are going to take off in 2022…

Tip 16#: Create, evaluate, recreate

How do you know your Moti really worked? Today we’re digging in to all the evaluation tips you’ll need to make your courses shine

Tip #17: Posters for your posts

Here’s how to create impact with text, pics, and a splash of color. No glue or cardboard needed.

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How Adaptive Learning Principles can help you Create Personalized Learning Experiences

Today, we know that different people learn in different ways and at different speeds, which is why adaptive learning theory is becoming increasingly popular. Find out these principles can help you Create personalized learning experiences.

Learn more about How Adaptive Learning Principles can help you Create Personalized Learning Experiences
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