4 Ways to ‘Gamify’ Your Online WordPress Courses

If you have a membership site with online learning content, you may have noticed that many users aren’t completing your courses. Even if you create engaging material, that may not be enough. Without external factors such as grades or deadlines, motivation can be a real struggle with self-paced eLearning.

However, there’s some good news too. Research shows that motivation can be improved significantly through ‘gamification.’ Gamification is a technique for building fun, interactive elements that can help create external motivation.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to gamify your courses in WordPress. Let’s get going!

What Gamification Is (And Why It Works)

Intrinsic motivation is when you take actions because you’re driven by non-tangible rewards. For example, you may be intrinsically motivated to wake up 30 minutes early to go to the gym, because it makes you feel more energetic and productive.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is caused by external factors, such as waking up at 7 a.m. to make it to work on time and avoid being fired. Intrinsic motivation tends to wax and wane, but if there are extrinsic motivators involved, we’re often likelier to complete a task.

For example, you may work harder at learning a new skill if you’re taking a class with an exam than if you were studying on your own time. In fact, research shows that we even get a small dopamine surge whenever we feel that we’ve accomplished an activity.

Gamification is a way of creating a structured reward system that relies on extrinsic motivation, in order to keep up a steady dopamine stream. The name comes from the fact that this technique involves applying game-like elements to something that’s not normally fun. Online courses, for instance, can use features such as badges, streak tracking, and points to add gamified elements to their content.

Effective gamification relies on a mix of ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ strategies. White hat (or positive) strategies invoke feelings related to meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, and social influence. Black hat strategies motivate people by triggering more negative concepts, such as scarcity, avoidance, unpredictability, and greed.

For example, online learning sites like DuoLingo and Khan Academy track the number of days in a row that you’ve completed a specific task. This ‘streak’ is a positive motivator, showing your accomplishments in a concrete form:

The Khan Academy streak tracker.

On the other hand, a black hat strategy might involve resetting your streak when you miss a day, or displaying a sad message of some kind. The goal is to create a mix of positive and negative reinforcement, so that users are rewarded for the positive things they do, and are motivated to improve when they mess up.

4 Ways to Gamify Your Online WordPress Courses

Throughout the next few sections, we’ll review four ways to include gamification in your online WordPress courses. Then we’ll discuss how to implement each technique using the free GamiPress plugin. Let’s jump right in!

1. Add a Progress Bar to Each Course

The progress bar is an excellent motivational tool, which can break an online course into small chunks to spread out the user’s feelings of accomplishment. Progress bars are visual cues that show users how far they’ve come, and can be very effective in helping people create small goals for themselves.

For example, someone taking a nine-hour online course might find their motivation to complete it waning partway through. However, visitors may be more compelled to complete the same course if it were broken down into 15-minute lessons, with points or some other rewards system in place for completing each lesson.

By creating ‘mini’ tasks, you can help users feel satisfied after each small chunk of activity, motivating them to keep moving forward:

The Codeacademy progress tracker.You can add a progress bar to your WordPress courses by using the Progress Map add-on for the GamiPress plugin. You can create as many individual progress maps as you’d like, configure them to suit your needs, and decide which tasks to include as a part of each user’s progress. You can then place the maps anywhere on your site by using a shortcode.

2. Implement a Streak Tracker

As we mentioned before, a streak tracker provides positive reinforcement for completing a specific task every day. Streak trackers reward users for consistency. Even if they’re feeling unmotivated, they may still log in to avoid losing their streak:

A Duolingo streak tracker.

The online language learning course DuoLingo makes effective use of this strategy. It pairs streaks with optional daily emails, reminding the user that learning a language requires consistent practice.

You can add a streak tracker to your online WordPress courses by using the GamiPress Daily Login Rewards add-on. This displays a calendar showing each user’s daily log-in record. You can configure as many calendar types as you want, and place them on your site a using a shortcode.

Streaks can be made even more effective by setting up milestones that are rewarded through a badge system. Next up, let’s talk about what badges are and why they’re effective.

3. Create a Badge System

Badges are another effective motivational tool that combines a feeling of achievement with the desire for ownership. For example, if your site displays a list of all possible badges, that can help users want to keep going until they’ve earned each one.

Online learning sites like Khan Academy use badges to reward a variety of activities:

The Khan Academy badge page.

You can even create different categories of badges. Some badges could be awarded for completing milestones in a specific course, and others for hitting specific streak numbers.

The GamiPress plugin enables you to set up a badge system with achievements. What’s more, it lets you create as many badges and categories as you’d like. You can configure badges by choosing from a drop-down menu of activity types, such as “completing steps” or “log in to website,” and configuring the number of times the user must complete that task:

Badges in the GamiPress plugin.

You can then place the [gamipress_achievements] shortcode on any WordPress page to display all the badges to your users.

4. Reward Users with Points

Of course, we can’t wrap up without mentioning point systems. You can award users points based on specific activities. So, for example, they may win a certain amount of points for watching a video or reading a lesson.

You can weave your points system into your badge system, by awarding badges based on the total number of points earned. Alternately, you can offer other types of rewards, such as coupons or freebies.

You can create a points system in GamiPress by visiting GamiPress > Points Types in your WordPress dashboard. Within each points type, you can choose Add new points award to define the activities that will award points. You can also use Add new points deduct to choose activities that will remove points:

Creating a points type in GamiPress.

Creating a reward and punishment structure this way combines both white hat and black hat strategies. Users will be motivated by wanting to receive more points, and will want to avoid having their existing points taken away.


Gamifying an online course is a smart way to make the material more engaging, and keep your visitors coming back to your site every day. Fortunately, it’s easy to add gamification to your online WordPress courses using plugins like GamiPress.

As we’ve discussed, four ways you can gamify your WordPress site include:

  1. Adding a progress bar
  2. Implementing a streak tracker
  3. Creating a badge system
  4. Rewarding users with points

Do you have any questions about how to gamify your online WordPress courses? Let us know in the comments section below!

Categories: Tools
About John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, a WordPress fanatic, and a staff writer for WordCandy.co


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