Stories are like magic. They capture our attention, connect us to other people and allow us to peek into worlds beyond our own. Deep down, it’s our own stories we want to explore … and be the hero of.

Gamification, at its heart, is about stories. It’s about creating a playful learning space where the student can be the hero and explore the content of the course. Gamifying a course is made up things like onboarding, progress mechanics, and creating a narrative (story).

[Tweet “#Gamification goal: increase engagement, motivation, and personalize the learning.”]

This lesson is a step-by-step guide on how you can take an existing course and begin to gamify it. We start by choosing a theme or story to base the course around, and then dive into the basics on how to use points, levels and badges to supercharge the engagement with your lessons and course material.

Beginner’s Note: Make sure you have taken a look at my first lesson in this series called The Beginner’s Guide to Making Graphics WITHOUT Photoshop, especially if you are just starting out making images. Then, check out 25 Storyline Ideas to Gamify your Course.

If I was going to visualize this lesson it would look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 1.58.36 PM

Let’s get started with the basics of gamifying your online course.


Story or Theme

The most fun part of gamifying for me is creating the narrative (story) or theme that the course is going to be based on. Having a theme or story in your course offers the learner a context for the game. Are you fighting aliens? Solving a murder mystery? Trying to reach a destination, like in the Amazing Race or Survivor?

If you haven’t checked out 25 Storyline Ideas to Gamify Your Course, I would definitely recommend it. Lots of great ideas to get you started.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 8.29.49 PM


It’s important to have an end goal for your course. That might be solving the murder mystery, arriving at the destination, collecting all the hidden treasures or earning your Detective badge. Put something at the end for them to work towards.

Once you figure out how to turn your course into something fun with an end goal in mind, creating the rewards and other images becomes much easier. Imagine you are throwing a party. Once you figure out the theme, it’s easier to choose the costumes and decorations, too.

I’m going to be exploring more in depth ways you can use narratives in your courses in future articles, but here is a quick checklist to get you started.

Your Gamifying To Do List:

  • Begin by duplicating your existing course so you can mess around with it in private.
  • Next, onboarding, or showing them how the game (course) works. How do they get points? What is the end goal they are journeying towards? I recommend creating a screencast and actually showing learners the game (course) on your monitor.
  • Create a set of points and badges (see below for details) and place them in your course.
  • Finally, collect feedback from your learners through a survey tool like Surveymonkey. This step is really critical. Where did they get confused? What parts of your gamified course did they love? Do they have any ideas for you that could make the game more fun? I get my best ideas from the gaming experts … my students.

There are TONS more things you can do to gamify a course but that would be my advice for how to start.

So, you are probably wondering how to add those rewards and motivators I keep mentioning. Welcome to points, badges and levels