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4 Tips to Make Learning Addictive and Fun

An animated brain wearing a graduation cap, lifting weights labeled "Knowledge"

People are catching up on the myth that learning ends after college. Learning is a continuous journey that never really ends, especially for employees in today's world. L&D departments recognize the growing need to continuously educate their employees, a necessary factor for the growth of a company.

As crucial as it is, let's be real: it can get boring and people end up quitting.  A recent study by MIT provides evidence for this claim. Online courses only have a 4% retention rate. At some point, we have all wondered why learning can't be as enjoyable as playing video games or scrolling through our favourite social media platforms. Gamification in the eLearning space, however, has proven to boost the engagement rate significantly. 

With a retention rate of 55%, Duolingo has certainly cracked the code for making learning fun and having learners return for more. They achieved this by utilizing two factors - psychology and behavioural science

Let's explore these science-backed tips to make learning enjoyable and learn how to apply them to your next L&D program.

Tips for Making Learning Fun

1. Making it a habit

Habits are unconscious actions performed with no overthinking and self-negotiating. According to many leading behavioural scientists, Once an action is made into a habit, we are bound to perform it without fail. 

The tricky part is acting enough times to make it a habit.  A habit loop consists of 3 parts -  trigger, routine reward. How can L&D folks use this to their advantage? 

  • A trigger to perform an action - Notifications and reminders can be set to trigger the action of learning.

  • Building a routine for the action -  If it is e-learning, it's important to plan the course with a precommitment declaration before each segment. Taking a pledge with other learners to commit to learning is another way to stay motivated.

  • Rewarding the performer for completing the action. - providing enticing gifts and prizes for top performers. 

2. Keeping score 

As kids, mundane tasks like writing down notes from the blackboard were suddenly fun when competing against your friend on who would write faster. According to behavioural science, this is a natural tendency in us; diverting that energy into learning is what major educational platforms are leveraging.

Gamifying learning is the most practical way to achieve this. Inculcating quizzes, flashcards, and leadership boards are some ways to turn learning into a fun task.

During workshops, small competitions can be included to retain attention and increase participation, making the overall training more engaging and fun.

3. Utilizing the goal gradient effect

Ever notice how you work harder when the finish line is in sight? That's the goal gradient effect – the closer we are to a goal, the more motivated we become to reach it. The idea is that progress towards a goal creates a sense of accomplishment, motivating the person to continue their effort. 

Duolingo created streaks for this exact reason. A streak is the number of consecutive days a user practices or completes their learning sessions without missing a day, learners tend to attend sessions just to maintain their streak. Visualizing progress and providing stats on their accomplishments so far can motivate consistent learning.

Comic strip: person marks calendar for learning streak. Caption: "Keeping up the streak, one check at a time!"

4. Making failure your friend 

In 2017, Mark Rober conducted a game experiment where participants faced different consequences for failure. Those who were encouraged and did not experience a negative marking were more likely to succeed compared to those who did. The group without penalties made more attempts and ultimately achieved higher success rates. Mark termed this phenomenon the Super Mario Effect, emphasizing how learning from failures is integral to progress. 

Incorporating this approach into L&D activities means encouraging learners to try again after failure with motivating messages and quotes to show that making mistakes is part of the journey. 

Design the course such that if the learner makes the same mistake repeatedly, they will be provided with easy hints instead of answers (Duolingo way). By embracing the Super Mario Effect, L&D professionals can create an environment where employees are eager to learn and not see it as a chore. 


Man figure crosses finish line of books, cheering. Caption: "Learning pays off, and here's the bling to prove it!"

In conclusion, by implementing these four science-backed tips—making learning a habit, keeping score, utilizing the goal gradient effect, and embracing failure as part of the learning process—L&D professionals can create engaging and addictive learning experiences. 

By understanding the psychology behind learning and leveraging behavioural science,  mundane training and eLearning courses can be made enjoyable and fun.  


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