How to Apply Schell’s 4 Pillars of Gamification to Create Playful Microlearning Assets

gamified microlearning

Gamification can be difficult to design if you don’t have the right understanding of the basics.

Before implementing gamification in microlearning assets, it’s important to know how to integrate the motivational and psychological aspects of a game into your microlearning design. And it’s also critical that the learning objective is aligned with the gamification design to have the maximum impact on the learner’s behavior.
Which is why you must know about the 4 pillars of Gamification proposed by Schell – storydynamicsmechanics, and technology.
Story is what your learner (as a gamer) experiences in the game. The rules of a game are defined by the mechanics and implemented by way of dynamics. The entire gamification exercise is delivered through the use of aesthetics and technology.


The right play of these 4 pillars of gamification is critical to deliver meaningful knowledge. Clearly, the fun aspect alone isn’t what we’re targeting! Your gamification story must enable and support the learning objective with the fun element cleverly embedded in it!
Let’s now try to understand Schell’s 4 pillars of gamification.

The Story


Dynamics inspires learner engagement. Given below is the ‘Playful Experience’ (PLEX) framework for gamification dynamics proposed by Korhonen, Montola, and Arrasvunori. The PLEX framework provides the inspiration and direction in the gamification design process, helping transform learning objectives into playful experiences. It consists of 22 categories of playful experiences.

Forgetting One’s Surroundings
Testing abilities in a demanding task
Contest with oneself or an opponent
Dominating, Commanding , regulating
Causing mental or Physical pain
Finding something new or unknown
A Sexually arousing experience
Investigating an object or situation
Manifesting oneself or others
An Imaged Experience
Fun, Joy, amusement, jokes, gags
Taking care of oneself or others
Relief from bodily or mental work
Excitement by stimulating senses
An imitation of everyday life
Being part of a larger structure
Experience of loss , frustration, anger
Sharing emotional feelings
Excitement derived from risk, danger

Game Mechanics define the gamer’s behaviors, rewards, and penalties, with the story woven around the rewards and penalties. The main thing about mechanics is that it allows a learner to intervene in the development of the story. That doesn’t happen in a novel (that you simply read) or a movie (that you watch) With mechanics, you end up creating your own story and experiences.

Learners (gamers) also receive feedback and rewards through mechanics. Leaderboards, points, challenges (or quests), levels, virtual items (or goods), and badges are good examples of mechanics. Important rewards are described below:

  • Points are numerical rewards for specific behaviors.
  • Levels are achieved by completing a specific task at different sections of the game, allowing the gamer to go higher.
  • Progression is the advancement in the game or a level, shown by numbers, charts, or images.
  • Badges are won by gamers upon completing required tasks. They are visible displays of the gamer’s skills or accomplishments.
  • Authority (the capacity or ability to control game elements and gamers) is bestowed on the gamer on achieving a specific level.
  • Virtual Goods can be gained, purchased, or traded in the game (e.g., clothes, accessories).
  • Physical Goods can be gained after an achievement in the game. They have value in the real world.

Other elements of mechanics include discontinuation, gifting, free lunches, virtual currency, reward schedules, behaviors to avoid penalties, macro and micro leaderboards, indirect competition, avatars, ranking, social relationships, specific missions (quests), countdowns, lotteries, and scaffolding.

Understanding thewhat, why, when, & how’ of each element is important to create a gamification asset.


Technology has to do with all the hardware and software needed to create a game. Technology makes mechanics tangible and visible to learners, enabling learners to interact with a game. It also helps integrate different formats like videos, short-sims, podcasts, infographics, etc., in your microlearning lesson. The audio and visual elements of technology add to the gaming experience.

Even aesthetics which defines the look and feel of the game is shaped by technology. Bad aesthetics can make a game boring and irritating. Great aesthetics can use the same story and mechanics to make the experience so much better! Sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression, and submission are a few examples of aesthetics.

Technology allows the creation of game design principles like weighted scores, timing, scoring, and prizes. It also you to measure the performance of various gamers. Leaderboards allow learners to compete with one another and do better in training. You can also reward your top performers and motivate poor performers to do better.

Technology allows microlearning to be hosted on various user devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones. Newer technologies like Augmented Reality have brought real-world environments and experiences within easy reach, and microlearning is no exception.

Microlearning platforms use technology to make learning adaptive, customized to individual users. The key concepts of microlearning like retrieval practice, spaced repetition and questions/quizzes are implemented with the help of technology.

There are many microlearning gamification platforms available today that allow you to create interactive and beautiful microlearning programs on almost any topic. Many of them are based on powerful cloud-based authoring tools that offer interactive microlearning templates, games, quizzes, and more.

Custom achievements, personalized rewards and incentives can be created using these platforms to reinforce positive learning habits in your learners. Each achievement benchmark can be planned in line with the training objectives. These include awarding stars to learners on the timely completion of a program, and even redeeming these stars or points for coffee or food vouchers.

To conclude, a good understanding of Shell’s gamification framework makes the task of designing a microlearning program so much easier.

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