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Use Gamification to Advance Digital Transformation

August 21, 2020

Have you ever equated gamification with “playing games at work?” 

In a recent Kuali webinar, Dr. Karl Kapp, Instructional Technology Professor at Bloomsburg University, presented on gamification and what it really means. He shared how to use gamification tactics to promote digital transformation in higher education, including dozens of tips, both on implementing gamification and pushing digital transformation forward. 

Read a summary of his webinar presentation below, or view the full webinar here. 

What is Gamification?

Gamification is most definitely not playing games at work. You might think of imagery such as adults giggling together, or cheesy quotes about ‘making learning fun.’ It’s not that either. 

The primary goal of gamification is to move an action forward. 

The top five elements of gamification are rewards, badges, points, leaderboards, and levels. Think for just a few moments about where these elements appear in your adult life. Many grocery stores have a rewards program. Your preferred airline likely has a point system. We see badges in prominent “logo-ized” clothing and vehicles.  

Now let’s take a look at digital transformation. 

The Benefits of Digital Transformation

What are we trying to accomplish with digital transformation? This is a key question when focusing your transformation efforts. Kapp listed the following ways that digital transformation can benefit an institution. 

1. Improved Resource Management

Use your software systems, and dollars, as efficiently as possible. You might be able to replace three software solutions for one that can meet everyone’s needs.

2. Fewer Delays in Processes 

Software is continually progressing. Isn’t it great that students no longer wait in line at each department to register for classes? Let’s keep iterating and improving processes. 

3. Better Student Experience

Students want to interact with their institution from anywhere, at any time. Can they do so today with your institution?

4. Streamlined Services

Don’t let clunky processes get in the way of students, faculty, and staff meeting their goals.  

Using Gamification Tactics to Implement Digital Transformation 

When you implement anything, Kapp encourages listeners to use the USA principle: understand, simplify, automate. Digital transformation is no different. Understand it thoroughly, simplify as much as possible, then automate. 


Do you understand the processes that you want to transform? Kapp highlights without understanding, your digital transformation might end up with faster processes that are still clunky and continue to require 600 approvals when you only need 10. Instead, you want processes to be faster and smoother.

What is the typical outcome of a process? Kapp directs institutions to examine the outcome of processes to understand the process itself. If the outcome is always the same, this indicates you need to investigate further. For example, is the outcome of a purchase order request for purchases under $100 always “approved?” If so, what can you cut out of the process? 

Finally, how does the process help the university? How does it help faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders?


Kapp is a believer in process mapping. Use sticky notes to map an approval process. In a remote work environment, use another tool to visually display processes. When you can see the process, look for redundancies and duplicate permissions. Look for linear processes. Ask questions. Can time be reduced? Is there a simpler way to achieve the desired results?


When automating processes, look for software that is simple and easy to use. There are administrators at your institution who have to know ten difference systems. Is this new software going to be easy enough to learn?

Challenges of Gamification

There are a variety of challenges you may see when introducing gamification at your institution. Some of the most common challenges that Kapp sees are a misunderstanding of gamification, lack of overall strategy, lack of expertise, and overcomplicating the initiatives. 


Gamification isn’t playing games. It also doesn’t mean “gamify-ing” everything, everywhere. Gamification works best when it is strategically used, like adding a progress bar, or handing out rewards for the most creative mistakes made. 

Lack of Strategy

Creating a strategy takes effort. It’s like building a house. Kapp highlighted the “measure twice, cut once” principle here. 

Lack of Expertise

If your institution doesn’t have the expertise to implement something, find a way to bring the skills in. Start searching on your own campus. You may be surprised to find faculty members with extensive experience in the topic at hand. 

Overcomplicating the Initiative

Have you ever seen software that is exceptionally complicated? The kind that makes you think the engineers put in every single suggestion they received? Complicated software needs to be vetted out. Users should only see what applies to them. 


After overcoming the initial challenges of gamification, address motivation. Motivation is a combination of autonomy, mastery, and connectedness. Gamification tactics can be used to enhance each of these elements. 


Faculty and staff should feel like they can make informed, un-coerced decisions. To enhance the feeling of autonomy, give as many people as possible an opportunity to provide their feedback.  Additionally, ask yourself, “Are we rolling out digital transformation to our constituents or with our constituents?”


The goal of mastery is confidence and competence. Gamification can be used to help staff and faculty focus on their own proficiencies. 


People want to connect with others who have had the same experience. You can use gamification tactics to support connectedness with things such as logged in users. It helps to know that 120 other individuals are working in the software right along with you. 

To conclude, gamification and digital transformation are two promising trends that can be used together for successful campus-wide adoption. The tips shared here are just a fraction of what Kapp shared in total. See the full webinar here.

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