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How Behavioral Science Changed our User Interface

At Relias, we’re always studying user behavior. Our behavioral science experts focus on studies – and our own testing – to enhance our learning management system and the course content we provide. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we used behavioral science to target one desired behavior for learners using our system.


Eye on the prize

Our goal was to increase user compliance by rewarding learners’ on-time completion and high exam scores. We also wanted to provide additional rewards for early birds who complete courses early.

We know that three of the factors that influence behavior are:

  • Triggers: The person is cued or “asked” to do the behavior (for example, visual or auditory cues).
  • Ability: The person can easily complete the behavior (the effort it takes to complete something is low).
  • Motivation: The person wants to perform the behavior to gain something or avoid something (such as getting a reward, gaining recognition or avoiding penalties).

Basically, if we want to increase compliance, we need to make the behavior easier and more rewarding.


How does the Relias interface use behavioral science?

We implemented cues and rewards across the system to address each of the behavioral influences.

Triggers: The user interface provides various calls to action so that learners have a clear understanding of what they should do and by what date it should be done. Additional cues include a progress bar and a news feed that lists peers who have met goals.

Ability: Clear design on the new interface makes identifying what needs to be done simple. The response effort of completing courses is lower.

Motivation: Learners who use our new gaming element features are provided rewards for course completions and bonus rewards for early completion. The rewards come in the form of a gamification economy (coins, seals, and recognition on a team leaderboard). The system is designed to appeal to those who are motivated by achievement, visual displays of completion, friendly competition, and social recognition.


Rewarding good behavior

The use of different schedules of reinforcement was carefully designed into the reward system to engage learners early on in the game. For example, they receive a free seal when they complete the “Introduction to Gamification Course.” Rewards are more easily earned in the early stages of the game. Over time the rewards are more spread apart and become more challenging.

We use differential reinforcement to reward learners who go above and beyond. Those learners who complete courses early and pass with high scores earn more rewards. This incents mediocre performers to improve.


Our reward system

Coat of Arms: Every user gets a coat of arms to use as their profile image. The coat of arms displays earned seals that represent a learner’s performance.

Seals: For each course completion, learners earn a seal to display on their coat of arms. The seals become more intricate as the levels increase.

Coins: Coins are earned for course completion and final exam scores, and users can earn bonus coins for early completion. The coins are used to buy décor to accent the seals and crest, or to buy décor for other users as gifts.

Levels: To provide another level of motivation and engagement, learners who complete a certain number of courses “level up” and access more elaborate and interesting seals and décor.

Team Leaderboard: Teams that hit goals together are rated on team leaderboards to incent team compliance and friendly competition.

We use behavioral science to frame how we develop course content, but also build it into the interface our customers use every day. Learn more about gaming elements and our interface.


Are you using behavioral science to boost your learner results? If so, how?

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