Social Comparison Theory suggests that people understand their abilities better when they see how they perform against other players. In other words, we love to compete! Let’s face it, we are more likely to push ourselves more than we would otherwise to knock the top guy or gal from their lead. Having a leaderboard is one great way to tap into our competitive nature.

Leaderboards might seem like a very straightforward tool, yet they are very difficult to design, and in this article, we’ll share what we think makes a good leaderboard. Leaderboards are part of the gamification feature for learning management systems.

  1. Make it realistic

The Golden rule to the leaderboard is to make it realistic so that when you see your name pop up on it for the first time – you understand that it’s possible to get to the top of the board. One way to do that is to always place new users somewhere in the middle of it rather than at the very bottom. 

You can also introduce group leaderboards along with the site-wide leaderboards. This way, all your learners will have the same starting opportunities, and getting to the top of the board will be an attainable challenge. 

A study of the ‘N-effect’ on the competition shows that the greater the size of the group, the lower is the motivation to compete amongst individual competitors. This is another argument in favour of creating group leaderboards.

If you don’t have groups or cohorts on your eLearning site, consider using ‘seasons’ to give new users an equal chance to succeed. You can also highlight the current top performers weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly.

  1. Add emotional element

Leaderboards rely on emotional connectivity. Not only do we like to compete, but we are also more eager to do so if we know who we compete against. 

That’s why learning apps like Busuu allow you to ask your friends to join so you can compare progress against each other.

Team A is always interested in beating Team B – if your business model allows and it’s relevant to your audience – take advantage of the team’s competitive spirit and add teams to your leaderboard.

  1. Keep the competitive spirit high by highlighting your top performers through other channels.

To keep your learners even more motivated, you can post shoutouts about your top performers on social media or group feed. You can also add recognition rewards for top performers, like digital products, free membership upgrades or discounts, or even personal meetings with the instructor.

  1. Make your leaderboard visible at all times.

You can place it in the user Dashboard or the sidebar to ensure it doesn’t escape their sight, and they are regularly reminded about the rewards.

  1. Include an opt-out alternative.

Not everyone enjoys competition, and some users might feel pretty stressed about it. So give your learners the possibility to opt-out of the gamification campaign if they wish and rejoin if they change their minds.

As a website admin, you get valuable insight into user metrics by having a leaderboard. Leaderboards can help you:

  • Identify subject matter experts, and some companies would even use this stat when they need to hire;
  • Spot trends and outliers, and launch a marketing campaign to engage your worst performers.

Now that you are equipped with these tips on how to make a leaderboard great, it’s time to set yours up!

The leaderboard feature does pair up well with badges for your LMS.