Employee training is a precarious task for most organizations. The multitude of choices available at each step of implementing a new learning and development process confuses even the most seasoned industry veterans and professionals. One of the first decisions that an organization generally makes is the selection of the right training methodology. There is an over-abundance of training delivery methods to choose from, ranging from traditional instructor based training to eLearning, mLearning and blended learning. The newest entrants in the field of training methodologies are gamification and game-based learning. The question that then follows is the effectiveness of the training strategy selected by the organization.
The intrinsic factors that determine the impact of training and drive a learner’s engagement tend to work very differently when it comes to a corporate environment. With the advent of eLearning, training is no longer restricted to big groups and fixed timeframes. It can now be done at the pace of an individual learner. More often than not, the time for learning is generally found during periods of downtime and low work pressure. Consequently, it becomes imperative for the learning content to be compelling enough to generate and maintain a high level of interest and motivation in the learner. These problems often plague traditional forms of solo learning. Gamification and Game Based Learning attempt to solve some of these problems by appealing to the emotions inherent in human nature, such as competitiveness, the drive to overcome a challenge, the happiness associated with a sense of achievement or the fear of failure and humiliation in front of peers.
However, before we take the plunge into understanding how best these gaming elements can be utilized into one’s learning strategy, let’s start with a quick explanation of what they are.
Originally coined by Nick Pelling in 2002, the term Gamification refers to the art of adding interactive and engaging gameplay mechanics into non-game based forms of content delivery. In the context of eLearning, these can be as simple as earning an achievement or a badge after completion of a training module, to as complex as leaderboards where scores can be compared and one can compete with friends and team members. Far from being just a gimmick, studies have shown that by adding an element of fun and progression through gamification, learner immersion and engagement increases substantially. In fact, according to a study, 89% learners believe that adding a point based gamification process to the eLearning system would increase their engagement. A research conducted by the University of Colorado on the impact of simulations and games in adult learners showed that participants in gamified eLearning experience scored 14% higher in skill-based-knowledge assessments, 11% higher in terms of factual-knowledge and exhibited a 9% increase in retention rate. This proves that gamification not only helps online learners acquire knowledge and skills more effectively but also allows them to retain information and commit it to long term memory for future use.
Gamification’s tag team partner is Game Based Learning. This concept deals with the application of real life scenarios, training simulations and knowledge delivery via games. The well-established 70/20/10 learning and development model, created in the early 90s by Robert Eichinger, Michael Lombardo and Morgan McCall, asserts that only 10% of training and development takes place through structured learning. Game Based Learning embodies the other 90% – with 70% of learning happening through real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving, and 20% happening through Social Interaction. With the use of pre-planned scenarios and simulations, well-defined tasks, challenges and rewards, learners can be trained to deal with a variety of real-life scenarios in a safe environment through a practical and result oriented approach. For example, a game can be created to teach financial analysts how to manage investment portfolios. Through the game, employees can understand the nuances of financial investments without putting at risk the client’s real money. The possibilities are endless, imagine imparting negotiation training or engineering with surgical precision, all without the associated dangers. Not only do learners get multiple tries, they can also be given step by step guidance and an opportunity to replay and practice till perfection is reached. In addition to learning from their mistakes, they also have a chance to rectify them without any serious repercussions. Learners also benefit from the social interaction and collaboration inherent in game based learning.
The benefits of incorporating gaming elements into an organization’s learning strategy are obvious not just on paper but proven through real life examples as well. It’s a thin line that needs to be treaded carefully though. While designing game based learning content, the audience must be kept in mind at all times and certain pitfalls need to be avoided. For example, making the Game Based learning content too serious can have a negative impact on its engagement and retention values. On the other hand, making it too casual can push away potential serious learners. The same balance needs to be maintained with difficulty of the game content as well. It should neither be too frustratingly difficult, nor too simple so that it removes the challenge completely. The best approach is to ensure that one provides inherent rewards, while maintaining a high level of immersion and interactivity. Each element of the game-based learning content needs to be adapted for the end user.
Despite Gamification and Game-based learning being the latest in training methodologies and rapidly gaining popularity at a staggering pace for obvious reasons, a lot of organizations are still apprehensive about incorporating them in their training and development methods. For some, the sticky obstacle is fear of massive costs and for others, it is the juvenile stereotype associated with the concept of gaming. Notwithstanding the doubts associated with game-based learning and gamification, the facts remain that careful implementation of Game Mechanics in the process of learning allows for higher engagement, absorption and retention. They increase the efficacy of the learning process by a huge margin.
Games aren’t just for making learning fun, in fact, they add value and substance to the otherwise mundane world of learning. Numbers show that they are an effective and powerful tool that enriches eLearning experiences for users of all ages across all industries. In a digitally connected world, they not only provide the ability to learn while playing but also to compete and collaborate on a global scale.
Let the games begin!
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