Crystal Balling With Learnnovators: The Future Of E-Learning With Karl Kapp
Please note that this is Part 2 of the interview. You can read Part 1 at Gaze Into The Future Of E-Learning With Karl Kapp - Part 1
Karl M. Kapp, Ed.D., CFPIM, CIRM, is a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations. He is a full professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA, and serves as the Assistant Director of Bloomsburg’s Institute for Interactive Technologies. He received his Doctorate of Education in Instructional Design at the University of Pittsburgh. He has written six books including the best-selling learning book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction and its accompanying how-to book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Theory into Practice.
- Learnnovators: What are the differences (with respect to strategies) between applying gamification to instructor-led training vis-à-vis self-paced learning?
Karl: Not sure there are different strategies, perhaps different tactics; one might use an audience response system, one might award badges automatically; but I don’t think that the strategies are different. There are four elements for applying gamification in any environment. These four foundational elements are engagement, autonomy, mastery and the sense of progression.
Engagement: The learner needs to be engaged with the content, thinking about it, interacting with it and reacting to what happens with the content and doing task related to the content. The learner needs to engage with the learning. It can’t be passive. This means activity in the classroom, engagement with students and the content and rich interactions among students. In the online environment, it is not different. There needs to be engagement with the content and other students.
Autonomy: The learner needs to be able to make choices about how much effort to put into the learning, what to do next and in what order they want to proceed. The choices can (and should) be bounded by rules and parameters but within those rules and parameters, the learner should have a great deal of choice. Within the classroom, this means rules for answering questions, participating with other students and for sharing or divulging knowledge. In the online environment, the need for autonomy is the same.
Mastery: The efforts need to result in mastery of content, context and application. If the gamification doesn’t lead to mastery of knowledge, process or content, then it is not an effective gamification effort. Regardless of classroom or online environments, students must feel that the gamification efforts are leading to mastery of content.
Progression: Gamification helps a learner to visualize progress. It allows the learner to see what they have learned, be recognized for learning up to that point, and then encourage them to move forward with a visual depiction of the progress they need to make towards total mastery. Again, this strategic element should be part of both classroom and online gamification efforts.
- Learnnovators: As we know, many other areas including application software training (Examples: ‘LevelUp for Photoshop’ and ‘Ribbon Hero 2 for Microsoft Office’) draw power from gamification. How do you think this trend will evolve further?
Karl: Right now, these applications use gamification for learning and then, once you are done learning the application, you can then start using it. The gamification level is a learning level separate from the actual operation of the application. I think in the future, more applications will be game-like in their operation. In other words, you will “play” a mission on your own project. The feedback for using PhotoShop will be more game-like itself. You’ll get a badge for removing a background on your own image instead of doing it as part of a training mission. The actual use of the software will be more game-like instead of just the learning about the software being game-like.
- Learnnovators: You say that ‘We need to think more like Game Designers’. What would be your advice to today’s instructional technologists who aspire to incorporate gamification in learning?
Karl: My first piece of advice is to play games. You cannot think about gamification or be comfortable implementing gamification techniques if you do not play games. And I don’t just mean play the games, I mean play and analyze those games. Figure out why one game was deeply engaging while another turned out to be boring. Determine how the scoring system drove you toward mastery of the game (or away from it.) Playing games with a critical eye is important to learning to incorporate gamification in learning. Also, don’t just play one genre of games, play many genres. Don’t just play first-person shooters; also play puzzle games or adventure games. Playing a variety of games will lead to a greater understanding of how game mechanics and game dynamics can be applied to learning. If the process was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy to think like a game designer while creating instruction. Game design is action oriented—what do we want the player to do. Instructional design, on the other hand, tends to be content oriented—what content do we want the learner to know. To think like a game-designer when creating instruction, we want to think about what we want the learner to “do” not just what we want the learner to know. This seems like a little shift but, it is actually a large change in thinking for the field of instructional design.
- Learnnovators: What would be your advice to companies who want to start experimenting with gamification? How complex and expensive is the adoption (of gamification) for a typical mid-sized company?
Karl: Gamification does not need to be expensive. The problem is that most people think of gamification as points, badges and leaderboards. But actually, it’s a way of thinking about instructional development using the sensibilities of game development. To illustrate my point about not needing technology for gamification projects, I’ll give you an example of a project I worked on this past year. I was brought in to help redevelop a course that was focused on training individuals on how to conduct an internal investigation within the organization. The course was designed in a very traditional fashion. The course started with several course objectives such as “The learner will be able to understand the five steps of conducting an internal investigation.” Then the course provided a list of terminology the would-be investigators had to learn. Next, it presented a model that needed to be followed, and finally a simple role-play where a small portion of an investigation was enacted. The problem was that after the individuals left the two day class, they still felt uneasy and uncertain as to how to conduct an evaluation. They knew all the pieces, but didn’t know how to apply them all together in one cohesive investigation.
I decided to flip the class. So, when the trainees came to the two day class, the class opened with the following statement. “An employee at the company has just walked into your office and told you that she suspects her boss is embezzling money. What is the first thing you do?” There was no objectives, no defining of terms, no model to follow. The learners were thrown into the situation. Then, as they asked questions and moved along within the investigation, the instructor provides both pieces of information related to the case and instructional information. At one point, the instructor produces the “Investigator’s Handbook” and the learners can use the handbook to help them in the case. So, from the time they walk into the classroom until they leave, they are in the role of an investigator. They have to form interview questions, decide who to call as witnesses, and ultimately make a judgment call about the alleged embezzlement.
All throughout the two day class, they are guided by the instructor. This immerses them in the learning process and at the end of the two days of instruction; they have actually conducted a mock investigation. They know what forms to use, what questions to ask and what procedures to follow. They know because they did it. That is an example of a gamification solution that doesn’t require high tech programming or development. What it requires is thinking like a game developer. It requires elements of gamification to take typical training delivery and transform it into an engaging experience for the learners.
- Learnnovators: Here are some interesting use cases from your articles that describe how gamification is employed in the context of powerful instructional strategies such as ‘Retrieval Practice’ and ‘Spaced Retrieval’: Gamification of Healthcare and Axonify. What are other instructional strategies that could be powered with gamification?
Karl: The concepts of Retrieval Practice and Spaced Retrieval are great for structural gamification, which is when you add game elements to propel a learner through instruction but don’t modify the instruction itself. Another type of gamification, content gamification, deals with changing the content to be taught to be more game-like. I think, as we understand more and more about how each individual elements of games influence learning, gamification will grow more into a design methodology encompassing many elements like curiosity, mystery, feedback and other intriguing game elements, and move away from a strict reliance on points, badges and leaderboards. This means that almost any kind of training such as onboarding, sales training, leadership training and almost anything else can be powered by gamification.
- Learnnovators: What according to you is the most inspiring use case where gamification has helped improve training effectiveness and ROI?
Karl: The Axonify case study mentioned above is a great one. Another is one I mentioned in an article I wrote called ‘The Gamification of Salesforce Training’. There are lots of other successful examples, but those two are a good place to start to look at how effective gamification can be in terms of training effectiveness and ROI.
- Learnnovators: What do you think is the future of gamification? Do you think gamification will evolve further by taking more power from games and game-based learning?
Karl: Currently, much of the ideas around gamification are focused on points, badges and leaderboards. While those can be motivational and inspiring, I think the real value from gamification will come when we use the most engaging elements of games. As I have mentioned above, these are things like challenge, mystery, curiosity, mastery and other core elements that make games engaging. In the future, my hope is that the term “gamification” matures and more people see gamification as a design sensibility, a way of approaching the design of learning events in a way that fosters challenges, provides a context for learning, and provides informative and helpful feedback. I see it evolving away from the layering of points and badges on top of training into a design philosophy that ensures positive learning outcomes. I see it focusing on autonomy, mastery and social connections between learners.
- Learnnovators: We are looking forward to the release of your latest book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Theory into Practice”. The preview chapters available online give us a wonderful peek into the contents of the book. Is there anything more that you would like to share with our readers?
Karl: Thanks, I am very excited about this book. When I wrote the first book, I was trying to frame the discussion about gamification in a way that would make sense to learning and development professionals, helping them understand the power and many facets of gamification. The newest book, the Fieldbook, is about application. The goal of the Fieldbook is to provide readers with more of a step-by-step examination of the way to craft a game, gamification experience or simulation. The book is filled with case studies, worksheets and examples of what needs to be done to carefully craft immersive learning experiences. The book is designed to be used with the cover folded back, notes in the margins, and worksheets completed to ultimately create the right learning experience.
- Learnnovators: What would be your message to the learning community and the industry in this age of ‘learning’ driven by technologies that are ‘disruptive’ in nature?
Karl: First, let’s not drive learning by technology. In fact, that is completely backward.
We first need to see what type of learning is required; how we can enhance the knowledge of learners and help them learn and perform at a high level. We need to first choose the right instructional strategy. Maybe technology is part of the solution and maybe it’s not. For example, the learning strategies of Spaced Retrieval and Retrieval Practice don’t need technology to be successful but, still, they are strategies that are rarely used but are extremely powerful. I also mention the idea of starting a learning session with a challenge; again, that is not a technological solution. So let’s focus on learning strategies first and technology a distant second. As long as we focus on developing effective learning experiences, the technologies will take care of themselves. The apparently disruptive technologies should just be seen as tools for enacting the right learning strategy. When we think that way, we do ourselves and the field a service by being learning focused and not technology focused.
Learnnovators: Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights and experiences, Karl. It was wonderful interacting with you. Wish you the very best!
"Crystal Balling with Learnnovators" is a thought-provoking interview series that attempts to gaze into the future of e-learning. It comprises stimulating discussions with industry experts and product evangelists on emerging trends in the learning landscape.
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