Gamification In eLearning: Getting It Right

Discussing Gamification In eLearning

Nick Pelling, the British computer programmer behind Frak! and The Simpsons: Bart Meets Radioactive Man was the first human being to use the word "gamification" 15 years ago – and most of us started using it just 7 years ago. It is a big word that is fun to say, and that represents, for the eLearning industry, a new way to learn.

Please don't memorize this definition of "gamification" from Merriam-Webster.

Why not?

Well, it is a very limited definition and, more importantly, I am passionate about how learning gamification can promote engagement in interactive learning that is all about the learner and not about the trainer or teacher. (I wrote an eBook on Gamification in eLearning, but more on this later.)

Let me use this Merriam-Webster definition of "gamification" in a brief example.

Say, I was to give a group of learners this definition and challenge them to memorize it, word-by-word, offering a reward to the fastest learner. Sure, I would have gamified the task of learning the definition, but within the confined world of linear learning. In other words, I would have completely missed the point.

Remember that it is possible to use gamification in eLearning and still to stick to ineffective linear learning. If you've ever sat in a desk in a large classroom of desks listening to a dry lecture while daydreaming about being anywhere else, even on a crowded subway train, you know how ineffective linear learning can be.

But let's back up a bit.

Gamification in eLearning will grow to a 5.5 billion USD global market by 2018, which tells us that this way of learning has serious support in the eLearning sector. And human beings enjoy games; over 155 million Americans regularly play video games. So, if you have yet to explore how gamification could improve your eLearning programs, you should probably consider doing so.

And I hope that you will get gamification right.

I have designed software that fits in with Keller's Arcs Model of Motivation Design; effectively snaring attention, providing relevance, building confidence and generating satisfaction in learning scenarios.

But I know that not all gamification in eLearning is equal.

Gamification must be meaningful, it must pass Keller's tests and those of your organization, to be truly effective. An eLearning game should be a portal to a story of engagement that the learner is at the center of; it should provide a highly interactive learning experience in a real-world context.

Branching scenarios are one way to get gamification right; to draw learners into real-world scenarios, to ask them to make decisions and then show them the likely outcomes of these decisions, to give them ownership of their learning and inspire them.

The eBook: Gamification in eLearning defines branching scenarios, clearly outlining the benefits and downsides of using the concept in eLearning.

About The eBook

I wrote this eBook as a response to real-world scenarios I encountered whilst developing software for building branching scenarios; to show how to move away from the limits of linear learning. Specifically, this eBook:

  • Deeply defines branching scenarios.
  • Explains why you should use branching scenarios in eLearning.
  • Identifies the disadvantages of using branching scenarios.
  • Provides an insider's estimate of the cost of using branching scenarios.
  • Zooms in on how branching scenarios can help you create a sales team that moves as one, united in surpassing set goals.

You can download the eBook by clicking here.

Quizzes = Gamification?

Human beings are continually learning new things. What is the last new thing that you learned? I was reading The Guardian this morning and I learned that there is a rare disease that causes growths that look like tree bark on human skin: It is known as "Tree Man Syndrome."

My reading the Guardian this morning and learning a little about a rare disease is a simple sample of linear learning: I read something and retained the knowledge. If I were in a classroom setting, I might be given a quiz to check my comprehension of the news article I had read.

The quiz has been a mighty tool in formal education and training for a long, long time.

And as eLearning has taken roots in classrooms and training courses – it is expected that 51.5 billion USD will be spent on eLearning on this planet in 2016 – eLearning quizzes have surfaced as dominant learning tools in the cyber universe, but should they have?

Maybe not?

Figure 1 Part of narrative map excerpted from Branching Scenarios in eLearning: What You Need to Know

Non-linear learning tools like branching scenarios outperform the linear quiz in outcomes:

  • Learners have more fun when participating in a non-linear exercise like a branching scenario than when taking an eLearning quiz. And fun boosts motivation.
  • Learners remember relevant information that they have a personal connection to, or that they connect to other information that already know. Non-linear teaching methods, like branching scenarios, allow learners to create their own highly relevant information.
  • Engagement is extraordinarily important in the learning process: A disengaged human being is unlikely to acquire any new knowledge. An eLearning quiz is not a highly interactive tool and therefore is unable to engage a learner in a deep way, while research shows that non-linear methods do deeply engage learners.
  • Quizzes lead to black-and-white thinking: Answer 1 is incorrect or correct. But non-linear methods like branching scenarios lead to unpredictable outcomes, where decision 1 might lead to 4 possible outcomes, and so on.

You might be thinking that the quiz has been around a long time for a reason, that it is a quick way to determine what a learner knows.

It is true that the quiz has its merits, and that it will answer this question for you: Does learner A understand what idea X or information Y is? But what does this tell you, really?

Organizations need to know that their employees will make sound decisions, based on a solid base of knowledge, that will, most of the time, lead to positive outcomes.

A learner, let's call her Smarty McSmart, may score A++ on every quiz but she may be unable to analyze a real-world situation and make a sensible decision.

You can help Smarty McSmart out by giving her the opportunity to participate in branching scenarios, where she can learn how to make better decisions that are likely to lead to good outcomes. And the best part is that it is all risk-free.

I've written the eBook titled Gamification in eLearning because I have learned that branching scenarios are outstanding non-linear learning tools that inspire, motivate and help build productive, positive teams. You can read my eBook by downloading it here.

eBook Release: BranchTrack
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