Using A Gamified Approach To Learning
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A Gamified Approach To Learning: Is It A Wise Decision?

As learning professionals, we want to engage with the best learning approaches to provide not only effective learning experiences for our learners but also to engage and motivate them. While 'fun' is not at the core of learning, or even of game-based learning and gamification, fun can often be a by-product of these approaches to learning, which is often the problem! 'Why?' you'll ask. Well, getting management buy-in to a learning approach that uses the word 'game' can be difficult as a link can be made between 'game' and 'play', which is why it is often not taken seriously as an approach to learning.

Challenges Met When Implementing A Gamified Approach To Learning

When carrying out research in this area, I interviewed one manager who replied, 'I don't have time to play games at work' and therein lies the issue. How do we get management on board with a gamified approach to learning?

As with any approach to a learning problem, we must first focus on what we want to achieve and then decide if a game-based learning approach is suitable. While yes, leaderboards, badges, levels etc. can be motivating for a while, it cannot be shoehorned into every learning experience as learners become weary of this quickly. Also, it should be kept in mind that games can create losers, and no learner wants to be a loser!

Also, not everyone wants to play. Even those of us who engage with Candy Crush or World of Warcraft might enjoy the odd game, that does not necessarily mean that we want to play games to learn, and alternative approaches may be required to engage with all learners.

Steps Towards A Right Gamified Approach To Learning

However, when done right, game-based learning offers us the ability to create collaborative learning experiences, to allow learners to fail in a safe environment and to solve problems. These types of deep learning experiences, particularly the ones that bring a certain level of emotion into play (pardon the pun), can be extremely effective and create a long-lasting learning experience.

Firstly, though, we need to get our decision-makers to agree to these approaches, and how do we do that?

In order to gain stakeholder buy-in, a pilot is often the best approach. It allows stakeholders and decision-makers to see what it is they are buying into and, in this regard, learner analytics and effective learning evaluation are key. If the powers-that-be can see real learning occurring and real behavior change, then it is much easier to sell the solution, particularly when it is considered to be innovative or novel.

Setting expectations, as with any learning solution, is key, and ensuring that both stakeholders and learners know what to expect, and what not to expect, from the learning experience ensures that everyone is on the same page. This, of course, helps with any learning decision to promote faith in the learning organization when making future decisions.

James Paul Gee is a key figure in the world of game-based learning and has developed a number of Learning Principles based on his studies of how players interact with games [1]. These principles provide us, as learning developers and professionals, with real learning theory to act as the foundation for our decisions to employ a game-based approach to learning.

In a 2011 study, Traci Sitzmann, University of Colorado Denver, found that, compared to other methods, simulation games deliver [2]:

  • 20% higher post-training self-efficacy
  • 11% higher declarative knowledge
  • 14% higher procedural knowledge
  • 9% higher retention

While game-based learning is not a one-size-fits-all, I believe it is an approach that is worthy of further engagement in industry. While we have to an extent adopted some gamification practices, it is an area worth exploring further to see how we might engage with these learning techniques, particularly in industries that offer particular challenges, such as heavily regulated industries and those who struggle with compliance training.

And who doesn't love a challenge?

References:

[1] Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Computers in Entertainment (CIE), 1(1), 20-20.

[2] Sitzman (2011) A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Instructional Effectiveness of Computer-Based Simulation Games

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