GAMIFICATION IN LEARNING

FAD OR FAB?

What is gamification and how can we implement effective gamification solutions for talent development? We examine the evidence surrounding the use of gamification to increase user engagement and performance.

WHAT IS IT?

Let’s start with some basic game context; gamification is not playing video games like Fortnite or Call of Duty, or taking quizzes on social media. Gamification of learning means applying gaming elements to courses or platforms. It doesn’t have to mean blowing up difficult customers to unlock revenue from a tower.

Applying gamification techniques to a learning solution can tap into some human engagement senses such as, achievement, improvement and perhaps a bit of healthy competition. At a simple level, it may be applying points-scoring and leaderboards to help motivate employees. It can also mean using game mechanics, such as spaced repetition to enhance mastery, or time-bound activities to heighten attention and focus.

leaderboard_ipad

Successful gamified learning programmes focus on learners. Use your knowledge and any data you have on learner needs and preferences to develop a gamification strategy. Create something that is comfortably familiar yet novel enough to engage and motivate learners. Deploy gamification on a platform and across learning campaigns to incentivise continuous learning rather than one-off consumption.

All learning, including gamified solutions, must take a people-first approach because its purpose starts and ends with people.

WHY USE GAMIFICATION?

Forget your prejudices about gamification. You need to unlearn your preconceptions and be guided by the evidence.

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Gamification is rooted in the psychology of human behaviour. Maslow, and later Yu Kai Chou, developed frameworks and theories on human motivations. Yu Kai Chou’s theory specifically focused on how gamification can tie into human motivational factors.

But should serious learning providers and employers really be providing game design elements to corporate training programs? After all, making the learning process more fun and engaging does not necessarily lead to better performance on the job, so why do it?

According to HR Technologist.com, the answer lies, at least in part, in the need to modernise workplaces and take advantage of new technologies.

"...gamification makes corporate learning programs measurable, helping you better optimize your programs to meet future learning/skills requirements of the organization."

HR TECHNOLOGIST

The best gamification platforms don’t just record data like a traditional course on a learning environment. They draw on that data to prioritise and personalise learning and integrate with other systems, such as social sites and CRMs, to provide a more holistic solution.

“Play can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.” 

HELPGUIDE.ORG

HR TECHNOLOGIST

WHEN TO USE GAMIFICATION

 

Gamification is best applied to soft skills, when we want to engage, influence and motivate learners towards a goal. It’s less suited to very technical information or for information that is needed urgently.

As with any learning, however, gamified content must have clear goals and objectives. It should fit in with the organisational strategy and culture. If the learning goals can be met in a gamified way, then certainly look at that as an option.

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If you are designing a gamified solution, make sure you consider how to motivate and engage all learners; not just the top performers. Any form of corporate training must deliver on the objectives. Gamified solutions are no different. Don’t waste your time and budget on a solution that aims to just be ‘fun’.

GAMIFICATION IMPACT ON ENGAGEMENT

Technologies like Fitbits are hugely popular because they are specific to the individual and they’re goal-driven. As consumers, and learners, we want to challenge ourselves and we want personalised goals and experiences. Applying game-based learning experiences can also tap into our need for recognition and reward with: points, badges, mastery levels or even formal accreditations.

Gamified experiences draw on what’s familiar to us on social platforms, including features such as, ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and ‘shares’. Learning no longer needs to be something that is separate and static. It can replicate elements of the tools and apps that we use in our everyday lives. Let’s make learning something that we choose to engage with regularly.

"83% of those who receive gamified training feel motivated, while 61% of those who receive non-gamified training feel bored and unproductive."

TEACH ON MARS

One key strength of gamified learning experiences that L&D should try to harness, is their ability to create virtual communities. This is particularly important in the wake of COVID-19, with increasingly dispersed teams and greater numbers of home workers. Keeping everyone connected and engaged is a real challenge. The phenomenal success of games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintento Switch) shows us that adults, as well as children, seek out online social experiences.

People want to communicate and they want to share ideas online. Why shouldn’t we embrace this in our learning solutions? Why not allow learners to engage with information in a fun way? Why not let them challenge themselves and others, discuss what they’ve learned and share ideas?

IMPACT OF GAMIFICATION ON PERFORMANCE

So, gamification can lead to an increased level of engagement and enthusiasm, but can it really contribute to improved performance? The evidence would suggest so.

This article on The Startup, cites the example of the LiveOps customer contact solutions company in India. In a bid to counteract high turnover and low employee morale, they launched an app that awarded points for learning, KPI achievement and knowledge-sharing with colleagues.

"Within a week of launching the program, 80% of LiveOps agents opted in and three-quarters of them return on a bi-weekly basis. Participating agents outperformed peers by 23% in average call-handle time and boosted customer satisfaction by 9%."

Here’s another example of gamification having a big impact on performance. The Creative Engagement Group (TCEG) created a narrative-led game for Associated British Ports (ABP) to explore the real-world consequences of GDPR negligence. It resulted in a large increase in GDPR awareness and retention of key information.

"The average test result score (1-2 weeks post-training) was 89% with over 50% of participants scoring between 91-100."

THE CREATIVE ENGAGEMENT GROUP

BENEFITS OF GAMIFICATION

Effective gamified solutions will not only cater for learners but will challenge them also. Competition in the learning process can not only motivate staff, it can help facilitate a culture of continuous improvement.

Done well, there are many potential benefits.

For the learner

A sense of achievement leading to increased productivity and fulfillment in their job.

A stronger connection to peers. Shared goals and friendly rivalries can lead to a deeper sense of community among work colleagues.

A greater commitment to learning and continuous improvement. The realisation that knowledge has the power to reshape their life.

For the organisation

A more knowledgeable, more engaged and more fulfilled workforce.

A scalable, learner-centric and effective training solution, accessible to all staff regardless of location.

For L&D

A mechanism for delivering on L&D goals with a high-quality, effective learning solution.

A greater connection and unity of purpose with learners as they take control of their own learning journeys and skills development.

A renewed passion for L&D and the role it can play in transforming learners’ lives through their professional development.

GAMIFICATION TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

Striking the right balance between effective and engaging is important. Clever tools, such as the Teach on Mars mobile app, allow you to do just that. It provides a large selection of gamified question templates to create fun and engaging quizzes that are pushed to learners via their mobile phones. Learners can challenge other learners across communities, teams and timezones and the practice recall element ensures that real world learning is embedded; not instantly forgotten.

The solution is designed to support and enhance the full learning cycle including before, during and after classroom training. It encourages and supports learners each step of the way with personalised learning challenges. An analytics Dashboard allows managers and trainers to gain meaningful insights into learning outcomes and progress.

analytics

Other gaming techniques you can apply to learning include using storytelling, risk or time-constraints to add a sense of drama and urgency. Another method is to allow users to explore content and progress through levels by accumulating points for tasks completed.

Learning ecosystems, such as learningCloud, provide platform-wide gamification. Video-based learning experiences can be combined with badges, leaderboards and learning communities to suit specific training needs.

GAMIFICATION CHALLENGES AND HOW TO MANAGE THEM

Overuse of the same templates could lead to learner boredom. Good gamification strategies should have a wide range of game-types to allow for novelty and diversity. Push notifications - reminders to complete today’s training ‘moment’ - can be helpful, but have the potential to be annoying and stressful if overused. Giving learners and admin staff some control over notifications can mitigate against this.

Likewise, points-scoring and Leaderboards can be motivational for some staff but not for others. Analytics dashboards give managers visibility to see who is engaging and who might need some encouragement. Leaderboards can be set up to show scores by team, rather than by individual, to mitigate against embarrassment for anyone who is struggling.

You could create an employee incentive scheme that allows learners to convert points earned into money for charity, vouchers or even time off. The Teach on Mars tool has an incentives plug-in if you choose to go down that route.

Perhaps the biggest potential failing, however, is organisations spending too much money for too little gain. Beware of ‘shiny’ gamified learning that is of little or no value to the learner or the organisation. Like any learning, gamified solutions must have clear and measurable learner and business outcomes.

FUTURE OF GAMIFICATION

There is now plenty of evidence that gamification increases the user experience and engagement with learning content, which is half the battle for any training. If the learners don’t engage with the content, they certainly can’t learn from it.

Gamified content can be pushed to learners in short bursts at regular intervals to ensure optimum engagement and retention. That makes it a very useful addition to any online or blended training programme; we ignore it at our peril.

Click the image to try a short gamified quiz.

Adding a badge to badly written, unfocused or overly-long content will not solve any training problems. But gamified content has the potential to be very effective if it is data-driven,  learner-centric and aligned with performance and business objectives. It’s not enough to offer ‘pretty’ and ‘fun’ experiences without backing that up with substance. You also need gaming elements and mechanics that optimise learning retention and actively support increased job performance.

Good gamification will facilitate Personalisation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Analytics; the three biggest trends in the industry according to this year’s L&D Global Sentiment Survey. Used appropriately, gamified content can be the driver of holistic, engaging and effective learning experiences.

So, if you’re thinking about gamification, you need to think outside the Xbox. Investigate your prejudices about gamification, distinguish the fads from the trends and understand the long-term benefits of using it wisely. Think about how you can use gamification to connect with learners and ignite a passion for continuous improvement.

If you’re interested in exploring gamification as part of your learning solution, we’ve got the tools and expertise to help. We’d love to hear from you.

How can you improve your organisations learning experience?

Provide them with a personalised, intuitive, in-workflow learning platform that contains relevant content. Empower them to learn and grow. Invest in their experience as you would for your clients.

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