Gamification is a popular trend in today’s elearning environment, which makes sense if you look at the numbers. Gamification has a solid research base that has proven its effectiveness, and it’s becoming increasingly common to see a training course that doesn’t employ some form of gamification to help engage learners in the content.
That said, gamification can become tricky territory to navigate if you’re not looking at the big picture. With fun and engagement at the forefront, it’s easy to forget that adding a gamified activity to a training course can sometimes be a distraction rather than something that helps learners engage with the course in a meaningful way. Games can be flashy and appealing, but they need to be strategically placed in order to balance the engaging elements with the learning objectives.
For the most impact in your training, games need to logically connect the learning objectives to game elements. Keep in mind that gamification isn’t simply the addition of a game, but rather the addition of game elements to an engaging learning activity within the context of the training. Without this higher context, games can actually make a training course counterintuitive by removing learners’ focus from the task at hand and fixing it on something arbitrary.
In order to make gamification effective, the game elements must be thoughtfully and carefully designed, rather than randomly added in for increased learner engagement. If the elements have no value, or are poorly designed, the learner will not only be disengaged, but will not take the training or game seriously. These elements shouldn’t be haphazardly included—the main objective should be to challenge the learner on a topic or process they have learned, rather than just keep them entertained.
Here are a few elements of gamification that will ensure that your learners are using games to learn and not simply to distract themselves from a training course.
1. Timed Challenges
Giving learners a timed challenge is beneficial on many levels. Since time-sensitive work is a reality of today’s workplace, these challenges not only offer learners a safe place to practice their grace under pressure, but they do so while remaining fun. Practicing these skills in a game can increase the learner’s speed when completing a targeted, on-the-job task.
Points can create a motivation to complete activities, and encourage competition among the individuals who are involved in the training. When a learner is earning points, they are more likely to pay more attention to the task at hand. Since most learners are accustomed to an incentive/reward system, points can be attached to real life rewards to encourage participation, excitement, and competition.
Offering a space where learners can compare their results to others offers more of an incentive to take a training seriously. Leaderboards offer an additional opportunity to cultivate a community among individuals taking the training, and also encourages competition which can drive participation.
A creative and thoughtful use of badges and badging strategies can create motivation and recognition. Like points, these can be attached to real life rewards and deliver recognition to drive participation and engagement with the training content.
Leveling is a great way to show progression through a course, which helps learners feel a sense of accomplishment. Like badges, levels create a progression that can be used to designate status or education level outside of the training.
When considering adding gamification to a course, it’s always important to think about how that game element will help the learner recognize and apply new skills. Gamification offers many ways to be creative with a training course, but that creativity needs to be directed towards the learning objectives of a given course. With this in mind, instructional designers can reverse engineer a game so that it becomes a teaching tool rather than a distraction.