“Gamification” is one of the hottest jargon terms in corporate e-learning.  But do the benefits live up to all the hype? And does gamification even match with our basic understanding of how adults learn?

In theory, learning by playing games seems like a great idea.  After all, if you think about the games you played as a child, the basic concepts seem to align with the requirements for effective training.  There are objectives, rules, problems to be solved, practical actions to be taken, and positive re-enforcement as you push yourself to “win”. So why not gamify every training experience?

The simple answer is that gamification can be costly, time-consuming, and counter-productive, especially when the audience is made up of adults.  Here are a few things we know about adult learners and online training:

  • Adult learners like self-directed, self-paced learning experiences.
  • They want to receive information in the quickest, easiest way possible.
  • They may be taking their training on a computer, tablet, or cell phone

Gamification should never be used if it is going to make the training process longer or more complicated, or if the quality of the gaming experience cannot be guaranteed on tablets and cell phones.  In fact…

Gamification should only be used when it serves a clear learning objective that cannot be met through simpler means. Click to tweet

The purpose of workplace training is to help employees gain knowledge, master skills, and adopt behaviors that will improve job performance, maintain health and safety, and support a positive, productive workplace culture.  When it comes to online training, the focus should be on developing clear learning objectives, content that conveys information in practical terms, and mandatory testing to confirm knowledge transfer.

If adding a game supports learning outcomes and enhances content (without driving development costs through the roof) then it may be worth doing.  But gamification for just the sake of it should be avoided.

Before readers decide that I am just anti-gamification, let me state clearly that adding a game, when it serves a learning purpose and is well-designed, can make some topics more interesting and engaging.

Done properly, the learner should be largely unaware that they are playing a game.  Instead, they should be considering the content and the context in a meaningful way that deepens their learning experience.

If you imagine an online course as a suit or dress, games could be viewed as expensive accessories.  Sometimes, the right accessory, added to an already attractive ensemble, can take the whole thing to a higher level.  But more often, heaping a bunch of over-priced bangles onto an otherwise drab outfit improves nothing.  In fact, in such a situation, it is best to pull off the bangles and focus on improving the clothes themselves.

Article written by Kim Scaravelli, CEO, Trust Communications Inc.  


We are Instructional Design and Digital Content Specialists. We have developed 200+ customized online and blended learning programs for companies and non-profit organizations across Canada.  Yes… some have games.  Some do not.   If you would like to talk about your training needs,  email us.


Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. […] When the content is complete and perfectly aligned with the learning objectives, you can add things like exercises to re-enforce key concepts, quizzes, supplemental materials, and testing.  As with the content itself, these elements need to align with the learning objectives – and nothing but.  While it is important to make the learning experience as engaging as possible, never add anything to the training just to entertain or amuse.   […]


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About Trust Communications Inc.

We help our clients succeed by making sure they have the best content. Everywhere. All the time. Tell us your vision. Let us help.


Business Communication, Employee Training


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