“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:
- They like self-directed, self-paced learning experiences,
- They want to receive information in the quickest, easiest way possible, and
- 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 considered when it serves a clear learning objective that cannot be met through simpler means.
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.
Trust Communications is an instructional design firm with 15+years of experience. We have created more than 200 customized online and blended learning programs for companies and non-profit organizations across Canada and abroad. Yes… some have games. Some do not. If you would like to talk about your training needs, email us.