“The success of games in today’s market creates certain expectations in the field of e-learning – which entails dramatic changes in design. We hope that the experience we have gathered and presented in this article will serve as a starting point for introducing gamification into corporate learning. ”
Sooner or later – under the influence of the market and the e-learning community – all departments and divisions related to employee training will decide to implement gamification. As usual, the emergence of a new trend is accompanied by a lot of discussion and controversy. If you and your colleagues are at the stage of introducing gamification, then our experience, we hope, will be useful to you.
Gamification, gaming training, serious gaming – is there a difference?
We think the trend towards gaming in eLearning is partly due to the rise in the popularity of sophisticated, well-executed PlayStation and mobile games. In this regard, discussions arise: is there a difference between gamification, game learning and serious games. For the purposes of this article, we will consider these concepts as synonyms, since in the context of corporate training, any course has quite serious goals, regardless of the degree of gamification. As Karl M. Kapp points out (you can find links at the bottom of the article):
Both gamification and serious games have the same goals: to solve a problem, to motivate and stimulate learning through game thinking and techniques.
Of course, it is one thing to play games for fun or to satisfy the competitive spirit, but quite another to do it in the context of learning in the workplace. Despite this, there are many benefits to using games in learning.
Why is gamification gaining momentum?
There are three main reasons for the rapid development of gamification: the influence of the market, the relationship between play and the learning process in children, and the growing interest in games among adults. Let’s take a closer look at each reason.
The relationship between play and the learning process in children
Even with the most superficial observation of children, it becomes obvious that there is a connection between play, learning and memorization. Gabe Zimmerman and Christopher Cunningham say the following:
So, can children learn by playing? Undoubtedly. Research by Dr. Arne May from the University of Regensburg (Germany) proves that, as a result of mastering a new skill, the growth of gray matter occurs in a matter of weeks. In addition, scientists from all over the world agree that play (namely the task-achievement-reward cycle itself) promotes the production of dopamine in the brain, which only strengthens our desire to play.
Moreover, memorization improves. Zimmerman and Cunningham continue:
The researchers compared the outcomes of game learning and plain text learning. Immediately after the end of the educational process, the participants in the experiment showed almost the same results. But after a few days more information remained in the memory of those who studied in a playful way.
Growing interest in games among adults
Why is the corporate environment resisting the introduction of such effective gaming techniques? Why are we sure that training must be serious? Of course, in the context of corporate culture, such a reaction is natural, but the data of the research company Newzoo suggests otherwise. According to the study, a huge proportion of the population, including adults, buys games for money. Plus, as we just found out, games can help you remember information.
And demographic studies show that playing games is as much fun for adults as it is for children – it’s just that joy is expressed in a more complex way. When companies set aside their misconceptions about time management and cultural integrity, they can appreciate the learning potential of gami cation.
How to gamify learning?
When you make the decision to use gamification in your teaching, you will need the experience of other successful projects like yours. Let’s take a look at a few basic elements.
Game mechanics and design
“It’s the mechanics of the game – not the theme – that make it fun.” (Zimmerman & Cunningham)
Game mechanics are how the game works: its rules and process. Here’s an important first lesson about game mechanics: the structure and dynamics of the game must match the content. For example, if the content describes techniques for successful sales, then the game mechanics, as well as the design of the course (module / lesson), should be relevant to sales: for example, bonuses, commissions, and other incentives.
In the context of a competition, it may not be enough for some competitors to simply earn a prize. As Brenda Anders points out, giving users the opportunity to brag about their accomplishments increases their self-esteem. Usually, tournament tables (ratings, leaderboards) are used for this. Here are some of the techniques that Brenda suggests:
- The leaderboard should reflect those achievements and skills that are important for training purposes.
- Use more than one leaderboard in one program. For example, you can create separate tables for each office or region, as well as for each individual assignment in the course.
- Provide the ability to search the standings. If a player sees only the leaders and cannot immediately find himself or his friends in the rating, the effectiveness of such a rating decrease.
- Give players the ability to create their own leaderboards. This way they will be able to quickly evaluate their results in comparison with colleagues and acquaintances.
- If the leaderboard is not updated immediately (this often happens in educational games), be sure to inform the students about this feature.
- Reset the leaderboards at the end of the week so that participants can start from scratch.
In addition to points and leaderboards, there are other examples of game mechanics that will make the game more fun:
- Pattern recognition – encounter trends and familiar sequences in the game context
- Collecting – collect badges and other objects relevant to the course
- Surprise and unexpected joy – receiving unplanned rewards
- Organization and order – arrange items in the correct order
- Gifts – give points to other players
- Recognition and Achievement – Receive praise for your successes
- Lead Others – Show other players how to handle a challenge
- A chance to be a hero – saving a failed deal or figuring out how to improve a product
- Status – receive a reward for your achievements
As you’ve probably noticed, some of these examples are thematic. This means that they will help to involve the player in the dynamics of the course – and this is how the training becomes most effective.
Some of these game mechanics are universal, and some are directly related to corporate training (for example, “the chance to be a hero”). Thanks to these mechanics, students are increasingly involved in the dynamics of the course – and it is at such moments that learning becomes most effective.
Interactivity and feedback
Interactivity is one of the key elements of a successful game. The degree of player involvement depends on many factors: the complexity of the game mechanics, the correspondence of the mechanics to the content, and the total complexity of the process.
In ideal conditions, the challenges facing the player allow him to achieve specific goals in the game. When designing these tasks, Brenda Enders suggests following the following techniques:
- When setting a task, consider what actions and decisions of the player you can track.
- Reward students for achieving their goals. Make sure these awards are of value to them.
- Let each problem have a different complexity, duration and time to solve.
Each task becomes even more difficult when it is urgent. In the game, you can limit the time to find a solution – just like in life, when we need to be in time for the deadline.
James Paul Gee of the University of Arizona Game Center offers a few more ideas that apply to every successful game.
Opportunity to take risks: In good video games, the consequences of error are much lower than in real life; players can save and, in case of failure, return to the game. This encourages players to take risks, explore and try new things. In fact, the risk in the game is good.
Complexity and reinforcement of new skills: In good games, we have a number of difficult problems that we solve until we get to automatism. Then the game presents us with a new class of problems – and now we apply the acquired skills in a new way, learn something else and integrate new and old experience. Repetition, in turn, helps reinforce new skills in order to solve the next problem. (Anders)
To give the player the right to make mistakes, use the following:
- Give the player a few tries
- When a player makes a mistake the first time, provide him with feedback: explain what his mistake is and how to fix it. After that, give the player the opportunity to try again. From a global perspective, it is important that learners can be trained over and over again until a goal is achieved or a skill is mastered.
- Introduce a point system that will demonstrate how well the student achieves the stated learning objectives.
It is also important, through feedback, to tell the players where they are on the course (for example, using the progress bar), and also to encourage him to move forward (for example, with a simple message “you are on the right track!”). In the game, the global history is usually broken down into small, achievable stages – levels. As far as feedback is concerned, it should be used to adjust the behavior and actions of the player, and not to convey the main content of the course. (Zimmerman and Cunningham).
The most addicting games are based on a story that involves the user in the process of the game. First, describe in detail the plot, the characters and their intentions, and the setting. In addition, Anders advises:
- Try to come up with a cool scenario that will keep the players on their toes. Learning is best done in moments of conflict resolution.
- Use characters that are close to the learners and that evoke an emotional response.
- Introduce different characters so that each conveys a specific type of knowledge, point of view, or commentary to students. It is most effective to present information in the form of dialogue between characters – and to voice them with real voices.
The importance of a good story cannot be overemphasized. Learning through stories is inherent in us by nature.
Motivation – coupled with mechanics, design, interactivity, feedback, and storytelling – creates engagement and interest, and helps learners adopt desired behaviors and learn and practice competencies.
What creates motivation?
Of course, there are many motivators in the game of life, but in the context of an organization. You can start by looking at what motivates employees as well as customers. As Karl Kapp points out: “When you study any research, you need to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.”
Intrinsic motivation can be attributed to personal satisfaction or recognition of acquaintances. And to external motivation – career advancement or salary increase. As you can see, there is a direct link between motivation and reward.
In addition to external and internal factors of motivation, there are other effective ways to motivate a person. Zimmerman and Cunningham, for example, cite the following factors: status, access, strength, and trivia.
These factors are especially effective when the organization does not have free funds. Status can mean the best desk or study in the office, or a convenient parking space. Access is, for example, lunch with the director, priority or VIP seats, or the ability to make appointments before others. Strength usually manifests itself in the gaming environment: for example, the best player becomes the forum moderator. And, finally, little things are small discounts in popular cafes or shops or things with a company logo (mugs, T-shirts). One final tip: “Gamification will work best if you can align intrinsic motivations and extrinsic rewards. You should always strive for this”.
How do you apply this to the selection of rewards? First, determine the intrinsic motivation of your audience. Then build a chain of achievement tied rewards, but don’t give out all the prizes at once. When a player receives an unexpected prize, his motivation grows.
The success of games in the modern market creates certain expectations in the field of e-learning. Which entails dramatic changes in design. We hope that the experience we have accumulated and outlined in this article. Will serve as a starting point for introducing gamification into corporate learning.