One of the best ways to get to know someone is to play a game with them. As you develop eLearning courses, games can have a significant impact on learner engagement. Although gaming elements with no added benefit to the learning experience can do more harm than good. Consequently, the importance of choosing the right gamification techniques to use in your next eLearning course should not be minimized.
With organizations facing the need to gear training solutions to a multigenerational workforce, utilizing various learning solutions will only make learning more effective.
In a study published by the Pew Research Center, the largest groups in today’s workforce, Millennials, and Gen X, are also arguably the most frequent gamers. So incorporating games can be a highly engaging approach for some learners in today’s aging workforce.
What is Gamification?
There is a difference between gamification and game-based learning. The dictionary defines gamification as “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something to encourage participation.”
In other words, gamification is a learning technique that uses reward-based behavior to increase learning retention.
On the other hand, game-based learning is simply the act of learning through gamification elements and play.
5 Gamification Techniques You Should Know
If you plan to include gamification in future learning content, knowing which game features to use will go a long way in ensuring learner engagement.
However, not all types of gaming methods are created equal. Including every gamification technique, you can think of in your next eLearning project will not improve your training.
That is why it is so critical to choose the right combination of gaming elements to create a captivating experience for your learners.
To that end, here are 5 gamification options every learning and development (L&D) professional should consider and some of the outcomes they support:
Leaderboards are the visual representation of winning. They can serve as a catalyst to create friendly interoffice competition and often result in spikes of motivation among participants.
Scores can be tied to any data point and can reinforce the behavior you want to encourage. Rewarding things like consistency or accuracy over time extends the learning experience to create longer-term habits.
If you’ve ever been in a manufacturing environment and seen a sign touting the number of days since the last job-related injury, you have witnessed an example of a leaderboard in action. It is a way to get everyone working together to beat the previous streak.
Individual leaderboards are just as effective in encouraging the repetition of a particular skill or improving accuracy.
2. Rewards and Incentives
One of the reasons we love games so much is the instant gratification winning provides. Real-world incentives for performance throughout the learning experience are another way to give learners that same type of feeling. Days off and gift certificates are small rewards that could mean a lot to your team.
While incentives can be a helpful tactic, it should be noted they could lose their potency if over-used. Rewards can cause participants to lose focus on the learning objectives. Thus, turning your learning experience into a race to the finish line with no real impact.
3. Branching Scenarios
Growing up, my mom was a teacher, so summer always included vacation reading. My favorite type of book was the Choose Your Adventure mystery series. Being in control of the story and changing the outcome made reading fun and kept me coming back.
Incorporating branching scenarios like those popular children’s books allows participants to see different outcomes based on their choices. Creating a narrative and sending your learners on a scavenger hunt to find information allows them to control their own learning experience.
Learning Experience Design Consultant Christy Tucker believes it is important to create better branching scenarios because they have the unique ability to elicit strong emotional responses. They can also make learning personal by using relatable scenarios.
Gamifying the stories you build your scenarios around will create an experience your learners won’t mind returning to repeatedly.
4. Analog Games
There are times where you may incorporate eLearning to provide foundational information before a learning event. Using non-digital or analog games to supplement an online course during the learning event can help participants translate concepts to the real world.
In my experience, adding “house rules” to board games like Monopoly can help tie the game to a learning objective. For instance, in a math class, you might add a rule requiring participants to set aside the correct percentage in taxes before purchasing.
Learning and Development (L&D) Consultant Catherine Lombardozzi, Ed.D recently posted a step-by-step walk-through of her experience creating a learning game that consisted of both digital and analog elements. She shares a lot of insight about lessons learned. One example was how the pacing of the game affected learning outcomes.
In the end, analog games create a more intimate, face-to-face experience. They build trust and improve interpersonal communication skills for large and small teams alike.
5. Social Learning Games
Another growing trend in L&D is social learning. More specifically, social learning games like Taboo or Pictionary can help players improve communication skills and exercise the ability to recall information.
Participants describe a word or concept aloud in these high-energy games, and their teammates guess the correct answer. Kahoot is an excellent tool to use if you want to recreate this experience virtually.
Incorporating these types of games into your learning plan can serve as an excellent informal assessment.
Try playing with a small group of participants after covering definitions or a series of learning scenarios. Identify a range of scores to determine if the lesson beforehand achieved the desired outcomes. Taking it a step further, you can even use incorrect guesses as a way to identify future areas of focus for training.
Use Gamification Elements Wisely
Gamification is an exciting trend in L&D right now. Many organizations are looking to upskill their teams, and finding ways to keep learners engaged is critical.
Aligning gamification tactics and learning objectives can make your learning solutions more effective.
It is crucial that, as an instructional designer, you ask the right questions to not only clarify learning objectives but to determine the right gamification techniques that will be best suited for your eLearning.
As I mentioned earlier, not all games are created equal, and not everyone enjoys games. Ask your stakeholders and subject matter experts if game-based learning is an appropriate strategy before finalizing your design.
In addition to enjoying games, Millennials have an appetite for training. The existing demand coupled with the surge of Gen Z gamers hitting the workforce over the next three to five years means the future of gamification in eLearning is bright.
As you prepare your next learning solution, consider incorporating some gamification techniques like leaderboards, rewards and incentives, branching, and analog or social learning games.
Brent Schlenker, the co-host of a learning and development podcast, once said, “The first one is going to be bad. Just do it and then make it better.” When it comes to gamification in eLearning, I can share no better words of advice than these.
Do you incorporate game-based learning in your training design? Are you having trouble getting the green light to add gamification techniques to your eLearning? Your feedback matters; share your thoughts with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!
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