Gamification: Is It Relevant? Is It Meaningful?

Gamification continues to be a growing trend — in a long list of trends — in the learning industry. The thing is, gamification isn’t all that new. Gamification techniques (or more simply gaming techniques) such as countdowns, discovery, points, and levels, have been used for many years to engage learners and transfer knowledge and skills.

As with all trends, the trick is to know when and how to use games to enhance learning and performance rather than just to entertain participants. As we know, any approach used inappropriately can actually decrease the impact of training; in this case, learners can easily get distracted by the game, entertainment, or competition and sacrifice the learning for the fun.

For gamification elements to benefit the learner’s performance, they must:

  • Align with learning objectives
  • Reinforce learning
  • Demonstrate how the learning applies on the job
  • Be more than entertainment devices
  • Fit with the organization’s culture

Case Study

Recently, I began working with a client to develop a course that evaluates employees’ knowledge of its industry codes. The client was the first to admit that there was nothing exciting about the topic, so they wanted ILG to design the course using gamification.

To confirm that the content would lend itself to a gaming approach, our team went through an exercise to ensure that we could fully address the five characteristics listed above. Once we were satisfied that applying gamification was indeed an option, our team created some possible course themes and presented them to the client. The theme that best fit the content and learning objectives was a challenging and engaging escape room.

How does this theme reinforce learning? Each of the industry codes is directly related to the learners’ jobs, because they must ensure various facilities remain compliant. In the game, learners must “pass” each code section by correctly answering questions about it in order to unlock the corresponding escape room. If the learner passes all of the code sections, s/he is credited with ensuring that the facility meets all applicable standards and is compliant. If the learner can’t unlock a room, additional training is needed; the learner receives the specific code reference to access more information.

Although this course is still being developed, I’m looking forward to showing it to the client. Not only does our gaming approach and design promise to deliver improved learning and increased learner engagement, but it also should result in better performance.

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