The Success and (some) Failures of Gamification in Training and Learning

Posted on : November 3rd, 2016
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Gamification has received a lot of attention in the recent times, in both business and education. Companies are leveraging gamification as a strategy to engage consumers and clients with interesting game-like mechanisms and incentives for the purpose of promotion, marketing, engagement, and customer loyalty.
GamificationGamification is increasingly being adopted in training and education as well, with newer learning games being developed to increase the interest of the learner and the impact of learning. Given below are the three factors behind this growth:

• The rapid adoption of the smartphone;
• The tremendous growth of the internet; and
• The increased use of social media.

Though they might sound similar, but games and gamification are different. A simple way to differentiate between the two is that while games create an imaginary world where the learner gets immersed, gamification creates a game layer on top of the real-life activities using game elements such as points, badges, and leader-boards. Gamification rewards behaviour, and often offers rewards such as discounts or freebies that can be used in the real world. The novelty of gamification is not the idea of applying gaming elements to a real-life activity, but the seamless, ubiquitous and social application of these gaming elements. We carry our address book, e-mails, notes, calendar and so on, in one smartphone. Being placed in the same device where all this information resides, and which we carry everywhere we go, games can easily slip into our real-world activities. This is a real difference between the gamification mobile apps of the present times and all the past attempts at utilizing games and game elements for a real-world purpose. Commercial video games have been popular for years, owing to impressive graphics and sophisticated narratives. But the smartphone, mobile web, and social networks completely changed the location, mode and other game dynamics. With those three elements in place, games were transformed into portable activities, interwoven with reality.

The strengths of gamification and the derived benefits are many. When designing game-elements, keep certain issues in mind to create the right experience for the learners.

Transforming classroom activities into games:

Instructors on a usual basis, have a gamut of classroom assignments which they utilize to garner the leaners’ attention. These traditional assignments can be transformed into quests or short learning activities that take not more than 10–25 minutes to complete. Thus, a task that takes an hour in the classroom can be transformed into a series of short quests. With a number of short quest options open for the learners, it is an effective way to get their undivided attention for a longer span.

Offer generous experience points:

It is a good idea to associate each quest with a certain number of points, appropriate as per the level of difficulty. While completing 10 easier quests may earn certain points, completing one challenging quest can rack up double or more! The learners will thus, always aspire to reach the level that offers more points and learn from their experiences.

Provide choices:

It is also wise to build choice into the gaming structure. Permit students to select the quests they are most interested in pursuing, while making certain sections mandatory. These sections may include knowledge that is of absolute necessity with regards to the learning objective. But the rest of the sections can provide necessary choices to help the learners personalize their learning experience.

Include badges:

Badges are a popular type of gamification element which awards learners on skills mastered and are a keepsake. They are constant reminders of the effort and achievement which keeps the learners engaged.

Encourage peer collaboration:

Collaboration opportunities within the gamification elements can encourage learners to work together on quests. This is a common practice in commercial or entertainment games, where a team of gamers get together and pool resources for an epic win. In a similar way, learners can work and learn together in the gamified environment on educational quests.

Redefine failure:

In the gamified environment, failure is not negative, but rather an opportunity to learn from mistakes and correct them. Set the gamification environment to allow learners to repeat quests until they master the skill.

However, there are some factors to consider and choose wisely to avoid the pitfalls of gamification.

The perils of too many Choices:

Offering too many quests or options can overwhelm learners and is best avoided. Set an optimum number of choices that you want to offer the learners and do not exceed that, even if the quests seem interesting.

Opting out of Leader-board:

While leader-boards can motivate learners, it may foster some jealousies and rivalries as well. Advanced learners who are most likely to feature on the leader-boards might not even look at it as a great achievement, considering their advanced learning levels. They can be given the option of opting out of the leader board.

In conclusion, while some critics argue that the concept of gamification is not new at all, it is as old as the Olympic Games. The new era of technology-enabled learning has put gamification in the spotlight again. With the right mix of strategy and appropriate gaming technology, it is indeed the future of learning.

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is the Marketing Head at G-Cube. She loves exploring and blogging about innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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