For instructional designers, facilitators and teachers, a successful lesson is all about delivering an engaging learning experience, and there are numerous strategies they can implement to achieve this.
Gamification is one such approach becoming increasingly popular in the workplace learning sector. The concept is exactly what it sounds like: the application of typical elements of game playing, such as point scoring or competition with others, to other areas of activity to encourage increased engagement.
Engagement in learning is crucial. When new information is presented in an interesting, attention-grabbing way, this can be the difference between the learner being able to apply their new found knowledge, or forgetting it completely after completing the course.
In this article, we are going to look at how gamification can be beneficial in the workplace and where it is embedded into the design of a typical online course.
Does gamification improve learning outcomes?
While gamification undoubtedly makes the learning process more fun, employers want to know whether it impacts upon learning outcomes, and subsequently, outcomes for their organisation.
In his Ted Talk entitled, ‘The Power of Gamification in Education’, teacher Scott Herbert explains that the early years curriculum in countries such as Canada, the UK and Australia is focused on play, fun and discovery-based learning, which is eliminated as students get older in favour worksheets, straight rows and regime.
He argues that the majority of workplaces today are moving away from this highly ordered way of operating, and opting for ways to become more creative. By eliminating the preference for rote memorization of information and ‘gamifying’ the curriculum, he believes that creativity and innovation would flourish, and better prepare students for their careers.
Taking this into account, gamification of learning in the workplace could potentially help to unravel the structured ways of thinking fresh employees are leaving school with, and help them to rediscover their creative side at work.
Research has also identified the gamification of workplaces as a promising strategy for promoting wellbeing, when levels of stress, a reduced sense of community, reduced loyalty and rapid changes in the workforce are all factors affecting organisations today.
From an HR perspective, gamification enables teams to deliver feedback on learning in real time and monitor learners’ progress. It is an objective and fair system for measuring performance, and can make giving feedback a less emotionally-charged process.
Additionally, it can offer transparency on making progress at work. Each employee is offered a clear pathway to success and can autonomously manage which areas they need to develop in most.
How is workplace learning ‘gamified’?
As anybody familiar with gaming will know, games are often based on a narrative, with a protagonist leading the action. Learning can be structured in a similar way, with the participant moving through a series of scenarios to reach a desired outcome, making directional choices along the way.
This narrative structure helps participants to stay engaged because people are highly attuned to storytelling. Engaged learners are far more likely to retain information and be able to apply it in the workplace.
2. VR elements
VR is now becoming an increasingly popular tool for workplace learning, particularly in the area of compliance. Go1 now offers a VR compliance package for the mining industry, in which learners can go on a virtual tour of a mine before even entering one. Each lesson looks very much like a game, in which the participant is learning about best practice for safety.
With online learning courses, modules can be structured in the same way as the different levels of a game. In order for participants to gain access to the next level of learning content, they need to complete the stage they are currently engaged with to a high enough standard. The ability to progress to the next level might take the form of a quiz or other demonstration of understanding.
4. Interactive components
Many online learning courses offer interactive tools to give participants a real-time learning experience. This often takes the form of interactive discussion with other learners, which can be built in to an LMS.
This is similar to a game in that learners can work as part of a team to complete an activity or create something new. Discussions also make for a more dynamic learning experience, and help learners to move away from activities which fail to promote deep learning.
The course might also set an activity which requires the learner to complete a task at work, or apply their new found knowledge. This extension of learning to practical situations helps to embed learning and put it into context.
5. Points and badges
Points or badges can also motivate learners to stay engaged. Many apps (for both children and adults!) are designed in this way, giving participants recognition for the number of times they have completed an activity or engaged with content. This activates the reward centres in the brain and encourages participants to progress to the next stage to earn another reward.
It is important to note that these are different to awards or credentials a learner might receive for completing a course. Points or badges are usually awarded during the learning process for completing parts of the content or successfully or demonstrating understanding.
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