The challenge of gamification: advice on how to quickly create engaging learning

Jo Cook reports on a Google Hangout debate about why the take up of gamification elements in learning solutions is a challenge.

The trend in learning and development gets a lot of traction, but in traditional training raises more questions.

Gamification expert, Professor Karl M. Kapp said on the Google Hangout: “It’s difficult to take the plunge. There can be a conservative corporate culture: what shall we gamify? How do I create it? There is hesitation about how to get started, but interest in it and it’s going to grow.” 

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Kapp added that, according to the Association for Talent Development, 20 per cent of corporations use games for learning. 

He also explained that “gamification is about using the elements that drive engagement, such as challenge and feedback loop. It doesn’t have to be a game! Games work for learning because they are engaging, not because they are fun. Think about engaging first then fun and it should work for any age group.”

In the live online discussion, with questions from people via Twitter, the topic of measurement was raised.

Emma Barrow, Senior Manager for Learning Solutions at Yorkshire Building Society Group, said: “Be subtle. One of the beauties of game based learning is its fun and they learn without knowing about it sometimes. If you hit them over the head with some measurement outside of the game, it can be detrimental. Make evaluation as enjoyable as the game itself, so it’s part of the experience.”

Kapp added: “With gamification we can track everything and map it to learning outcomes to know if they got it or didn’t get it. We can look at the strategy they employed, how often they went back to play it and more.

“The trouble with lots of evaluation of games, it’s played, it’s experiential and applied. Then we have a multiple choice question for the evaluation. We should have a performance evaluation, not just the knowledge. Carefully define success criteria upfront.”

The discussion turned to mobile use of gaming and there was advice to develop for the mobile market first and then other computer platforms will be catered for.

Barrow commented that “mobile [development and deployment] helps us get our content down to the absolute must. It helps us with our discipline with our subject matter experts.” There was the warning not to assuming that people want to use their devices for learning just because they have them and that corporate culture can impact this in a variety of ways.

Kapp continued the discussion by saying that “people want and need to be connected to other people. Traditional instructional design sucks the humanity out of content. Games add that back in and social is part of that.

“People want to create games to teach absolutely everything. It’s not the best way to do it, you should break it down into chunks and then string the games together into a certificate or badging or something. You don’t have to create a whole Halo style game.”

A question from the audience was “how do you make serious games and gamification work for older workforce used to a traditional way of learning?”

Sponge UK Game Developer Jason Butler answered by saying “make it about strategy not fast thinking. Keep the learning objectives at the forefront of your mind when designing the game any audience should plug into it.”

Barrow addressed the issue of weather L&D are getting the help they need in order to implement gamification properly: “They are getting help from suppliers, yes. Where they are struggling is internally. It’s part of a wider problem, it could be their status in the organisation and they are often seen as a service.

“Introducing games to people can be quite frightening and seen as a leap. Be brave, pick something someone won’t be scared about, like compliance, pick something fun like induction.”

Kapp finalised the discussion as part of Game Week, hosted by Sponge UK who create custom-made e-learning: “In order to learn we need to be engaged. We know lectures aren’t good for problem solving, creativity etc. Gamification takes more time but it’s better for learning outcomes. Faster isn’t always better.”

Read more about gamification:

David Bowman offers guidance on gamification and its role in social learning

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