Game on? The use of gamification in eLearning
Many HR and L&D professionals face the problem of ensuring that their training and learning programmes maintain learner engagement and motivation. Gamification has been regularly recognised as an opportunity to help solve this problem.
In this post, we consider whether gamification can enhance the learning experience. Before we consider if it is game on for gamification in learning, it is necessary to look at what gamification essentially is.
What is Gamification?
Games and game-like components have been invading the learning realm for quite some time now. Although its definition differs, for the most part, gamification in learning is the use of game mechanics to ‘gamify’ content to engage and entice users by encouraging and rewarding use.
Although Nick Pelling first coined the term “gamification” in 2002, it has actually been around for some time – 40 years in fact, with many organisations already using features in their work from video games.
Indeed, it can be said that loyalty programs, target-based bonuses and employee-of-the-month schemes are all examples of how gamification as an incentive to growth has been around for a long time too.
Examples of gamification in learning include:
- Training: technology giants, Microsoft uses gamification to train users of Microsoft Office on how to use the new ribbon interface effectively.
- Education: New York based school – Quest to Learn, advocates, game-based learning to make education more engaging and relevant to children.
- Employee productivity: Management tool Arcaris uses gamification to improve productivity in call centres.
Now that we know what gamification is and where it is being used in learning, it is necessary to see whether it actually works.
Does Gamification in learning work?
The gamification of eLearning unquestionably presents unique possibilities for learning technologists as they explore additional ways to educate and importantly engage learners.
It is widely recognised that adding interactive activities in eLearning are no longer optional extras, but essential to effective learning. However, it is important that the addition of game-like elements into the eLearning programme is only applied in the context of the programme that allows the learner the opportunity to apply their retained knowledge to live situations, rather than distract and dazzle learners with wizardry from the overall learning goal.
Frequently, my social media feeds are inundated with social games, although irritating at times, there is no escaping the surge in popularity of online gaming and social media. The site, DevHub, reported an eightfold increase in the number of users completing their sites after adding gamification elements to the process. If there was any indication that the gamification was a fad, according to research from M2 it’s here not only stay but increase in its use.
“The global market for gamification apps and services will grow to $2.8 billion by 2016.”
The enthusiasm for gamification has however met with some criticism. Game designers Radoff and Robertson have criticised gamification for excluding aspects like storytelling, an important element of learning. Whilst university researcher Deterding has argued that current approaches to gamification create an artificial sense of achievement.
What does the successful application of gamification in eLearning look like?
- Gamification isn’t about games, but the learners.
- It isn’t about knowledge but behaviour.
- It extracts the motivational techniques out of games and uses them for life-applicable learning.
- It allows quick feedback of progress and communications of goals that need to be accomplished.
Gamification is made appealing for eLearning because of our human tendencies. On the whole, we generally enjoy actively participating in engaging and competing with others. Gamification allows learners to connect and learn together with playful applications and incentives, particularly when there are engaging game design elements used.
Today’s learners are however no longer placated with trivial reward systems but rather sophisticated experiences that hold real value. Organisations embracing the gamification in learning can stand to see learners more engaged and retain more information, but only if it is applied aptly to the eLearning programme, achieving the overall core learning objectives.
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