Since video games were invented in the late 1960s, teachers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs have been looking for ways to incorporate the engagement and persistent attraction of the gaming experience into employee training, formal education systems, and skill building exercises.
Some practices have proven to be better than others when it comes to “making learning fun.” There are some features of games that translate well to training and there are others that can often be more of a hindrance than a benefit. Distracting students from what they are supposed to be learning isn’t helpful. Below are some ways corporations are advancing and accelerating their training through “gamification” or adding game-like incentives to student achievement.
At its core, gamification is about competition. Either the player is competing with themselves, or they are competing with other players or teams. Getting more points, reaching a goal, and beating the best time are all examples of game concepts that have virtually a one-to-one relationship with their educational or training counterparts.
In fact, competition by itself does not necessarily imply a game. There are numerous examples of competitions that are not games. What “gamification” does is substitute the game for the learning context so students can learn without focusing just on learning.
An avatar is a symbol for something. In a game, it can be used to represent the player, or it can be used to represent some other token or entity in the game. When a player is given an avatar to control, very interesting psychological things happen which leads to opportunities for training, learning, and advancement.
Avatars can lead to “immersion” in the game, which is desirable because it represents the complete substitution of the game for the real world as a context for advancement and training. This is one of the most powerful mechanisms gamification brings to both e-learning and corporate training.
The possibility of earning something through completion of a task is a powerful force in almost all of human experience. From early ages, children are taught that doing the right thing will lead to a reward. This remains true in the workplace, where employees will often work many extra hours, produce elaborate projects, or even volunteer for additional work if they believe there is a reward waiting for them.
The gamification equivalent is also very popular, especially when it is implemented as part of a talent management system. Sure, you can earn points by finishing game tasks, but if a student can get a tangible achievement, it makes the completion of that task far more attractive. The game industry is replete with examples of achievement-based progression. Training and education can benefit from these as well.
4. Complex tasks
In many of the more “serious” game genres, players are called upon to perform significantly complex tasks in order to succeed. Often they must cooperate with others, establish long-term plans, evaluate progress and analyze failures and work often for weeks or months to complete their goal.
While this kind of high-intensity activity might have limited utility in some contexts, for others it can be both a productive process and a powerful foundation for learning complex procedures, multiple-phase projects, and a variety of other advanced tasks. It is likely to be time-consuming to build a curriculum around this kind of training, but depending on the subject matter, it can be worth it.
Like the cloud, gamification can be misinterpreted as the answer to all problems. It is a powerful concept. If it is introduced correctly and it is properly managed, it is possible to improve and accelerate both corporate training and education for many different kinds of employees.