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Gamification In eLearning | What Works And What Doesn't?

Corey Bleich
Nov 08, 2017

Professional development has come a long way since hundred-pound Employee Handbooks and 45-minute PowerPoint presentations. Gamification in eLearning is one of the most cutting-edge ways to make your employee training more effective and engaging. And, we’ll say it, just a little bit fun. Gamification is only as successful, however, as the planning behind it. Here’s how to make it work for your company.

What is gamification?

Gamification is a simple concept that can produce big results. Incorporated into other eLearning platforms, gamification takes the elements of games (e.g. points, leveling, and leaderboards) and uses them to motivate and train at the same time. Other elements of gamification in learning include:

  • Competition: Employees can compete against themselves, the game, or other employees
  • Game mechanics: Instead of straight facts and data, gamification uses a game-based problem-solving approach
  • Story: Some games use stories with the user embedded in the plot

Gamification in eLearning can be remarkably effective. A study from the University of Colorado found that users of gamification of learning scored higher in fact- and skills-based assessments of learning. Retention also improved when gamification was used in the workplace.

In the future, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may also become a regular part of gamification in business. These two types of gamification put the user in an entirely different place (VR) or augment their surroundings (AR) to offer just-in-time training simulations and problem-solving situations. Gamification using VR and AR is a great way to place users in high-stakes situations for training purposes, without worrying about their safety.

How does gamification in eLearning work?

Because it is such a flexible concept, gamification in eLearning has multiple applications in many different industries.

Use of an avatar

An avatar allows employees to place themselves in a game. This type of game can be very helpful when everyone in the company needs to undergo a new training at different levels.

Customer service and call center employees might benefit from this approach as they learn about the company, its products, and its approach from the ground up. Recruitment videos may also use avatars.

Simulations

As discussed above, gamification using VR and AR are great ways to teach hazardous situations without placing employees in harm’s way. First responders in the early stages of their training can use gamification in this way to make decisions or react to emergencies, but simulations are also effective for training in call centers and healthcare.

Flight simulators are a well-known and commonly used method of training pilots in both government and the private sector.

Task-oriented approach

This type of gamification in eLearning uses a specific, task-oriented approach to teach employees a specific process. This could be something as simple as teaching a new plumber how to hook up a water heater and as complex as developing a new system of resource management.

Users are assigned a task and given tools and options to complete it. When an approach won’t work, the user goes back to the beginning. When it does, new tasks can be added on.

Gamification in assessments

For companies that need a quick overview of what their employees know, either in theory or in practice, gamified assessments can provide a snapshot in a low-pressure setting.

Some of these applications can be developed in such a way that employees don’t even realize they are being assessed. This is not to be done in a “gotcha” way; rather, managers can use this data to structure relevant future trainings and clarify anything that is widely misunderstood.

What makes gamification in the workplace successful?

Gamification in eLearning is only as successful as the planning behind it. Here are five ways to make gamification in the workplace effective.

1. Identify your learning objective and set a timeframe to achieve it

What do you want your employees to know, understand, or be able to do, and by when? Clearly identifying your goals for employee training and the timeframe for getting it done is a crucial first step.

2. Figure out how you will measure progress towards the goal

How will you know if your gamified eLearning materials are working? It’s important to figure out effective ways to monitor progress both within the game and on the job.

You may have someone on your team who can measure this progress, or you can work with a learning professional to identify key metrics to measure.

3. Identify your players

Will your players actually play the game in the manner you intend for the target result? If you build it and they don’t come, you must go back to the drawing board to engage your users wherever they are.

4. For longer games, create a community

Do your players interact outside of the game? This is very important if the gamification strategy is longer term. Use online forums and IRL meetings to keep interest and engagement high, long-term.

5. Make time to play

Is everyone participating? Gamification in the workplace is only as effective as the number of people who are actually using it. Build in times for employees to interact with the game, such as check-ins and posting of pictures. Also, don’t make it drudgery. Give them resources in time and space to enjoy the training. They shouldn’t have to worry about other deadlines when in the game space.

How To Make Gamification in eLearning Successful

What are some successful gamification examples in business?

Pilots famously use simulations to land a virtual plane before taking on the real thing, but there are plenty of other examples in business.

Cisco

Cisco wanted their employees to become better at social media, but the 46 courses already in existence were confusing and had no set starting point. Gamification allowed different levels of employees to participate in team challenges and earn certification in three levels of social media certification.

Deloitte

When executives were hesitant to start leadership training, Deloitte gamified their approach and offered badges and certifications to motivate upper level management. Training engagement and completion both increased by over 50%.

These two examples are only a glimpse into gamification in business.

Are there disadvantages of gamification?

As with anything, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in employee training. Gamification is no different. If the elements of gamification are too distracting from the actual content, then a more subdued approach might be necessary.

For example, some companies deal with regulations that change regularly. There is no need to make a game of a simple daily report, and badges and points may be too much of a good thing.

Likewise, if your corporate culture does well with eLearning in general but doesn’t seem to mesh with the idea of gamification, don’t force that square peg into the round hole. Go with what works because it works, not because it’s trendy.

Creating your own professional development is more than child’s play. We can help with gamification for eLearning that meets your needs. Give us a call!

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