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Gamification: why playing games could be the future of training and e-learning

Gamification has become an increasingly important element within the training industry, one that can often mean the difference between success and failure. In recent years, looking critically at the learning outcomes of training and adapting those outcomes accordingly, has become extremely vital. Organisations no longer require an endless accumulation of general knowledge, but the focus is now rather on skills that help them to save money, decrease downtime and increase effectiveness.

Ever-changing compliance regulations means that organisations need to invest continuously in on-going training and find ways to cut costs within a tough economic climate without sacrificing on quality. Immersive, well-designed e-learning courses are able to provide quality training at a fraction of the cost and they are often available off the shelf.

Welcome to the age of gamification

Over the past few years, gamification has taken the world by storm and, according to the analyst company Gartner, more than 50% of businesses that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes by 2015. Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game dynamics in order to engage audiences and solve problems. 3D characters can be integrated into e-learning courseware by tapping into the tools that video game developers use to make games interactive and stimulating. With the current technology at our disposal, learning can be as much fun as playing an Xbox or PlayStation title.

According to research by M2, the gamification market was expected to reach $242-million by the end of 2012 and climb to around $2.8 billion by 2016. In the first quarter of 2013, $1.37 billion was spent on video and pc games by consumers in the US alone. Psychologists believe that the brain’s built-in ‘reward system’ is what keeps gamers coming back for more, and this same principle can be used for training in the workplace.

Gamers are rewarded for their progress through virtual treasures, added strength, points or other bonuses, depending on the game. Successful e-learning courses are designed around the same principles of positive reinforcement and immersive content. According to Gartner, for a gamified application to truly engage its audience, three key ingredients must be present and correctly positioned: motivation, momentum and meaning.

Using gamification in training can increase its effectiveness by as much as 50%, and even if industries are not looking to immediately embark on up-skilling programmes, topics such as mandatory safety training can also be more easily explained and absorbed by employees in a gaming scenario, which will have a significant impact on the company’s health and safety record in the long-term.

The rise of e-learning

E-learning has the incredible ability to overcome major challenges by using a combination of visual and auditory components to deliver the learning message, rather than just written words on a page. Gameplay promotes collaboration and strategy skills while also aligning passion and commitment to competition. Designers are used to graphically present concepts which replace paragraphs of difficult text and animators create moving images to guide the learner visually and dynamically through concepts or to virtually display how something works and moves. Gamification is an incredible tool that we have at our disposal to overcome language and literacy barriers, irrespective of differing education levels, because it takes the onus away from text-based learning and allows most of the learning to take place while you are having fun.

“Gamification has been going on in the workplace for a long time. What’s really changed in the last three years has been the new set of tools, technologies, design disciplines and frameworks that are allowing us to do gamification in the workplace in a more scalable and repeatable way. It’s also about understanding the evolving science of human engagement and interaction in a way that produces better long-term results,” says Gabe Zichermann, chair of GSummit, author, entrepreneur and highly rated public speaker.

In the day and age in which we live, technology is the motivating force that drives workplace training. Continuous training brings about significant increase in employee performance, which directly impacts productivity and profitability. The purpose of any corporate training programme is to help employees achieve competency and the skillset required for the job at hand. Gamification allows learners to have fun while attaining information, and encourages them to share that information with their peers. It can transform workplace training into something that is not only useful but also enjoyable.

Author | Kirsty Chadwick

Kirsty Chadwick
As an experienced educator, public speaker and leader, Kirsty Chadwick has spent almost two decades involved in the field of education. Founder of The Training Room Online, which designs and develops innovative tailor-made e-learning material for the private and public sectors, Kirsty has trained, developed and inspired people across... More
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  • Paul Wilkinson

    Another great article about gamification. I am pleased that there is more and more attention being given to gamification as a valuable learning and organizational change instrument…..however I feel it a shame that everytime somebody writes an article about gamification it automatically focuses on the video, digital, electronic side of things.

    The definition used in the article is ‘Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game dynamics in order to engage audiences and solve problems’ it does not say gamification is the process of using computers for the engagement. Business simulation games are also forms of dynamic, classroom based games which can be used to engage teams to solve prolems. Business simulations are also played in schools to help students understand and translate theory into practice. One response from a high school student was ‘I learnt more in this 4 hour game about team working, making agreements, dealing with conflicts’ than I have in 6 months of classroom theory……and there wasn’t a single computer or smartphone anywhere in sight……it was back to basics, social, human interaction.

    My point being: gamification is a great, powerful, literally ‘game changing’ concept in learning and behavior change, but let’s broaden it’s scope. It’s not just about technology enablement.

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  • Ptotemlearning

    I completely agree with you, Paul. Offline games are another way to look at this concept.

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