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How To Transform Training With Gamification

9th Nov 2017
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Don’t confuse gamification with turning learning into a game. The latter often falls flat and results in learning experiences that are cringeworthy and a bit childish. The former, on the other hand, is a strategy that has been proven effective in the classroom and the workplace. In fact, a Colorado Technical University case study showed that gamification increased participation by 29-45%.

Clearly gamification has a positive impact. Let’s take a look at exactly what gamification is. Then, we’ll outline some strategies on using it to transform your corporate training efforts.

If Gamified Learning Isn’t Playing a Game, What is it?

Gamification is using certain elements of gaming in order to make learning more interesting, to keep students motivated, and to improve participation and retention. They work on our naturally competitive natures along with our need to achieve and earn tangible rewards. When you design your next corporate training program, consider implementing some of these gamification strategies.

Give Competitive Extroverts A Chance to Shine With Leaderboards

Leaderboards provide a great incentive for outgoing and competitive types to compete with one another, and show off their victories. You’ll be surprised at how motivated many of your team members will become just for the opportunity to earn a top ranking position on your leaderboard.

However, to make the process enjoyable for everyone, it’s probably a good idea to make leaderboard appearance voluntary. The less outgoing may feel  uncomfortable with the attention or outright competitiveness of it all.

Consider limiting leaderboard placement to those who have met certain milestones or for a certain top number of learners. Nobody wants to show up on the leaderboard as being in last place or embarrassingly behind the group.

Get Buy-In by Connecting Strategies With Business Needs And Outcomes

Gamification can be fun, but corporate learning is a serious matter. Students and management may feel as if using these strategies is a bit silly or could diminish the effectiveness of training. Be prepared to explain how you are going to implement these strategies, and show how business training needs will still be met.

For example, you can demonstrate that by earning badges or rewards, learners must prove they have met the requirements of regulatory compliance training. You can show proof of outcomes by creating testing instruments that prove mastery of subject matter.

Use a Transparent Points or Rewards System

Even if you don’t tie achievements within your elearning to bonuses raises or promotions, chances are people are going to take things seriously. There may even be hard feelings if they perceive unfair treatment or that others have an unfair advantage.

The key to nipping this in the bud is transparency. Whether you use a points system, badges, or something else, every participate should know what is earned by completing which tasks. There should be no room for anyone to think the system is arbitrary. A scoring system might look something like this.

  • Watching 30 Minutes of Training Videos = 5 Points
  • Passing Unit Test = 10 Points
  • Completing Training Course = 25 Points
  • 10 Points = Accomplishment Badge
  • 25 Points = Increase in Character Rank
  • 50 Points = Level Up!

Allow For The Occasional Extrinsic Reward

The purpose of gamification is to use intrinsic motivation to turn students into actively participating learners. However, that doesn’t mean that extrinsic rewards have no place. Sometimes it’s motivating to offer a small reward or tangible item to students who are high achievers.

Keep in mind that these don’t need to be extravagant. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Think in terms of putting the top 10 percent of achievers into a drawing for ten dollar gift certificate to a local coffee shop. If you’d rather give something that emphasizes fun (and funny!) over monetary value, consider awarding personalized certificates. These can provide learners with a sense of accomplishment as well. Free certificate templates can be customized to meet your team’s needs.

Let Learners Personalize Their Experience

The learning experience can be made much more meaningful if learners are allowed to personalize their experience as much as possible. Allow them to select a character type, name, and avatar for example.

If training goals and requirements allow for it, you can even let participants personalize their learning by determining how and when they will mast each required element. For example, if your course has five units you could allow students to pick the order in which they will tackle those units.

Use Technology to Create Easter Eggs

In video gaming easter eggs are little bonuses that players can uncover by accomplishing certain things, or by engaging in random actions that trigger the release of the easter egg. This could mean opening up a hidden level of a game, uncovering a special reward, or even being awarded with a humorous joke or video.

The good news is that you can do the same thing in elearning to make experiences more interesting or to even provide a bit of a fun diversion. For example, if a student earns a 100% on a quiz you can open up a bonus round of questions enabling them to earn even more points. You can also use augmented reality images to give students access to videos or other additional information.

Incorporate a Story Into The Learning

Storytelling makes things more interesting. Even more importantly, it gives learners a sense of purpose when they have a role in that story. If you’re designing a corporate training course, try to conceive an overall story. Then create learning modules that follow the plot you have created. Students can play roles that align with their duties and responsibilities, and what they need to accomplish in the training.

Imagine that you’re creating a training course for a customer service call center team at one of those places where people order gourmet meals online and then cook them at home. So, you create a basic story outline that involves a hungry customer lost in the process of ordering a meal. Students may play the role of sherpas that mentor and educate the consumer, wizards that fix the customer’s problems, and guides who send the customer to the right sources of help.

Test Various Scenarios

Although it’s usually worthwhile, gamification does add a layer of complexity. This can leave room for unexpected results. Students may find opportunities to exploit ways to earn points dishonestly, or they may run into unexpected roadblocks and frustrations. It’s crucial to test your course before releasing it to students.

Think in terms of things learners may do intentionally or unintentionally that could cause issues. For example, what happens if someone attempts to skip a training module? Will a user still be able to earn points if they have to repeat a chapter in your course twice?

Give Learners a Place to Share Their Accomplishments

Does your company have an intranet or internal social network? If so, you may be able to make use of that to give students a place to broadcast their progress and accomplishments. Another option is to share scores and other accomplishments via company newsletters or employee profile pages.

Collect Feedback From Learners And Their Managers

Chances are, your first attempt at gamifying corporate training won’t be a resounding success or failure. The important point is to collect as much feedback as possible in order to identify points of strength and weakness. The data you gather will help you continue to improve your course offerings and better incorporate gamification in the future.

From students,  you want to know if they found the coursework interesting and engaging, if they thought the storyline was relevant, and if they found the entire process motivating. From supervisors and managers, you’ll want to explore whether or not students are successful at taking what they have learned and applying it.

This is clearly an effective training strategy. By applying the tips outlined here, you can transform your corporate training strategy into something that is engaging and results oriented.

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