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Gamification in modern day learning and project management

24th Nov 2014
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Glyn Davies gives us some gamification advice for project management success.

Techniques borrowed from games are now increasingly boosting corporate training. Research company Gartner has predicted [1] that more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will ‘gamify’ those processes by 2015. Gamification is the use of game design elements and mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. Organisations with a lot of young workers are turning to gamification as a way of engaging Generation Y employees who expect fast-paced mobile and social interaction and enjoy computer games.

In particular, gamification techniques have the potential to benefit project managers from all industries. Projects and games share many traits. They are usually driven by goals, well-defined roles and clear metrics on progression through a defined lifecycle with milestones. Projects and computer games, in particular, are both scenario-based, whether building Sim City or the business’s latest product.

Gamification responds to basic human needs and desires, including competition, self expression, status and achievement. Deployed effectively, gamified learning platforms can support managers in increasing engagement and motivation within their teams, resulting in stronger and more effective project teams and performance.

Blended learning

Gamification works best blended with existing training techniques. A gamified approach alone would often not be enough to cover large amounts of detailed content or to meet complex assessment needs measured against a syllabus. However, it might have a key role to play in preparing learners for tests, and scores from gamified tests could even form part of the test and assessment process. The game element may be woven into the learning, perhaps providing a scenario that sits alongside the core learning that a learner can return to at stages throughout the course.

In a typical blended learning approach, a learner might carry out some pre-classroom elearning followed by a face-to-face classroom session; this could be supported by gamified tests. Follow-on revision notes and supporting video, sent to the learner’s mobile devices to make sure he or she has understood the training. Gamification provides a very useful tool to make large tranches of elearning content more accessible by helping vary the delivery of the training. It can also create an environment where learners feel less pressured and are willing to try things out.

Trainers who have introduced gamification techniques in to their learning portfolio have had documented success. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) invested just over £100,000 to set up its own gamification system that would support internal innovation [2]. In the first year the gamified platform was delivered, £20m was generated from successful ideas developed through the platform. The system creates a stock market scenario – learners are encouraged to propose their ideas on the platform and ‘shares’ can be bought by fellow employees if they consider the idea to have potential. Users are engaged and feel more able to share ideas in a 'game' environment.

Gamification in the workplace has the potential to be a very useful tool in learning delivery. It is especially well aligned to supporting project and programme management goals. However gamification is rarely of value on its own and it will deliver the best results in a complex learning environment when trainers and developers pay careful attention to the design of a blended learning programme and the part gamification may play within that.

Top tips to deploy a gamification strategy within a complex learning environment

  • Make sure you understand the demographics of your learners – what is their age range and what will engage them? Older learners may simply not understand a complex game format that would be very familiar to a 20 year old, for example.

  • Align gamification to learning objectives and make it measurable. Gamified learning has the advantage of being measurable and it is easy to set up metrics that measure how long a person spent on the game, how much progress they made through the game and what results they got. Results in gamified tests may be measured against final exam results to establish how successful gamified units were in preparing the learner.

  • Keep it simple. Game elements that engage people the most are often the simplest and most intuitive, such as the widely understood ‘snakes and ladders’ format.

  • Make it fun. Aim to engage people and make them smile. If they enjoy learning something, they are more likely to remember it. Boost the social element – games could be linked to various social media platforms for example.

  • Use gamification as part of a blended learning approach. Offer a mix of media, including audio and video, and face-to-face learning too to address the learning styles of all your learners.

[1] ‘Introduction to Gamification,’ APM and ILX.

[2] ‘Gartner says by 2015, more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes’, press release 12 April 2011. www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1629214

Glyn Davies BA (Hons) is Product Development Manager with ILX Group the global Best Practice learning company. Glyn joined ILX in 2003 and has led the design team since 2005 driving all the innovation in ILX’s course portfolio

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