​Learning and Development Gamification – Can learning really be effortless?

26th April 2016


 Learning and Development Gamification: Can learning really be effortless?

Gamification in learning and developmentSmartphones and tablet devices have become ubiquitous. All sectors of the population are now familiar with gaming, whether casual or hardcore. From Angry Birds to Call of Duty, people are discovering a sense of achievement through game playing.

Gaming methods, or gamification, is now incorporated into many of our everyday activities. For example, the reward badges launched by Foursquare and now found in many other applications.

Learning and Development Gamification

Quizzes and serious games are proliferating on social media, training and learning in general. According to the Cegos Observatory, 40% of the employees in France who took part in distance training in 2013 followed an online course involving serious games (an increase of 25% on 2010).

By grounding our learning on enjoyment, we sustain the idea not only that we can always have fun when we learn, but also that we can only learn if we are having fun.

Is this true or exaggerated?

Studies into the effectiveness of games for learning purposes show that they boost participants’ motivation and engagement (Jacobs & Dempsey, 1993; Hogle, 1996; Prensky; Pannese & Carlesi, 2007; Fenouillet, Kaplan & Yennek, 2009; BenZvi, 2010). Learning games also generate interest in the activity of learning (Randel, Morris, Douglas Wetzel & Whitehill, 1992).

According to the latest ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) study, gamification and serious games are very popular with participants: 49% of learners think gamification very significantly improved the quality of their training, while 53% had the same opinion for serious games.

Serious games are still expensive to develop,typically between £15,000 and £150,000. Audiences expect the same standards as produced by video game publishers. The games’ production quality (their storyboard, aesthetics, resolution and user-friendliness) are of the utmost importance for attracting and keeping the learner engaged.

So, can we and must we have fun to learn? Is effort a thing of the past?

Effort is central to the learning process

Learning implies a more or less deep-seated change of representations. An acquisition of knowledge. A foray into discomfort zones. Basically, learning always involves working on yourself.

The type of effort required of learners has changed! Learning raw data by heart is no longer the goal, they must be capable of finding knowledge when they need it. Michel Serre developed the notion of “memory outsourcing” to capture this idea. He says “new technologies have condemned us to becoming intelligent”.

Game playing is a key learning tool in classroom training. It can be used to energise a group. To step up the pace and to get participants more involved. It is particularly effective to use group puzzles to develop the spirit of cooperation. Puzzles can also be used to assimilate concepts or procedures. Role plays can be useful to simulate on-the-job situations, for example.

Incorporating learning mechanisms into game playing

The success of a serious game depends on several factors. The first thing, obviously, is to meet the criteria for a good video game.  An appealing plot, impeccable production, a streamlined game interface, and a level of game play that is accessible without being too easy. There is no room for mediocrity in virtualisation.

But for a serious game to be educational, it must also meet the criteria for an effective training programme. This means a scenario that evolves and that transposes the learner’s job situation in a realistic or metaphoric way. The plot or the associated mini-games should be divided up into sections. These sections must match the learning progression required to achieve the learning objectives. Chart progress regularly – by explicitly stating the knowledge or skills acquired.

Personal reward and emulation mechanisms in a group

Points, badges, medals… Foursquare-type personal reward mechanisms are good for encouraging learners’ efforts and marking individual progress throughout a learning programme, whether classroom or distance. There should be some means for learners to visualise their progress, such as a dashboard, for example.

Sociability and consideration are the key success factors for these mechanisms. Participants must compare and measure themselves against other participants (and sometimes even challenge another learner), in a good-natured way. Regularly remind participants of the desired learning objective. Do not allow learners to be drawn into fierce and ultimately sterile competition.

In conclusion:

Technological advances and changes in society are creating new challenges for training managers and HR managers. Learners are comparing their training experience with what they see in everyday life, in their personal sphere. To stand out and make an impact, it’s imperative that the learning experience matches or exceeds these external influences.