Gamification of Learning in a Corporate Setting

Recently I became curious on how to introduce gamification into a corporate environment.  Many studies have found gamification to be effective, stating significant increases in learner motivation, engagement and knowledge retention.  But where do you start in a corporate environment?  In this post I reflect on some of my findings when I researched techniques and tips to enter the world of gamification in a corporate setting.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is, stated simply, using characteristics and mechanisms of games outside of the context of a game.  In other words, it is not a self-contained game.  It uses elements of games for other purposes.  I am particularly interested in the gamification of learning.  However, another example of using gamification would be achieving business goals (e.g. sales goals).

What are Game Elements?

Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah et al (Gamification of Education: A Review of Literature) conducted a literature review and identified eight game design elements that can be used singly or in combination in gamification.  The eight game design elements are:

  1. Points
  2. Levels/Stages
  3. Badges
  4. Leaderboards
  5. Prizes and Rewards
  6. Progress Bars
  7. Storyline
  8. Feedback

The game design elements listed above can understandably achieve learner engagement and motivation, especially when competition is woven into the design.  I think there is a need for extensive analysis and planning in the design phase of gamification to successfully attach meaning to the various elements.  For example, let’s consider awarding points.  Racking up points alone would likely be less effective than combining points with a leaderboard, so that an employee can see where their point balance ranks compared with the points balances of other employees.  That could dramatically increase motivation because now it has become competitive.  Take it a little further and attach prizes and rewards (or recognition), and that would likely be even more engaging and motivating.  Also, worth mentioning is another of these eight game design elements- an effective storyline.  With realistic examples, scenarios, and risk-free simulations, an employee is more likely to retain more of the content being presented.

When can gamification be used?

I found this post from eLogic Learning to be very helpful in understanding that gamification is not always a viable solution: Quick Guide To Gamification for eLearning.

There is a grid in the post that outlines when it makes sense to use gamification and when it doesn’t make sense.  To summarize this grid, much thought needs to be used when deciding which type of learning materials could benefit from gamification.  An example provided in the grid is taking dated materials and inserting only one of the game elements mentioned above.  It is not very likely to be a successful implementation of gamification.  On the other hand, it makes more sense when gamification characteristics are thoughtfully integrated into content where it is feasible and logical.  The example in the post is an already-existing training module where the scenario-based quiz is converted into an interactive simulation with feedback.

Other things I have learned include not focusing solely on the “fun” factor.  Instead, focus on useful techniques that can be used to engage and motivate while accomplishing the learning goals.  Also, forcing employees to take part in gamification could have a negative effect, rather than achieving the desired outcomes.

What next?

After you have identified learning materials and courses where gamification can be used, the next steps are to clearly define your goals and decide how you will measure the successes and failures of gamification.  Without metrics, there will be problems pinpointing where improvements need to be made.

In 7 Gamification Strategies For Corporate Training, the first strategy listed is to establish specific learning outcomes.  The post outlines these specific questions:

  • What do I want my employees to learn?
  • How will gamification enhance their learning?
  • How will I know that my employees have achieved mastery?

Answering these questions and designing for the desired outcomes will help you get a great start on using gamification in your corporation.

Wrap Up

Gamification of training and the achievement of business goals can foster motivation, engagement, and knowledge retention.  However, it should not only be fun, but also result in measurable success in learning and achievement.  Not all training is well-suited for gamification; careful consideration must be made in deciding when and where to incorporate it.  Using game design elements can increase your chances of success in using gamification as a tool in designing learning modules and materials.

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