Business training is a very dynamic field and with the rapid globalization leading to companies hiring people in all corners of the world, e-learning is starting to be the norm rather than a once in while solution for training. Designing online courses can prove to be both an exciting and a daunting task, as getting learners engaged is a lot harder without a trainer in the room who can ‘feel’ the crowd and throw in the occasional ice-breaker.
Luckily, there is an almost bullet proof method to chieve the same results online: gamification.
4 Reasons why you should include games in business training
Before you dismiss it as yet another made-up nonsense for the young (and very restless generation – they will not stick with any job if they are unhappy), gamification does not mean turning serious academic material into games. Game mechanics, however, prove very useful when your goal is to create engaging content that facilitates information retention.
There are at least four reasons why the use of games in online courses, as they help to satisfy four common learning needs.
Illustrating the “why” of a process, a policy, or a procedure
There is nothing that generates more headaches when you are in a new job than the task of getting familiarized with all the policies and procedures of your place of employment. They seem long, complicated and sometimes downright silly. And most often than not they are written in something that seems alien vocabulary rather than the plain and simple vernacular you speak.
As an Instructional Designer, I’m certain you have at least once struggled with the internal learning policy of the business. It’s hard to remember and apply something that does not make much sense. There’s why, using gamification as a way of presenting the above mentioned procedures will help illustrate the reasons behind it.
Applying game mechanics to specific company procedure requires:
- establishing rules for players and the system (computer games);
- ensuring interactivity with other players, the game environment, or both;
- putting feedback mechanisms in place in order to provide players with clear cues on how they are performing;
- stating the end result in a quantifiable outcome (you win, you lose, you hit the target, etc.), as this often triggers an emotional reaction in learners.
Giving learners practice and feedback
The main reason computer games are so popular and engaging is that they give immediate feedback and do-overs. The players know right away if they have passed the level or failed to do so and get the chance to try again.
…Until they get it right.
For learning, repetition is paramount. It’s never sufficient to just go through the entire body of information. Being able to apply it, get some sort of feedback on how you are doing and being allowed to go back and re-assess your performance ensures the information will not only be thoroughly understood but it will also stick.
Both positive and negative feedback brings about an emotional reaction and emotion always generates memory. It appears that emotionally charged situations can lead us to create longer lasting memories of the event: “When we are led to experience feelings of delight, anger or other states of mind, vivid recollections are often more possible than during everyday situations in which we feel little or no emotional attachment to an event.”
Providing a common experience to springboard discussion or learning readiness
Today’s world is a sharing one. People discuss everything from the best Shepard’s Pie recipe to politics, religion and the main events of the day. With high speed internet available practically everywhere it is easy for individuals with the same interests, likes or dislikes to congregate and discuss their experiences and ideas.
Creating engaging, gamified online courses that employees from all departments and geographical areas can attend and backing them up with online spaces to allow them to share experience will lead to learning long after the course has been completed.
In a classroom environment, learners get to talk to each other ‘live’ and that helps clear out aspects and bring added value to the content. With online courses, discussion groups do this job and it is even more effective since people can start discussions when they feel they are necessary not in the set time allocated by the trainer on the timeline.
Creating the hook that helps mentally engage learners
Probably the best perk of gamification is that it makes any course engaging and fun.
Employees are almost never given credit for the time and effort they put into learning. Using leaderboards, badges, certificates and all the other reward mechanisms of games takes care of this issue. Feeling that they have something to gain (other than information and skill) will keep learners interested and involved in the online content rather than just going through the clicks waiting for that final “thank you” to save them.
As one Forbes article eloquently states: “Gamification awakens the same human instincts that drive people to compete in sports and other fun activities. These elements include: desire for competition, recognition, achievement, status and altruism. Building self-esteem and re-enforcing it with peer recognition is a powerful means of unlocking motivation. Gamification leads players on an experience to help them to achieve their goals, and while that’s important, it’s not entirely new. The real news with gamification is the digitalization of motivation, and in the near term it will become a key part of every organization’s digital business strategy”.
So, what are you waiting for?
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.