Magazine article Talent Development

Breaking Through: What Is Gamified Learning, and How Can It Improve Curricula?

Magazine article Talent Development

Breaking Through: What Is Gamified Learning, and How Can It Improve Curricula?

Article excerpt

The screen flashes. A student has just answered a quiz question correctly and is rewarded with points. Maybe the student gets more points for answering quickly. The next question appears on the screen, and a classroom full of rapt learners rushes to figure out the answer.

These flashy experiences have become prominent learning tools during the past few years, as the gamification of learning is seen as a potential path forward for the talent development industry. Gamification can include the addition of competitive quizzes, games with leaderboards that pit you against your colleagues, and the addition of music and countdowns.

Besides the surface-level excitement of learning through a game-the immediate emotional response-are there real learning advantages to be gained from this method? And who's on the cutting edge of gamified learning?

Successful gamification

If a gamified learning scenario is going to have any lasting impact, it has to be well-designed.

"First and foremost, make sure the game is addressing a real business need," says Karl Kapp, assistant director of the Institute for Interactive Technologies and professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University. "This should go without saying, but games need to focus on organizational needs. Second, align the game mechanics with what happens on the job. For games to be effective for learning, the learner should be undertaking the same cognitive thought process as they do on the job. If the job requires answering questions, the game should include answering questions. If the job demands juggling priorities, so should the game.

"Third," he continues, "focus on engagement and not 'fun.'"

If you are designing a game with the end goal of it being fun, you're doing it wrong. ("If you really want people to have fun, give them the day off," Kapp advises.) Instead, engagement is the magic word. That means designing a game with specific outcomes in mind and focusing on learning goals. Add in the interactivity that games are known for, and you're on your way to a successful product. Games offer the freedom to fail, and naturally lend themselves to interactivity-which could be a plus compared with a more staid classroom learning situation.

But just adding things indiscriminately does not make a good game, according to Kapp. For instance, adding quizzes and leaderboards to a learning program can be a boon-leaderboards can help learners set their own goals and work hard to achieve them. But that won't be the case for everyone. If your leaderboard shows the top 10 participants, the person who comes in at 11th place won't be as motivated as the people above him. And the person ranked in the triple digits might be demotivated entirely.

It's also important to let learners reflect on their gameplay experience afterward, Kapp says-otherwise your goals might not be achieved.

Where to look?

"Yes, gamification can make learning fun, but it's bigger than that," writes Aleksandr Peterson in his e-Learning Industry article "4 Innovative Companies That Gamified eLearning" "With the right support and strategy, it can make learning important."

In his article, Peterson lists a few companies that have had success with gamifying e-learning. For example, in the corporate sector, there's Deloitte, which created the Deloitte Leadership Academy, an online training program for both employees and customers. There's also ExactTarget, a marketing software company that uses the Knowledge Guru, an online game platform that is used to teach through a narrative experience.

On the education side, Peterson notes Brainscape, which is a virtual flashcard system, and Class Dojo, a full-on classroom management tool that lets students pick avatars and earn points for their successes.

There's also Kahoot!, a free quiz platform and app with members that have published several million quizzes already. …

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