Gamification is the process of applying gaming designs and concepts to learning or training scenarios in order to make them more engaging and entertaining for the learner. In game-based learning events, learners compete directly against one or more individuals or participate individually in an interactive experience that rewards learning performance in some way.
The fast-growing field of digital gaming is generally divided into two distinct markets: “recreational” gaming for entertainment purposes and “serious” gaming for educational, learning or product promotion scenarios. The focus of this wiki is on serious gaming.
The term “gamification” is still evolving. Many learning professionals define it as utilizing games in instruction; others believe it refers to the “gaming mechanics” that are employed to incentivize individuals to participate in gaming or non-gaming activities. Non-gaming activities may include product support, market research and employee motivation, all of which represent another growing industry segment.
The variety of gaming technologies in use today varies dramatically from inexpensive 2D flash-based tools to elaborate 3D immersive environments designed to replicate actual experiences an individual might encounter. Some examples of simulation and “virtual world” immersive universe scenarios can be considered game-based learning if competition is a principal component.
The increased popularity and usage of gaming techniques can be attributed to the spirit of competition; it not only makes learning more enjoyable, it increases retention and boosts all important time-to-competency measurements. It’s a concept long employed by sales organizations that is quickly spreading throughout large and small enterprises.
Competitive computer-based games serve both employer and employee by improving productivity and positively impacting business results. Games incentivize employees to learn and accomplish more skills, which raises competency levels throughout an organization. Gaming is also applied to boost knowledge and loyalty among customers, channel partners and other stakeholders.
Gamification’s appeal to computer savvy members of the millennial generation – and the desire of employers to capitalize on that – is also fueling the trend. This generation of employees and customers has literally grown up playing computer and video games; they gravitate towards experiences with game-like elements. Training & Development departments are seeking new ways to add entertainment components to learning activities.
Game-based learning reflects another significant training trend – the increased role of learners in controlling their own learning experiences. Learning organizations are becoming more astute about leveraging technologies and providing training at point of need. They are becoming more process oriented, with greater emphasis on results.
As the use of gamification increases, surveys and studies are focusing on best practices for leveraging the process for learning and training initiatives. Gamification best practices are the subject of an increasing number of surveys and studies. The list below describes best practices that have been identified by gaming practitioners.
- Identify business objectives. The hype around gamification is leading some companies to seek out training challenges for the primary purpose of developing gaming solutions. Rather, organizations should begin by clearly defining business objectives, and then analyze whether gaming can be leveraged to meet them.
- Partner for performance. To ensure successful learning, a close partnership is needed between an organization’s training professionals and its game developers. While games must be engaging and entertaining, it is more important that they meet carefully established learning objectives, starting with retention of the game’s key themes.
- Plan, model and test. Good game design is all about the player experience. Proper design begins with proper planning prior to development. The process concludes with testing on sample groups of learners to ensure that the game meets business and training objectives.
- Design for engagement. Engagement, not just viewership, is one of the primary measurements of successful games.Designers should map out challenges so that games are not only entertaining, but actions and achievements are visibly linked. Incorporating dashboards is one way to display achievements, which also enables learners to chart their progress.
- Consistency is key. The relative unfamiliarity of users to game-based learning makes implementation and design critical for learners. Games should be relatively consistent, despite the type of content or method of delivery.
- Refresh the information. If organizations require learners to continue using a particular game, they must keep the content fresh – a capability that must be designed at the outset. This may not be necessary if the game is a one-time experience.
- Sustain training impact. To maximize the impact of other training activities, it is useful to embed casual games within other training events. Gaming does not have to be a standalone program.
- Vary the program. Gamification platforms should include a variety of plug-and-play and fully customizable plug-ins that make it easy to reward and notify users, drive wanted behaviors and promote friendly competition within a community.
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