John sits in front of his system, painfully completing a highly technical e-learning course, in order to achieve the quarterly target, as laid down by his organization. He seems disengaged and bored. John desperately wants to rush to the end of the course and take the assessment, but he fails to do so. The instructional designer has designed the course in a closed navigation structure so that the learners learn the content rather than simply clicking on the NEXT button to reach the end. By now, John has checked his mobile phone several times, looked out of the window and counted the number of sparrows in the garden, and made doodles in his notebook. He is at his wit’s end when he revealed the next text-heavy slide.
In various organizations, the C-Suite executives, managers, and L&D professionals try to deal with questions like why are employees doing what they are not supposed to do and why are employees not doing things that are supposed to do. While attempting to answer such questions, they had realized the importance of making learning more engaging, fun, and interactive. This would not only help in retaining the core concepts more easily but also help the learners to undergo certain behavioral changes over a period. They have further ascertained the significance of incorporating active involvement in learning which must appropriately address the demands of the business objectives.
Gamification seems like one of the solutions to the above-mentioned problem. It is more of a design methodology, rather than a technology-driven technique: a way to redesign course instructions to fit into a game-like situation. Many people consider gamification as the use of serious games to meet the teaching needs; while many others are of the opinion that it deals with colorful badges, points and leaderboards. Only a handful sees it as an opportunity to spruce up instructions to provide a game-like look and feel to engage the learners, endowed with repeated exposure to content in order to achieve a desired behavioral change. Let us now look at some game elements that can transform an ordinary content into a relevant and more engaging learning experience.
- Freedom to fail
Most instructional environments do not promote trial-and-error or exploration learning. Games, however, permit failure. Learners can opt for an incorrect strategy to get a sense of the gamespace. It accommodates multiple lives as well as multiple storylines as a part of its design approach, to perform a task until mastery. It allows learners to make their own decisions and beget their ensuing consequences.
- Interest Curve
An interest curve is a sequence and flow of events within a game that continually keeps the learner engaged. Ideally, it must have an interesting beginning, compelling middle and an exciting ending to grab the attention of the learner and keep them excited. Incorporating interesting case studies, mysteries, and series of questions and even dangers of wrongdoings are some of the ways of attaining a high-interest curve.
Research predicts that memory retention of facts increases when presented as stories or conversational texts rather than bullet points. Hence while gamifying content, one must remember to create a storyline, especially conversational ones, that is easy to follow and has a nonlinear approach. This enables the learners to ideate a bigger picture while interacting with the game. Storytelling approach is especially called for while dealing in areas of leadership, customer service, sales, and investigatory skills.
One of the most important features that distinguish gamified content from a traditional learning environment is its intensity and frequency of feedback. Feedback is an integral part of learning. More precise and accurate the feedback, more effective is the learning. Visual cues, self-paced exercises, frequent knowledge checks, progress bar are some of the many modes of providing continuous feedback to learners.
- Fulfill the Quest
Gamification transforms bored, disconnected learners into excited, engaged participants. Learners not only become aware of the different contexts in which they can apply their newly acquired skills but also become more confident and willing to take chances. Behavioral changes are susceptible to recursive feedback. Hence, game thinking and game-based design and delivery of instructions have the scope to fulfill the quest of the learners
Conclusively, it is advisable to draw the most advantage of the backend dashboards provided by the gamification platforms. This allows for a closer inspection of the learners as well as the entire process. Analyze the reasons behind learners who are moving unusually slow or fast, people earning more points, waxing and waning of interest levels due to too much or too little content. In short, leverage the rich, real-time data obtained from these dashboards. Thus, shoulder gamification as an exciting addition to an instructional designer toolkit rather than a foreign or strange accoutrement.