One of the current hot words in learning, development and marketing is gamification: using a gaming process to encourage, engage, recognize and reward participation in an activity.
Gamification is attractive to learning leaders for several reasons. One, it appeals to younger workers like millennials, who often play digital games. Two, gamification is often sold as a software as a service or a layer applied on top of an existing learning or collaborative process. Gamification is also cheaper than building out a full game or simulation, which might cost several hundred thousand dollars while adding a gamification level might cost a few dollars per learner.
I am excited to see different learning leaders explore, experiment with and deploy a range of gamification elements as part of their learning strategies. The challenge is to make sure we approach gamification with an evidence-based and game-theory perspective with these cautions:
Gamification for marketing and learning is different. Many vendor examples of gamification are around business-to-consumer marketing. It’s one thing to give a star for frequent visits to an online store and quite another to provide rewards for showing up at a course. I suggest we separate our perspectives on marketing, social presence, learning and collaboration. The models and perceived outcomes are quite different.
Gamification may not be sustainable. The excitement of the gaming element may work for the first and second rounds of a learning activity, but I have seen several gamification models drop in participation and energy over time.
Gamification may create losers. While we are excited about winning in a game model, what is the impact of a learner ending up at the bottom of a leader board? We must apply some usability analysis to see the affect on losers.
Gamification may be style-biased. There are some segments of the workforce that might not want to compete for a digital badge or have a serious learning program spiced up with gamification. Let it be a choice rather than a mandated activity for all learners.
Gamification may not be a great PR phrase. I warned the chief learning officer of a major financial institution not to overuse the term “gamification” for the company’s compliance and regulatory mandated training. Engagement might be an alternative phrase.
In the next three years, we will see many evolutions of gamification for learning. I am looking forward to these changes in the near term
- Gamification apps: Imagine low-cost apps that can be downloaded to employee mobile devices for $1.99 per person and customized or localized for each learning design.
- Gamification evidence and research: We need to build an evidence model to evaluate and research the impact and effects of gamification.
- Gamification and gaming production skills: Let’s create a cohort of learning professionals with the competencies to design and produce gaming elements for learning.
- Gamification by users: Some of the best games don’t start at headquarters. Imagine challenges and gaming activities triggered by a few employees sharing a learning objective.
Finally, gamification works best when the game theory is strong and the learner has three added capacities:
1. Gaming personalization: Each participant should be able to help shape and personalize his/her gamification experience.
2. Fail toward success: I am always drawn to a game’s unique ability to help the learner safely fail on the way to success. Let’s not lose that with overly simplified layers of gamification.
3. Group outcomes work too: Gamification elements might be just as successful when applied to how a group or department participates as when applied to individuals.
Gamification has loads of opportunity and upsides. But don’t fall into a gamification game. Apply design, evidence, usability and data to your gamification experiments.Filed under: Learning Delivery