Gamification in e-learning is often mistaken for games-based learning. But the two aren't the same. In fact gamified learning is more specifically the addition of gaming design elements.
Gamification can be defined as the application of gaming design elements, such as conversations, activities, scores, badges, and non-linear pathways to an existing training intervention to improve engagement and retention.
Much of corporate e-learning is focused on dry regulatory topics such as bribery and corruption or GDPR. These aren't as naturally engaging as training programmes that help people learn new skills, advance their career, or make more money! Many companies are seeing a backlash against the endless slideshows and assessments. This leaves them in a tough situation since the regulations require companies to repeat training to maintain staff awareness levels and compliance.
If gamification can help engage staff and improve their knowledge retention, it is attractive. However, its true value comes from aiding the behavioural change that such learning interventions are intended for.
Steps for successful gamification
- Do the easy bits before you get to more complex stuff. Simple features like using a progress bar in place of page numbering can make the course less mechanical and formulaic and more visual and intuitive.
- Add a human touch to make it real. Instead of using wordy explanations of problems and situations, get an onscreen character to say it aloud. Take it further by asking the learner to DO something about the situation and see the consequences of their actions, rather than just telling them how it's done.
- Score the user's interactions and periodically show them how they are faring, preferably on a visual scale or on a leader board.
- Make the user's effort count. Tell them that they don't have to sit the post-course assessment if they demonstrate competence through their interactions in the course.
- Add in badges, sounds and other bonuses and challenges at key milestones to make it more visual and get buy-in.
- Don't overdo it! Don't load all the gamification elements in a single e-learning module. Hold on to them to delight your audience in future training interventions.
Gamification is a powerful way of tying the training to the real-world, therefore making it more meaningful for people. It gets people to think for themselves, retain the information they have learnt, and feel the impact of their choices. This ultimately is the goal of compliance training - not only to help people understand the content but also to help them ‘be’ compliant. Compliance training can only be considered effective if the people who complete the course go on to comply with policies and regulations.
If the gamification is done right, not only will you find prompt completion rates go up, but it can create a buzz that drives up awareness levels and compliance effectiveness - which is the whole point of the training.
But be careful. It can be all too tempting to go for the ‘bells and whistles’ training option, but while adding games and fun elements can make compliance training more enjoyable, if the quality of the content isn’t right, people won’t learn the necessary behaviours. In this case, a game or simulation becomes more of a gimmick than an effective training programme.
For gamification to be effective, it needs to be based on practical examples that show employees from a personal perspective what their responsibilities are. Games and simulations need to be personalised to both the organisation and the employee’s role. This means using the name of the company, the names of their policies, terminology the company uses, and even names of specific individuals within the business. All this helps to put the training into context for staff and give it meaning. And it’s this that makes people take in the content so that they can put it into practice.
While games and interactive elements can make training more interesting for your staff, the real benefit is that they help to drive behavioural change in your organisation. With a gamified approach, you can create awareness of key risks and build a culture of compliance.
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