Thrones of Gamification

Ok, perhaps the title is a bit of a stretch…but did it get your attention? Did it spark a sense of relevance to something else you already know about, and are perhaps even a fan of?

It’s a long-established design principle, not just for instructional design, that making your ‘content’ more meaningful to the learner is an effective way to at least  improve engagement, if not enhance actual learning.

In general, gamification appeals to people’s sense of competition and achievement, though perhaps more at the root is an appeal to curiosity. One significant component of this approach may be to abandon traditional ‘present the objectives up front’ (which can spark quite a battle between traditional design and a desire to Do Something Different) and, instead, lead with an opening question…i.e. “Our product is #2. How can we improve production to reach #1?!”
(or perhaps in the context of the earlier ‘Problem-based Learning’ article; “It’s freezing in here and all you have is that stick…how can that ‘spark’ a much needed fire?”)

Dr. Karl Kapp’s ASTD DC Metro 2013 Presentation, ‘Gamification of Learning’, was an excellent presentation providing real-world examples of how game elements can enhance retention and results. Strategies like using challenges, fantasy elements, story components, and characters can all serve to make your training more engaging. However, like all other strategies, it’s not a proverbial silver bullet; there are certainly many topics and situations where gamification may not apply, and may even be detrimental…and it can take some solid instructional design skill to correctly assess the compatible opportunities.

Note that ‘Gamification’ differs from ‘Serious Games’!

The ‘Serious Games’ side advocates full immersion. We here at ICS Learning Group assisted GWU with the backend component of such an experience, Zero Hour, released back in 2009. Based on the Unreal Engine, the game could be registered for and tracked via our LMS-based backend, then the game downloaded to the user’s computer with the intent to train, recruit, and practice EMS responses to emergency situations. Think ‘first-person shooter’ but where the goal was to provide medical treatment to the injured.

Gamification, on the other hand, is more abstract – involving game mechanics in order to engage users and solve problems. Despite clear distinctions between the approaches, ultimately the goals are the same – more effective knowledge transfer, engagement, and learning. We strive to involve such elements, as appropriate, to keep our courseware engaging and effective.

Want to learn more? Harrisburg University is sponsoring a webinar on April 4th, ‘What is going on with Gamification in corporate America?’ Read more about “4 on the 4th at 4”; “Join a panel of industry experts in this webinar as they answer your questions and discuss the current state of gamification as a learning and performance tool in corporate America.” Maybe we’ll virtually see you there!

If you’re even more ‘serious’, Coursera is offering a Gamification course sponsored by UPenn, starting April 1st (2013).

And, of course, drop us a line if we can provide any guidance on your own gamification adventure!