Is Gamification More Than Just a Buzzword?

Everybody’s talking about gamification these days. Gamification generally involves applying game design thinking to non-game applications—like e-Learning—to make them more fun and engaging. But is this more than the latest fad? Are games just fun, or do they actually facilitate learning?

Children use play in order to make sense of all the new information they encounter and learn through. This shows that play is an extremely effective way to absorb massive amounts of information and develop new skills. Play increases the imagination, improves tacit knowledge and amplifies the learning of explicit knowledge. The New York-based school, Quest to Learn, advocates game-based learning to make education more engaging and relevant to children.

Game designer Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun, believes that what makes a game fun is the process of constantly learning. For example, when you’re playing Angry Birds, you’re constantly learning the best method for sending each bird flying to destroy the pigs and getting better at it. So, when you have a game-like platform where knowledge is required to achieve a goal or complete a task, knowledge becomes a resource. The more knowledge you have, the better you are at the game. Keep in mind, adding game-like elements into an e-Learning course should provide learners the opportunity to apply their retained knowledge to live situations, not just distract and dazzle learners away from the learning objective with flashy interactions and game wizardry. blogger Eugene Sheely argues that “gamified education is the best method we know on how to organize learning environments to increase knowledge in both diversity and density. Gamified education is not merely an improvement from the current traditional educational model; it’s a completely new innovative way of learning. The traditional educational model is passive and linear; the student sits in a desk to listen to a lecture or reads a book. Gamified education is action-based and nonlinear.”

Not everyone agrees. Game designers Radoff and Robertson have criticized gamification for excluding aspects like storytelling, an important element of learning. Sebastion Deterding, a university researcher, has argued that current approaches to gamification create an artificial sense of achievement. But that doesn’t mean gamification can’t be successful.

In the book Enterprise Games, award-winning CIO Michael Hugos describes how IT departments can adopt feedback systems and dashboards that resemble Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as Eve Online and World of Warcraft to increase the corporation’s agility in an ever changing world. He explains that the human brain is able to absorb large amounts of information through images, sounds and colors like the dashboards in games like World of Warcraft as opposed to purely written reports. This gives employees an effective way to process and manage data and reports.

According to TrainingZone, successful gamification of e-Learning accomplishes these four goals:

  1. Focuses on the learners, not the game.
  2. Teaches a desired behavior or job task, not just facts.
  3. Extracts the motivational techniques from games and uses for life-applicable learning.
  4. Allows quick feedback of progress and communication of goals that need to be accomplished.

These tips and examples are great to keep in mind if you’re considering creating an e-Learning game. Gamification can be extremely successful if you do it right! Plus it’s easy to create e-Learning games using the powerful e-Learning tools in Lectora® Inspire. Download a 30-day free e-Learning software trial and start today!

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