Immersive learning through games, gamification, and simulations is being used by more and more organizations to transform the learning experience. Information distribution as a primary goal of training no longer meets the performance needs of the business or its employees. Training solutions should focus on critical thinking and problem-solving to improve employee performance. Games and game mechanics can create that focus by providing opportunities to explore and do versus just listening.
It can be a big leap for trainers and instructional designers to move toward using games and designing game-based learning however. On September 16, in partnership with TrainingPros, I facilitated a Learning Views webinar that explored the difference between games and gamification for learning, the benefits of serious games, and considerations for beginning to use games for learning. A recording of “Game On: The ABCs You Need to Get Started in Gamification” can be accessed for anyone who would like a refresher.
Over the past couple of years, the term “Gamification” has become accepted in business and has opened the door for changing learning and performance through the use of games. The increased acceptance is positive. But now, any use of games, game mechanics, or quizzes with a character is referred to as “Gamification.” Gamification is about performance and behavior change, not playing Jeopardy. The true definition of Gamification is “using game mechanics in non-game experiences.” That means you’re not playing a game when you’re experiencing Gamification. What most people are referring to when they say “Gamification” is serious games. Serious games are played on the desktop, in a browser, or on a mobile device and are focused on knowledge application and skill development in a focused and defined experience (both in content and time). Immersive learning is a broader term that includes serious games, simulations, and virtual worlds that are embedded in a learning experience. Gamification describes game mechanics, points, status indicators and leaderboards that are embedded in daily behavior (e.g. completing an expense report, using software, or participating in meetings).
It’s not a natural transition from instructional designer to serious game designer. Games provide:
All are elements that help learners improve performance. These elements are often missing from the description of most (not all) traditional training and online learning experiences. Games are dynamic environments that include story, character, obstacles, levels, and other game mechanics that create a balance between challenge and success. So, how can instructional designers and training and development professionals begin harnessing the power of serious games in learning solutions?
Find examples of serious games. Play them if you can, but at least read about them. Observe what others are doing and bring it into your own practice and design. You can find examples at the Serious Games Association, Serious Games Market Blog, and Games for Change. Participants in our recent webinar chose to review a simulation on legal issues for new managers and a simulation for technology managers. The Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies has created serious games for information literacy and personal health decisions that were also available for demonstration in the webinar.
Consider new instructional design models. Focus on problem-based design solutions that put the learner in a situation where he/she needs to analyze the situation and make decisions. First Principles of Instruction (wiki:First Principles of Instruction) and Game On: The ABCs You Need to Get Started in Gamification are two models that you should investigate.
Find a balance of fun and learning in serious game design. Early serious games were either too focused on fun - missing the “serious” learning and performance impact. Or, they were too focused on learning and weren’t any fun to play. They were missing the “game” in serious game. Make or buy games that are “hard fun!”
Don’t focus on technology. Inevitably, one of the first questions in a webinar on serious games is “Can you do this with Captivate?” You can create serious games with paper, PowerPoint, Captivate or any number of game and simulation design programs. The technology matters, but that’s not where you should start. Start with moving your instructional design thinking from information presentation to creating problems that learners need to solve.
Get your organization ready. Set learner and manager expectations that online learning will no longer be (and shouldn’t be) a series of information screens that can easily be clicked through, ending with a ten (10) question quiz that can be passed without even taking the training. Change the perspective on assessment to one that includes game performance as assessment or scenario-based assessments. Develop your training team and don’t expect it to be easy for trainers and instructional designers to make the transition to serious game design. Also, consider the additional skills that are needed on your training team and hire people with those skills (serious game designers, graphic designers, game developers, etc.).
Stay tuned for Andy’s next blog post on November 17th which will answer the significant questions that were posed during the Gamification webinar.