Instructional Design

No Shame in the Game: The Power (and Precautions) of Play in eLearning

All work and no play might make Johnny a dull boy, but gaming is about a lot more than spicing up a lackluster eLearning program. While it’s true that game-based learning and corporate gamification can help increase user motivation and engagement, using either improperly (or interchangeably) can seriously limit their effectiveness in eLearning. Both gamification and game-based learning have specific applications, so understanding the difference and when each are appropriate allows you to better plan your work and play, and avoid unnecessary risks.

Gamification 101

Gamification is, in essence, applying traditional components of game design to your existing edTech. These components are used throughout the module to engage learners, like a quick quiz or a simulated environment in which learners must predict the right action.

What sets gamification apart is that typically, the emphasis is on personal achievement, rather than “winning.” Instead, game elements might be required to go onto another chapter or to earn a certain badge to present to other learners. Gamification turns the process into a game-like state, which may or may not include winning as the ultimate goal.

Gamification works well within the actual eLearning module rather than a standalone experience. It’s a great way to get learners to practice knowledge- and skills-based concepts before moving onto another chapter.

What About Game-Based Learning?

Learners, come on down! Don’t make the mistake of assuming gamification and game-based learning are the same thing. While gamification puts gaming characteristics onto existing learning processes, game- or play-based learning offers standalone gaming experiences, usually as a supplement to existing L&D measures.

Game-based learning can be anything from a friendly game of Sales Jeopardy to a round of Who Wants to be a Compliance Training Whiz. It’s utilizing actual games (some ideas taken from common game shows and board games, and some of your own design) to help learners brush up on skills and knowledge.

Game- or play-based learning inspired motivation because it offers a heavy emphasis on winning the game. Unlike gamification, which focuses on personal achievement, game-based learning utilizes team or individual competition to get learners excited to participate. Prizes, leaderboards and other rewards are fairly common as a way to improve participation from learners.

Putting Play to Practice

Gamification at work is a great way to beef up a module that requires more than just clicking through. It offers learners a chance to show off their skills through choosing the right path in simulation, or getting points after answering trivia questions correctly. Game-based play, however, is a standalone method of learning and doesn’t necessarily need to be attached to a specific module. A little silly and inventive, games are meant to ignite competition between learners and works best for knowledge-based applications.

Both gamification and learning games add new depth to your learner experience, creating a competitive atmosphere where learner competes against himself – and others. While it might sound like child’s play and perhaps a risky addition to a corporate environment, adding gaming to your eLearning strategy is actually a sophisticated way to engage, motivate and excite learners.