Here’s Why There Is No Such Thing As “Levels” of Corporate Gamification When It Comes To eLearning Solutions
One question we often get asked when it comes to customizing eLearning solutions for our clients that are curious to add gamification to their learning strategy is “What are the levels of gamification I can choose from?”
We agree that employee training would be a lot easier if it were more like picking lunch from a menu. A little of this; a little of that; hold the pickles. But contrary to many articles in the media, because eLearning is so individual and specific to topic, learner motivation, and application, it’s fairly impossible to create a one-size-fits-all, tiered solution, even with a method as versatile as gamification. You can read about this more in detail in our recent gamification eBook.
It’s true that gamification can be used for a variety of topics, but despite its versatility, gamification can’t really be distilled down to just a few levels or rankings for you to choose from. Unlike your lunch menu, gamification and its applications change based on a number of factors, including your specific learners’ motivations, to goals of the eLearning, and the content presented.
By working with an instructional designer, you can create a corporate gamification strategy that is specific to what you need, instead of choosing from a bland (and ineffective) menu that may or may not work.
There have been some spectacular successes when gamification is applied to learning, but your thinking behind its application must go beyond just developing a points system or a leadership board for simply the sake of it.
Games Vs. Gamification
It’s important to remember that gamification does not automatically equal games, and that’s why it’s difficult to create “levels” for each type of gamification. Games are, by nature, competitive play between two or more parties. A winner is crowned; there’s a sense of accomplishment. But gamification utilizes game mechanics that are utilized to drive engagement in eLearning by tapping into specific learner motivations.Games might have different levels of difficulty, but gamification only borrows inspiration, elements, and other bits and pieces from typical games to improve engagement.
How do I know if Corporate Gamification is right?
To figure out if gamification makes sense for your particular learning module, you have to look at both what the goal aiming to be achieved is, and what motivates your target audience (aka your learners). The same as a good instructional designer performs a full performer motivation analysis, gamification requires a deep understanding of your audience’s specific motivation triggers, what the step by step action would look like, and what game mechanics match up with that motivation so the learner is driven towards specific behavior change aligning with the goal.
This is why “levels” of gamification does not make sense. For example, let’s say that “level 1 gamification” (again which doesn’t exist) is discovery. There would be no guarantee that the content or what motivates the target audience will match up with the elements presented.
Gamification is also not a good choice when the topic is too sensitive or serious either, like sexual harassment training. It also doesn’t work when the context includes too many elements fighting gamification. Make sure you know what makes your learner tick before choosing a gamification strategy for your training.
In the world of gamification, there’s leveling up, but there’s really no way to reduce all the available elements and functions into one, simply leveled menu of methods. Instead, it’s up to you and an instructional designer that has a deep understanding of gaming mechanics to figure out which elements of gamification will make your learners sit up and take notice.
Why Understanding Learner Motivation Is Key For Gamified Learning
Just like eLearning can’t take place without a deep understanding of learner motivation, gamification in employee training won’t work without an understanding of what drives and motivates employees. Just adding points or badges to a learning module is not gamification. Each game mechanic taps into different motivators, so to apply the right ones, you have to understand what motivators you are trying to activate, and how they align to the goal of the learning experience. You can find an in-depth look at how different game mechanics appeal to different key motivators in our eBook here.
A great way to think about it is this. Dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit will motivate a reaction from the rabbit. But you wouldn’t dangle a carrot in front of a frog. The frog isn’t motivated like the rabbit is because carrots just don’t appeal to frogs. The same goes for game mechanics in learning. Rewards and leadership boards might work well with someone who is highly motivated by achievement and status, whereas an avatar feature would better engage someone who is highly motivated by self-expression.
The ARCS Model
Learner motivation can be anything from “I want to buy a new car” to “I want to be employee of the month,” but the trick is determining the best way to light a fire under learners speaking to their core motives for the best results.
The ARCS model of Motivational Design Theories (attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction) has been the gold standard for how to promote and sustain motivation in learning since the 80s when it was developed by John Keller, professor of instructional systems and educational psychology at the University of Florida. But while the ARCS model is a great place to start, instructional designers must delve deeper to really understand what makes their learners tick.
The analysis phase might seem like it slows the instructional design process down, but taking the time to assess and determine learner motivation reveals which game mechanics align with your learners’ driving motivators resulting in higher engagement and motivation (which basically means deeper learning that sticks).
Can I Have Your Attention Please…
It’s not by chance (or clever acronym) that attention is listed first in the ARCS model. Attention might seem surface-level at first, but it’s what makes learners sit up and take notice of the content. Discover what makes your learners’ ears perk up. In some cases, that might mean leveraging a bit of humor to lighten the mood. In other cases, it’s outlining the “what’s in it for me?” principle to prove to learners that the subject matter is worthy of their time. Whatever the case, good instructional designers know that without a learner’s attention, there is little motivation to continue watching, reading, or otherwise experiencing the material.
Make Sure to Stay Relevant
Have learners been there, done that? Does the subject matter even… matter? These are the questions asked before any information is put into an eLearning module and needs to be considered when applying gamification. It’s hard to get learners to care if, before they even start a program, their brains disengage due to irrelevant content. That’s where tools like analogies, storytelling, and even personal choice and autonomy can motivate learners: The material is modeled in a way that proves that it’s relevant and useful.
Be careful, though: Tying learning back to previous lessons can be a common and useful way to prove relevancy, but too much repetitiveness can turn off even highly motivated learners. Motivation happens when learners perceive value and acknowledge a potential knowledge gap.
Confidence is Key
Learners should know where they stand in order to enhance motivation. Creating key objectives and benchmarking from the start helps learners self-assess and know where they currently stand. A motivated learner needs to understand where they fall in the pack and how that position jives with their personal goals.
Part of increasing learner confidence is communication. An instructional designer might build in assessment and ranking tools such as badges or quizzes so learners are never left in the dark. But that same confidence can come from giving learners control over their own learning path. Learners who can toggle their learning speed, topics and prescribed materials feel confident that they are responsible for themselves.
Learner Satisfaction Guaranteed
Finally, instructional designers must assess how learner satisfaction can motivate–both intrinsically and extrinsically. Sure, a pat on the back might feel good, but it’s hardly enough to make a learner go back for more. Instead, assess the need for rewards as part of the learning process. Human’s all share the same core drivers, like reward, status, achievement, and so forth. Mechanics, like earning points and badges, as well as seeing immediate positive feedback from superiors (who are following along via leaderboard or LMS) can tap into these deep desires.
Doing the research and analysis on your learners’ motivation is what separates successful gamification from misaligned strategies and wasted time. Assessing learner motivation allows you to better create material that engages users and makes a real difference once the program is complete.