Training Industry

Learning Technologies

  • Gamification Versus Serious Games

According to Gartner, the gamification market is expected to touch $11 billion globally by 2020. To augment this prediction, a study by the University of Colorado Denver found that people who learned through gamified learning were able to score 14 percent higher than those who learned through traditional methods. So, there is no way we can dismiss this trend as a fad.

Gamification has been gaining popularity over the years, and it deserves the adulation. It’s time the learning fraternity understands the benefits that can be derived from it. Most corporations have jumped on the bandwagon, and the number is going up. But there is a slight confusion. People often mingle the terms gamification and serious games.

Let’s clarify the difference.

Gamification deals with using game mechanics in non-game situations in order to enhance motivation and influence behavior. Learning designers use points, leaderboards and badges to motivate online learners. Learners are challenged to complete the first level of training in order to unlock the next one.

To implement gamification, analyze your audience thoroughly to understand what drives them. Once you have the relevant data, you will know which game mechanics to utilize. For example, some learners may like to earn badges, while others may prefer material benefits. Some may be driven by completion and leaderboards. If you are not able to pinpoint the driving factor, your effort may go to waste. Gamification is a powerful tool to motivate and engage your learners and drive them toward a positive behavioral change.

Serious games or digital simulations are different from gamification. They use traditional game techniques around serious business concepts. Serious games can be fun, but they have to be aligned to learning goals. The idea is to use gameplay to create a better understanding of a particular concept. Serious games can be used for reinforcing, but avoid using them as stand-alone e-learning activities.

Benefits of Serious Games and Gamification

Even though gamification and serious games are different concepts, they have common benefits:

  • Both serious games and gamification help motivate learners. Some employees may be motivated intrinsically, but others, who need an extra push, benefit from the game techniques. Rewards, both tangible and intangible, go a long way. Using game mechanics and gameplay also take away boredom and make learning fun.
  • Both techniques blend the real world with fiction. That way, learners can identify with the situation and remain engaged. They are able to put their existing knowledge into practice. They may feel that they are just playing a game or winning some points, but they are learning and applying new skills.
  • Both techniques help learners improve themselves through their mistakes. If they make a mistake, they cannot proceed further; they know they have to hone a particular skill to move ahead. Instant feedback ensures that they know where they are going wrong. Learners are allowed to make as many mistakes they need to and learn from them.
  • The use of friendly competition nudges learners to put in their best effort. Learners are pitted against each other through leaderboards, and each learner tries to reach the top of the board to prove his or her mettle. The catch is that to reach the top, learners need to have relevant skills. If they lack those skills, they need to return to the training and learn them.

Andrew Hughes is the president of Designing Digitally, Inc. and a professor at the University of Cincinnati. He has over two decades of educational and technology experience in corporate training and higher education.

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