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The Gamification of Learning: Everyone is a Closet Gamer

Catch Phrase, Euchre, Pictionary, How to Talk to a Customer About Knee Implants, Connect Four, Monopoly…Which of these is not like the other?

I’m guessing it did not take long for you to spot the odd one out of this bunch. Most people would probably not put sales training in a list of favorite games. In fact, you probably would not even think to put it in a list of games at all, however, games are increasingly becoming an important part of effective learning and training.

At a conference I recently attended the keynote speaker, Karl M. Kapp, talked about gamification while referencing his book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.” Using games in training does not mean that you should come early to a training session to ensure you get your favorite purple game piece, but it does mean that traditional elements of games are being used to increase the effectiveness of learning. Traditional elements of games may include: players or characters, rules, challenges, interactivity, feedback, emotional reaction, etc.

You have probably encountered gamification in your everyday life without realizing it. Have you heard about the staircase that was transformed into a piano to encourage people to use the stairs instead of the escalator after exiting the subway? The black and white piano keys (painted stairs) each produced a different musical note when you stepped on it. The use of the staircase increased 66 percent! i This activity changed behavior helping to encourage a healthier choice and it felt nothing like work, it was fun!

When I was younger I remember playing Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, a computer game that uses different games to improve typing skills. My favorite was the racecar game; you drove around the track at a speed determined by your words per minute, but if you made a typing error a bug hit your windshield. Eventually, you either finished the race and recorded your average speed, or you made so many mistakes that you couldn’t see out your windshield and crashed. I was always looking to beat my sibling’s score on the leaderboard and I’m not sure how much I would have practiced typing without good old Mavis!

Gamification can also be as simple as the introduction of Kapp’s book:

“You have ten seconds. Name three countries that begin with the letter “U.” Go. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.” ii

Gamification does not have to look or feel like a literal game, elements can be subtlety incorporated. –And just incase you are wondering there are seven countries beginning with the letter “U”: Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, UK, USA, Uruguay, and Uzbekitan.

It’s important to point out that this notion is not completely new to the learning space. In fact, I’m sure while reading this you have thought of examples of gamification in your own life – especially if you are a parent! Ever tried to make a two-year-old brush their teeth for two minutes?

At Maestro, we strive to incorporate gamification into our eLearning and mobile learning projects. For example, our safety modules, which we built with Dannon and are now used by many additional companies, use relatable characters to pull on the emotional heartstrings of employees and lead to a positive change in behavior in the workplace. Even the driest material, like compliance training, can become engaging and effective with the help of gamification.

So go ahead, game on!

Sources i. ii. Kapp, Karl M. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, 2012. Print.

Sydney Hill

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