How games are reshaping elearning

Posted on Nov 24, 2014

Games & gamification

It was 12 years ago that Nick Pelling, a British IT expert, first coined the term ‘gamification’, though it wasn’t until 2010 when the term started to enter common usage.

It describes a procedure whereby the mechanics of a game are implemented into a non-game context – usually learning material – to inspire employees and students to become more engaged with the learning process. It’s taken a while, but gamification has now become an extremely popular method used widely amongst learning professionals around the globe to inspire some of the best outcomes from their students’ participation in a given course.

When you think about it, it’s quite obvious why such a thing has taken off. Games increase a person’s natural desire for competition, self-expression, and goal achievement. They also usually result in a quantifiable outcome, have rules, inspire interactivity, as well as just being fun and appealing. Games are effective because they increase a learner’s motivation, activity and overall engagement towards the work before them, as well as towards their peers, which is why dedicated learning professionals so often turn to the technique to give a good boost to their courseware.

In the workplace

First and foremost, games can make elearning fun – and all experiences are surely made better when they are fun. For example, rather than simply explaining to a group of employees via means of some sort of slideshow exactly what the procedures in the workplace are, it is far better to get them engaged, get them involved and get them in the driving seat of the decision making process in a direct simulation of the working environment.

Some elearning professionals are creating gamified simulations based on real-life situations that employees are likely to encounter in the workplace. By creating a set of choices that each learner can make in reaction to the given situation, the learning professional can also provide a set of different consequences as a result of each choice made.

For example, if looking at waste disposal procedures, they could create a list of choices and invite employees to make a decision on how to proceed. Some employees follow the expected procedure, others might deviate slightly and end up being fined, and still a few more go for the glaring error and wind up in jail for serious law violations. This is all simulated, of course, but it encourages a level of engagement with this simple learning material that had previously just been words on a page or pictures on a screen. In this way learners apply what they are being taught to their real lives, and often then look forward to the next learning instalment (the next game) that you have to offer.

Not just employees and students

The idea of gamified elearning has actually managed to spread far and wide, beyond the classroom and even into hospital wards to help patients who are recovering from strokes. Stroke recovery with Microsoft Kinect was a collaboration project between Seoul National University and Microsoft Research Asia. The idea was that the use of games would make the process of rehabilitation much more fun than the uninspiring and repetitive exercises that had been in place to ‘rewire’ the brain following a stroke.

By implementing elements of the game into the practices of relearning the skills that patients would need upon returning home, it was found that they were more easily able to return to their daily routines. This was all wrapped up in an engaging and immersive platform, which even integrated a competitive point scoring system, which users could then compare with other users of the same system to see how they were faring. The competitive boost that this type of gamification engendered gave inspiration to all of the participants and recovery times were indeed shortened.

A trend expected to expand

Using games in elearning is something that seems set to expand much further as time goes on. Increasing the level of learners’ interests and participation in online courses has always been the challenge, and it is something that gamification techniques have been managing to overcome for some time now.

Games are definitely a good tool to consider when it comes to engaging your elearners across all platforms.

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