How to capitalize on Gamified Learning

Imagine being s l o w at something.

All your colleagues know that you suck at this one thing. Its like a giant board declaring the same to your Manager – like a daily in-your-face reminder that you cannot cope up alone!

So whenever people so blatantly claim that games are the only possible future of learning, I wonder what they really mean by it. I wonder if simply making a lesson playful or encouraging people to compete against each other or giving them virtual silver and gold coins – is going to help one learn and retain better. I wonder whether elements like leadership board actually capture the real value of using games to teach or are they just fancy things that every corporate claims to have.

[Tweet “Over 70% of top global orgns would have #gamified apps & 80% of them would fail – #Gartner”]

In 2011, Gartner predicted that more than 70% of global 2000 organizations would have at least one gamified application by 2014. A year later, in Nov 2012, Gartner also predicted that 80% of the current gamified applications would fail to meet their business requirement.

gamified learning - dilbert comic strip


What does one do or not do to gamify learning? What elements of a game actually engage users and not simply put them under pressure or fear to perform? Here are my humble views in response to such doubts:

The leaderboard, points, badges are the future of gamification – Or are they?

Every site that claims to have gamified learning boasts about how cool a leaderboard they have and so does every corporate as it is the easiest to implement. I have no doubts on how encouraging it is for the winning employee, but what about the rest 80% of them? Are we in school again? Where the student who comes first runs around showing off his report card while the average one simply wait for the period to get over. Saying this I do not go against the research being done worldwide and claim the leaderboards are nothing but discouraging, but one needs to use/design it very carefully as per there organization and not simply copy paste the concept or use a ready template. Few thoughts on what should be kept in mind:

  • Leaderboards should be contextual, one should be compared at the similar users of the same hierarchy and within the same time frame
  • Multiple/various filters by which one can sort them out – like social, various skill sets, geography , department etc – should be a must, with a possibility of someone making it to the top list of one or the other category instead of one static giant leader board where you see the same people for time infinity
  • It could be nice to simply see your graph mapped against your immediate peers or friends, people you know, rather than the whole department or some strangers in your company. How do I care if John Doe based out of the other side of the county is better than me in some skill?
  • One very important thing would be for the data to be evolving in real time for such boards. Imagine coming to office every morning for the past 1 month, refreshing the leader board and seeing yourself on the 40th position, no way can that be motivating!
  • What might be nice would be to show the user in the middle of standings (unless they’re at the very top or very bottom) so they always have the possibility of climbing without seeing users they will never catch up with.

Picking up ready to use gamification plug-ins? Think again! The UI , the way one collaborates, shares and rewards changes dramatically based on geography, age group and industry vertical, so a gamification technique that would work for one company at one place might not work for you. When going for gamification, it should be completely in line with the goals of your company as well as the prevalent cultural nuances. So copy pasting a standard method of gamification might do more harm than good. And waste your time and money.

Is this a one-time activity? Deploy and Free? So you deployed your gamified learning, the employees are curious and are on board within a month of deployment. What next? Once the hype settles down, usage would decline with all the work pressure of the daily job. So blending gamification with real world rewards might keep the excitement going. Reward emailers from L&D department or felicitation in the monthly meeting or just a small token of appreciation, might keep some employees going.

Along with physical gratification, one needs to keep rolling out new features/updates and have enhancements planned for at least an year in advance. So roll out the gamification bit in pieces, so that you keep giving something employees something new to look forward to at short intervals, like any other engaging B2C website.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that gamified learning is indeed a great way to influence user behaviour and can help set in an environment of amplified learning, but a poorly designed gamification initiative can be more harmful than positively impactful. So thinking through the goals of the initiative, the purpose/objective of implementing it, and months of advanced planning to maintain it, is a must and would make all the difference in making it a failure or success.

For a free consultation of how to apply gamified learning in your organization, feel free to get in touch with us at Qustn.


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