3 Myths about the Gamification of Learning

It’s important for training professionals to carefully consider their objectives and specific audiences instead of simply jumping onto the latest training craze.

What if employees could walk out of a work training and say they had fun? That’s the ultimate dream for training professionals and why we’ve been hearing so much about the “gamification of learning.” Games have turned into an unexpected, yet effective format for training. Games offer an appealing, fun environment and encourage participants to engage in various decision-making scenarios, which makes training much more personalized and inclusive.

Designing training like games also sheds the mandatory feeling that often accompanies corporate training. And it brings employees out of an office mindset and into a relaxed frame of mind in which they can truly engage and learn.

However, as the gamification of learning becomes increasingly trendy, HR professionals need to be careful not to oversimplify their planning and implementation. Games are not the only means to successful learning and believing the following myths can lead to unsuccessful outcomes or leaving out other important training practices.

There are three misunderstandings widely accepted as true about gamification in employee learning, when, in fact, they often miss the mark:

  • Myth #1: Gamification is most effective for Millennials and Generation Z employees.
  • Myth #2: When implementing a learning game, you need to make sure everyone wins—failure discourages participation.
  • Myth #3: Gamification makes every type of training more interesting.

Myth #1: Gamification is most effective for Millennials and Generation Z employees.

People mostly learn the same way. According to instructional technology professor Karl Kapp, there is no neurological difference found in research that indicates generational differences impact how people learn. Millennials and Gen Zers may be more familiar with digital games, so they can seem more open to them, but this in no way means age is the variable.  

Animated video and digital content also can offer engaging sources of learning by offering detailed examples of real-life situations that can be tailored to the specific needs of the audience.

Myth #2: When implementing a learning game, you need to make sure everyone wins—failure discourages participation.

While encouraging correct answers is important, winning a game does not necessarily improve cognitive memory, nor does failure necessarily discourage participation. Think about how often we have to play a video game to be able to move through the levels, learning through practice from each failed attempt.

 

Failing often offers the best way to learn and correct a mistake. When participants fail, they must reroute their ways of thinking in order to re-correct their decision, ensuring greater attention is needed to properly complete a training task. This can prove especially true in situations that involve role-playing, such as sales training and client-facing roles.

The key is to create a balance where failing allows for learning but doesn’t lead to such frustration that an employee quits in the middle of the process.

Myth #3: Gamification makes every type of training more interesting.

As most HR professionals know, training is not a cookie-cutter sport. And while gamification is effective for memory recall and emphasizing particular points, it may not be the best method for every objective.

At times, you’ll need to develop training around complex and nuanced topics, such as diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Attempting to simplify such concepts through a gaming model can discredit the message and cause unnecessary confusion.

Instead, the topic can be addressed more specifically through a combination of video and role-playing exercises. Engaging the audience in a preemptive exercise, following up with a detailed video displaying the lesson, and ending with a role-playing exercise helps to ensure clarity and engagement.

Ultimately, it’s important for training professionals to carefully consider their objectives and specific audiences instead of jumping onto the latest training craze. In many circumstances, incorporating games into your training can be the perfectly refreshing approach needed to fully engage employees.

Jeniffer Strub serves as the senior manager of Human Resources for Vyond, a video animation software company that supports businesses in easily creating corporate videos. Training professionals use Vyond globally to enhance e-learning engagement.

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