How A Gamified Learning Program Can Cut Across Traditional Boundaries To Provide A Fully Integrated Learning Environment

An integrated learning programme is better than classroom training because it extends beyond the classroom to include “on the job” learning.

This means training now looks more like “learning by doing”  where learners put into practice what they’ve learnt, getting feedback along the way.

A gamified learning program adds feedback mechanisms (such as points, badges and leaderboards) to help the learner see their progress and track their performance.

The feedback mechanisms used may differ depending on the stage the learner is at – broadly defined with the acronym LAP:

  1. Learning,
  2. Adopting
  3. Performing

With a gamified approach, we are taking integrated learning further than simply learning by doing, reaching into the area of performance monitoring.  Indeed, the feedback goes beyond whether we have adopted tools, processes or knowledge, but to whether we are performing well at applying them.


Gamification Program element Relative importance

A gamified learning program can really work to drive engagement outside the classroom and into the workplace. One recent survey found that 62% of learners felt they would be more motivated when they were able to compare progress against colleagues on leaderboards.

This presents difficulties for many Learning and Development and HR departments when it comes to implementing gamified learning programs – who is to say where learning ends and performance management begins? The line has now blurred.

The danger is that the gamified program will upset the existing relationship between employees, line managers, senior management and HR.

Problematic questions arising might include  “are the gamified program measurements more or less valid than existing management measures in place? Does this validate or invalidate any performance management program, particularly those linked to compensation? What does it mean to be doing well on the gamified feedback but poorly in a management or HR review – and vice versa?

However, if a few key principles are maintained when rolling out the gamified learning program the risks can be mitigated:

  1. No prizes – the gamified learning program should have no financial rewards or prizes – this avoids any distortion or conflict with  the existing compensation structure.
  2. Controlled leaderboard visibility – the visibility of leaderboards should be tightly controlled. While leaderboards are a powerful stimulant, they are only really important for high performers; the global board is not going to motivate everyone. To raise engagement for everyone, consider instead a mix of:
    1. leader boards (highlights the top performers in a community)
    2. inclusion boards (highlighting all the players who have passed a particular minimum threshold in a particular metric),
    3. division boards (where players play in local subdivisions),
    4. team boards (where a player’s individual scores contribute to that of a team);
    5. collective boards (where all players contribute to a shared, collective goal)
    6. relative boards (where a player can choose who they play against)
    7. tracking boards (where a player can only see their score compared against themselves).
  3. Start Opt-In Only – a good gamified program should start as an opt-in program (with perhaps some initial seeding of friendly players to avoid the empty bar problem). By being voluntary, it falls into an area of HR practice I call the “informal economy”.  By being outside the formal remit of the organisation it is positioned, and understood by all, as experimental and innovative. This allows the program vital breathing space to mature it’s systems to meet the needs of both players and managers. This gradual aligning of management and staff goals is seen in the Single Negotiated Score Principle.
  4. Track don’t measure – there is an important positioning difference between programs that track performance and provide feedback – with a coaching goal of aiding individual optimisation – and those that measure performance – with a management goal of improving organisational output. By being sold as a tracker, the gamified program will skew to benefit the player as much as it does the manager. This aids adoption.

So what are the benefits for educators?

A gamified learning program has the very real benefit of linking supply and demand (for learning materials) which makes it an essential modern tool for educators looking to drive workplace learning and behaviour. The trigger is when a player receives a low score in a particular metric. This then drives player demand for more learning materials and training to “improve my score”.

With a platform like Rise, this type of tip based coaching can be automated, linking metric results back to e-learning modules, so allowing your program to scale.  For example “hey your tweets have been flatlining 3 weeks in a row – why not sign up for our ‘Content Management for Senior Managers'”  e-learning course?”

Gamified Learning Programs also tend to be more engaging, leading to higher attendance and completion. The simplicity of a single score makes it obvious to even the busiest colleague what they need to do, the addition of social proof grabs player attention, particularly in virtual environments where traditional social signals (like seeing your friends in the same physical classroom) are muted.

Getting started

Are you planning on running an e-learning course for your team? Are you trying to change staff behaviour? To consider if a Gamified Learning Program might be for you, please contact me (or one of the gurus) for an initial design consultation.

Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success. He was the 2013 chair of - the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup. As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and Subscribe to this blog at Gamification Of Work blog feed

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