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Gamification in Learning – what works?


Have you ever been hooked on a game? Most of us have. Maybe it’s the sense of reward we feel when we reach a new level or master an element of the game. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of being in a fantasy world. Either way, the associated release of dopamine in our brains keeps us coming back for more.  It’s those powerful feelings that businesses and learning organisations are tapping into with gamification.

» Click here to take our two-minute survey on Gamification in Learning…

What is Gamification?

GamificationGamification isn’t about turning everything into a game; it’s about applying game mechanics to non-game settings (eg the workplace). We can use it to tap into intrinsic motivators like mastering skills and receiving feedback and recognition.

Gamified learning became a buzzword about five years ago. A few years down the track, the L&D community are probably a bit wiser about what does and doesn’t work. They’ve realised that it’s not just about slapping points and badges on everything. While they can be valuable, gamification only works when it motivates people to do something, so the content still needs to be of value.

It’s clear that gamification is more than a passing fad. The concept is now embedded in the L&D arsenal, perhaps because the concepts align beautifully with recognised learning principles. Effective gamification puts the learner in control, simulates realistic situations, and provides regular feedback and rewards. It can be incredibly effective when it’s done well and organisations are starting to recognise this.

Where has it been used successfully?

There are many success stories showing large improvements in employee participation, skills, and profitability. For example, Xerox has used gamification to great effect by introducing a trivia game.

Employees answer questions each day, rather than attending formal training courses. The questions instil best practice and the competitive nature of the game provides a motivational and fun way for employees to communicate. Over 90% of Xerox employees have participated.

In the UK, McDonalds introduced the award-winning till training game, which helped employees understand the new till system. The game included characters with different orders. Learners were awarded points for getting the order correct, beating the clock and ensuring customer satisfaction. Over 145,000 employees visited the game, despite it not being mandatory. Around 85% of participants believed the game helped them understand the new system and would improve their performance.  The game also reduced each till service by 7.9 seconds which had a huge impact on company profits.

Making it practical

You’ve seen how some large organisations employ gamification, but it can be as simple as replacing the learning objectives in your eLearning course with a relevant challenge, mystery, or story. At BSI, we think gamification is an exciting and powerful learning tool and we love looking for opportunities to incorporate these principles into our projects.

What are your experiences with gamification in workplace learning and development? Could you use gamification in your industry? Check out our very brief survey to help us learn more – we’ll be sharing the findings in an upcoming update.

By Debbie McAteer