I am learning French at the moment and until recently it was proving to be hard work. I learned it at school but that was quite a while ago now, and it’s tough to tap into the ‘learning a new skill’ part of your brain when you’ve been out of an educational environment for so long. A friend told me about an elearning app called Duolingo. The app lets you set yourself an achievable daily target and rewards you with its own in-game currency when you pass a level. It gives you instant feedback on which answers you got wrong and encourages you if you were close to answering correctly. It repeats areas that you’ve struggled with in the past until you get more confident with them. It lets you chat to fellow users about other possible answers you could have given and allows you to show off your progress all over social media, including on your LinkedIn profile. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough there’s a cute little owl avatar that you can dress in different costumes when you earn enough points. Mine’s currently sporting a monocle and smoking jacket. In short, it’s made it much easier, more rewarding and more fun to learn a new skill – so much so that I find myself surpassing my daily target because I’m enjoying the learning process.
Duolingo is an example of gamification in elearning at its most productive – it takes the best aspects of games and applies them to a learning situation. Take a bus or train at any time of the day and you can bet your bottom dollar that at least one person sitting nearby will be playing a game on their mobile or tablet. Maybe you are the Candy Crush addict I’m talking about? The UK gaming industry was worth over £3.9 billion in 2014, up 10% on the previous year, and continues to grow. An estimated 55% of the population (34.7 million people) are gamers. It makes sense that gamification is now playing a huge part in elearning. Gone are the days of staring at a computer screen of page after page of a training guide that you’re expected to read and memorise. Gamification is often more effective for learning than traditional training approaches as it taps into something that the majority of us are familiar with and enjoy doing outside of work.
Huge multinational companies including Coca-Cola and Nike have already introduced gamification into their elearning training modules. In July, Waitrose began an elearning module based on restricted sales items which includes a scenario-based game where staff have to decide the best course of action when confronted with seven different situations. Deloitte has seen the use of its Deloitte Leadership Academy training program increase after introducing gamification learning that can be applied to real-world processes inside an organisation. Perhaps the most well-known elearning gamification is McDonald’s Till Training Game, where employees were able to learn a new till system away from real customers. The game was addictive, purposeful and fun, but was designed to target skill and knowledge so that virtual customers would remain happy and perhaps purchase more than they were planning to. Since its introduction McDonald’s have reported a reduction of 7.9 seconds for each till service, and an increase in their average transaction of 15p – a total of £23.7 million in the UK alone.
These examples show some of the wide range of possibilities of gamification in elearning, but there are some common themes:
- They set short-term, achievable goals to keep the user positive.
- They involve active participation to create a sense of involvement.
- They allow for more immediate feedback when a target is reached.
- They encourage communal learning through competition between users.
And now I’m off to learn some more French – my owl needs a new outfit.
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