Does Game-based Learning Work?

Today’s post is written by Anchal Manocha, #chat2lrn crew member and Founder of Design Storm ( Anchal has a background in psychology and is a new media expert. She is dedicated to helping organizations make learning fun and meaningful.

Game-based learning has been all the hype for the last two years. Requirements for game-based learning usually come in the form of:

  • We want people to collaborate more with each other. Can we add points for collaboration and reward them for it?
  • Not enough employees are interested in taking our learning offerings. Can we create game-based learning to increase enrolment?

As we know, game-based learning and gamification can resolve some of these issues. However, as the hype subsides, there are many voices that speak against it. What are the pitfalls of game-based learning that we should avoid?

  1. Content in the Garb of a Game

If we ask learners to “hit the football to answer the questions,” in one glance people can see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  If we’re trying to push content by engulfing it in the skin of a game, we should be prepared to be disappointed.

Learning is in the very fabric of games. People enjoy games because slowly they learn to ace the system, to bend the rules, to work with other players, to resolve conflicts, to repeat their efforts till they’ve mastered the game and much more.

Games for learning should take advantage of these mechanics. Game design should facilitate interactions that lead learners to actually “use”, “explore” and “apply” the information or content we want them to learn.

There’s rarely room for presenting detailed explanations in a game. Learners should be the creators of their own meaning. Content should either emerge from play or it should be the context of play. It could be constructed by the player and formalized as the game progresses.

  1. Focusing Too Much on Extrinsic Rewards

We should ask ourselves: If I remove the external reward, does my solution still stand ground? Would people participate in the absence of rewards?

For example, playing a game of chess is its own reward. Through games, humans seek pleasure, mastery, competition, learning, collaboration, conflict, meaning, problem-solving etc. Incorporating this into our game-based learning solutions may bring out their true benefits.

Monetary rewards, relating results to performance or gamifying core work may, in fact, have a negative impact. This is because it takes away learners’ freedom to fail and try again.

  1. Creating Puzzles Instead of Games

Many times we fall into this trap. We end up with puzzles instead of games. So what’s the difference between the two?

Puzzles are something that people solve by themselves. The level of interpersonal interaction in solving a puzzle is low. Puzzles may be tests, while games are the learning environment.

As Eric Zimmerman, a game design theorist points out, a good game-based solution will include:

  1. Playfulness/fun
  2. Low stakes/Freedom to fail
  3. Gradual mastery and repetition
  4. Emergence of play, emotion, meaning, interaction and so on
  5. Winning and losing—usually an end to the game

Keeping the spirit of games alive, let’s keep learning!

The Importance of Buy-in

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist. Find her on Twitter @andreamay1.

Buy-in. This is an easy concept to understanding in terms of investing money. You find a company whose product you love, or that you agree with in terms of fiscal or, perhaps, environmental policies, or that has buy-in-2just historically provided a great ROI, and you buy-in by purchasing shares in that company.  The company gets an influx of cash and you get to share in the profits.

Buy-in is a little more difficult to define when it comes to selling people on a necessary change. Even though change is one of the only constants in life, we human beings don’t like change and generally resist it at every opportunity. We have cognitive biases that lead us to keep the status quo. We are even more likely to resist a  change when “WIIFM” is unclear.

So let’s say your organization or client is implementing a new system company-wide and training is required to get everyone up to speed and ready for the change. You should be able to sign-up everyone for the appropriate training, get them through their courses, and have everyone ready to start using the new system day 1, right? Nope, not right. In fact, that approach is practically guaranteed to fail.

The reason it would fail is buy-in or, more specifically, a lack of buy-in at one or more levels of the organization. In this scenario, a handful of people at the top levels of the no-buy-inorganization have bought-in to the idea that a new system will improve efficiency, eliminate redundancy, and have a positive impact on the bottom line. They have bought into this idea to extent that they authorized a large sum of money to purchase and implement the system and have assigned the project to the folks below them in a position to make the project happen.

This is the first place where buy-in can start to break down. If the executives don’t make the effort to get buy-in from those below them, all the way down to the people the front line, the change will be an ongoing struggle at best and an outright failure at worst.  A lack of buy in from the project team can cause delays in the timeline and corners being cut. A lack of buy-in from middle managers can cause little or no enthusiasm for the change in those below them. A lack of buy-in from those on the front line will throw a wrench in system adoption and can easily turn a multi-million dollar investment into a very expensive lesson about the importance of buy-in at all levels of the organization.

Join us for #Chat2lrn this Thursday, November Nov 3rd 9:00am PDT/12:00pm EDT/4:00pm GMT to discuss the importance of buy-in to the success of your projects.

Preparing for the future of learning

This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter B.Ed (Hons), M.Phil, FLPI, Chartered FCIPD. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS

Are you preparing for the future of learning and if so, how?   We all know of L&D people future-of-learning-jlswho stubbornly refuse to let go of what they hold dear, most of it historical and deemed to be safe. Some will say that “if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it”, but the growing consensus is that L&D is broken and in desperate need of being fixed!  So, just how can it be fixed and how can we prepare for the future of learning? Inspiration for this post comes from an excellent Towards Maturity* report published earlier this year.

The fast changing world of work

Here’s the thing: we live in a world in which new working practices are fast emerging, new technologies are being adopted, flexible working patterns are becoming the norm, people are working in different locations and often in multi-generational teams. The upshot of which means that how, when and where people learn is also changing, which, in turn, leads to a new and different learning landscape. It is this new landscape that requires an accessible, agile and flexible approach to be adopted by all L&D professionals, as only will such an approach ensure that L&D plays a major contribution to the performance and productivity of all organisations.

For most L&D functions small tweaks will not suffice, it is major shifts that are required: “But for these shifts to take place, learning professionals must also address their own knowledge and practice, and to upskill and reskill themselves. They need to make sure they have the skills to listen, observe, question and reflect how learning can best support the delivery of organisational goals. They need to understand where and how learners are learning, and to understand the potential for all the different forms and channels for learning, and when to create and when to curate. They must be role models in the new learning agenda where close alignment to the business operation must be the norm.” (Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD, 2016). So, what exactly do these “shifts” entail and, even more importantly, how can they be achieved? This is the focus for our chat.

What does L&D need to do?

We need to:

  • let go and move on
  • change our attitudes towards learning
  • ditch all those learning traditions that are downright unhelpful
  • always stay relevant to the needs of our learners
  • become facilitators, creators of network connections, social mentors, curators of knowledge and learning resources.

How can L&D achieve this?

We need to:

  • improve our “business” credibility
  • demonstrate our value, and help people to develop and build the skills they need to do their jobs
  • move to a more customer-activated strategy
  • respond quickly and work fast, and be accountable to our customers
  • demonstrate key behaviours – all based on actions and not just words. 

This is your task, if you will accept it, to join in and discuss these requirements on 20 October, 2016, and let’s see if we can generate ideas for some much needed changes in true #chat2lrn style.

*If you have time, check out:


Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) about to replace us all?

This week’s post is written by Ross Garner (@RossGarnerGP). Ross is an Online Instructional Designer at GoodPractice and is studying on the University of Edinburgh’s Digital Education programme.

We already use Artificial Intelligence (AI) every day, often without  realising it. Google learns from our search habits; Netflix shows us recommendations; and banks identify odd transactions on our accounts and flag them up as potentially fraudulent.


“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” – HAL 9000

But while these AIs are tremendously helpful to us, do they also present a threat?

Historically, advances in automation have devastated some industries but created others. A fall in agricultural labour pushed workers into factories; the loss of manufacturing jobs across the developed world was followed by an increase in ‘knowledge workers’.

The danger today is that technological change happens so quickly that we might not be able to find new jobs fast enough – a danger John Maynard Keynes warned us of in 1933!

In a 2013 study, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A Osborne of the University of Oxford predicted that 47% of US jobs are at high risk of being computerised in the near future. These include transportation (driverless cars), logistics and admin workers (machine learning and pattern recognition), production jobs (robots), service jobs (cleaning robots), sales jobs (cashiers, telemarketers) and construction jobs (prefab homes built largely in factories).

Three years on, with driverless cars already being tested on public roads, it looks like their prediction is coming true.

According to the study, the jobs at lowest risk to some form of AI are those that require ‘fine arts’, ‘originality’, ‘negotiation’, ‘persuasion’, ‘social perceptiveness’ and ‘assisting and caring for others’.

So what does this mean for us, as L&D professionals? If some or all of our work tasks are about to be replaced by AI, how will we we adapt to that change? What responsibility do we have to help our colleagues develop new skills that will keep them ahead of the robot revolution?

And, perhaps more optimistically, might we be at the point where we no longer need to work at all?

Join us in #chat2lrn on Thursday, October 6, 0.8.00 PDT/11.00 EDT /16.00 BST to share your thoughts on Artificial Intelligence and it’s impact on work. Twitter Bots welcome (if they have something to add!)


Frey, C.B. and Osborne, M.A. (2013). The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?’

Networking – A skill you can learn or is it simply nature?

This week’s post is written by Lesley Price (@lesleywprice).  Lesley is a co-founder of the #chat2lrn crew and now, although supposedly ‘semi-retired’, she works part-time for Learn Appeal  and continues to love challenging and being challenged! 


In the Learning and Development community, we so often refer to our #PLN, Personal Learning Network, and the benefits we get from being part of a network. I attended the LPI Annual Conference, Learning Live two weeks ago and it was great to see so many people I knew. In fact, there were so many, it was difficult to find the time to speak to all of them. Over the two days, I had lots of interesting conversations about the event, catching up with people and hearing about things they were working on.

However, with many, I only seemed to have time to say ‘Hi – we must chat later’ or even worse, just waving across a busy room whilst making a mental note to speak to them over the course of the two days.  Some I managed to talk to, but others it was simply left with an acknowledgement and a wave. I was also introduced to people I had never met before, so my network is still growing.

I know that I have a very wide network, in fact a world-wide network which I find invaluable, but it then started me thinking about how my network evolved.   Was it by chance?  It is because of conversations I have when I meet people? Is it nature or nurture or maybe a bit of both?   If I can’t find the time to talk to everybody I know at an event, is it because I know too many people? Can your network get so big that it actually becomes unmanageable and if it does what can you do about it?

Is networking a skill that you can develop? Time is finite – there are never going to be more than 24 hours in a day.  Effective networking is not just about meeting people, networks also take time and effort.  So how much time does it take to maintain a network? How do we decide which parts of our network we foster regularly?  How do we work out the bits of our network that we can dip in and out of because they are self-sufficient and which networks do we neglect because we simply don’t have the time.

As if that isn’t enough, we also have to think about how we connect with our networks. Is it face-to-face, by using social media or by emails and phone calls?

I was fortunate in that I learned many of these skills from my parents, particularly my mother. She also taught me what I should look for when I moved into the workplace and that I could learn by watching and listening.

Personally, I believe that networking is an invaluable skill that we can develop, but how can we nurture it in others?  Join us in #chat2lrn on Thursday 22 September 0.8.00 PDT/11.00 EDT /16.00 BST to see if, between us, we can hone our own networking skills and learn how to foster them in others.

Science of Learning: When and How

2016-08-30_10-00-45The 2014 Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) State of the Industry report, shows organizations spending spent $1,208 on average, per employee, on training and development. Salas and the other authors of The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice, groundbreaking research using a series of meta-analyses, tell us that well-designed training is effective. It also says that the way we design, deliver, and implement training is what impacts the degree to which it is effective, asserting:

… (D)ecisions about what to train, how to train, and how to implement and evaluate training should be informed by the best information science has to offer.

Salas and fellow authors said reviews of training literature found many training efforts to be faddish, disconnected to the scientific literature, and lagging behind other sciences, with training programs implemented for inadequate and wasteful reasons.

Too many training myths still prevail. A 2008 Cisco whitepaper discussed the multitude of learning myths prevalent among learning practitioners. An entire book was recently published on learning myths.

Using research in practice aims to integrate scientific evidence with day-to-day practice in order to gain better outcomes. For example, carpenters may not know all the physics that goes into good practice, but they practice the science as shelving and framing would fall down if they didn’t.

What happens when L&D practitioners don’t practice the science of learning? Not practicing our science means our organizations and learners suffer and resources are wasted.

In this chat2lrn, we’ll discuss whether and how to use the science of learning in L&D practice.


C. Fadel. & C. Lemke. (2008). Cisco Systems. Multimodal learning through media: What the research says

Salas, E., Tannenbaum, S.I., Kraiger, K and Smith-Jentsch, K.A. (2012). The science of training and development in organizations: What matters in practice. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13 (2), pp. 74-101. 42.

Tharenou, P., Saks, A., & Moore, C. (2007). A review and critique of research on training Psychological Science in the Public Interest-2012-Salas-74-101

R. E.  Mayer, R.E. (1997). Multimedia learning: Are we asking the right questions? Education Psychologist, 32, 1-19. Science in the Public Interest-2012-Salas-74-101

Leicester City, Brexit and Pokemon Go: 2016 mid-year review

This week’s post is from #chat2lrn crew member Ross Garner, an Online Instructional Designer with GoodPractice in Edinburgh. 

2016’s been a crazy old year. First Leicester won the Premier League, then the UK voted itself out of Europe. Now, children and adults alike are walking in front of cars and crashing into lampposts as they use their phones to hunt virtual Pokemon.

If you’d put money on any of the above, you’d be very rich indeed.

But are we any wiser this July than we were back in January? Or has the unpredictability of the past six months shattered our confidence?

On this week’s #chat2lrn, we’ll be asking how this year has been for you? How have your expectations compared to reality? How have your ideas changed? What has gone well? What failures have you learned from?

Here are three ideas to get you started:

We operate in complex systems

How did Leicester City overcome 5000-1 odds to top the Premier League? Sure, training played a part. But so too did management decisions, the culture at the club, the mistakes made by opponents, and no small amount of luck.

When you are designing learning interventions, how much do you consider the system within which you operate? Is training the answer, or are there other factors at play? Can the success of one team be replicated to another, or are other factors like environment, team dynamic or luck skewing the results?

In complex systems, where we have a big impact on some areas but less of an impact on others, do you need to nudge rather than lead?

Emotion trumps facts

Throughout the UK Brexit debate – and the US Presidential race – facts have been cast aside in favour of sweeping generalisations. Why do these generalisations stick? Because they chime with the real-world experiences of voters. Because voters have an emotional connection to the candidates and to the ideas.

When we’re developing a new learning initiative, is it enough that we think it will improve the performance of our colleagues or clients? Do our learners believe that? Does it make sense to them, in their context, without knowing what we know? How much do you consider our learners’ hopes, fears, or even their workplace happiness?

Fun matters

Pokemon Go had as many users in its first week as Uber had in 7 years. It makes over $1million in revenue every day. As we look at the seriousness of the world around us, it’s encouraging to see hundreds of people gather in one space to catch a pikachu.

But how does this help us as learning and development professionals?

Well, it tells us that fun matters. Yes, we do a serious job. And yes, performance at work is important. But that doesn’t mean that developing a team, and striving towards a common goal, can’t be fun. What can we do to promote fun? Can fun improve productivity?

We’ll be discussing this, and your own ideas, at our #chat2lrn mid-year review. Thursday, August 28, at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern, 4pm BST. See you there!