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.