Matchstick Inc.
eLearning, Instructional Design and Learning Technology Consulting


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GAMIFICATION – Before Talking to a Designer...


In the world of learning and development, the term ‘gamification’ describes different aspects and levels of game-based learning that can be built into online courses. Whether choosing the simplest way to gamify or deciding to go with something more elaborate, the objective is to enhance learning by adding an element of fun to the process.


If your organization has decided to explore the possibilities you’ll want to start talking with a designer about options and levels of gamification that best suit your needs and budget. Thinking through key design questions and anticipating implementation issues ahead of time will help the designer provide you with an effective product and a more accurate estimation of costs and development time. For example, consider the following questions as you prepare to discuss your project.


First, what do you want to accomplish? What are the goals and business objectives you want to meet and why do you feel that gamifying will help achieve these objectives? How will you measure progress toward meeting desired outcomes?


Second, who are the learners? What are their needs and goals, and what’s currently keeping them from reaching their potential?  Are there specific skills they need to develop which can be addressed effectively through this learning method? As you think about skills to target, keep in mind the different types to consider. Skills can be physical, like being able to use a job related tool, or mental, as in the ability to think logically or organize a task. Social skills could involve how to interact with co-workers or customers. By identifying specific skills, the designer can build game rewards and achievements that focus on development of desired abilities and behaviors.


Third, has your team had any previous experience with game mechanics in a learning program? What motivates them? Are they more likely to engage in activities to achieve a goal or to enjoy the experience? Are they more comfortable with structure and guidance or are they happier exploring on their own? Do they prefer to control or compete with others, or to share the experience and accomplishments with other learners?


Fourth, if your organization is global, what localization of content and game dynamics will be required? Is there a need for translation? What cultural differences may require modifying examples, simulations or rewards to ensure relevance to learners?


And fifth, there’s the question of technology. How will the course be delivered? Will learners access it from a website, mobile app, or social network? How can you integrate your company’s existing productivity tools and systems into the design to link learning to real work? If information changes frequently, how will the technology enable you to ensure learners are accessing the most up-to-date content?


Thinking about these questions and coming up with answers prior to talking with a designer will help get the gamification process off to a good start.  Addressing business needs, learner preferences and technology options up front will help the designer identify game elements that will be effective for your organization. Remember that, like any design methodology, gamification is about achieving results. Although it may be entertaining, its value is that it provides an immediate, visible link between action and achievement, and is most effective when used as one instructional tool integrated into a larger blended learning curriculum.