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Corporate training is relying more and more on game-based learning in their employee training strategies. Gamification, microlearning, and eLearning are all ways of incorporating GBL into your L&D company culture. Still, serious games are the preferred training type for most organizations. This is because serious games, as opposed to gamification, are designed specifically for learning through gameplay. Learning-through-playing is an efficient method of employee training for the simple fact that it combines fun and learning.
Gamification, on the other hand, is just the insertion of game-based elements into the existing training program. This means that companies attempt to create employee engagement during training by using badges, leaderboards, rewards, and other forms of public recognition.
Serious games are usually designed from scratch. Serious games design elements need to reflect your company's business goals and employee learning objectives. They are conceptualized with the end purpose of teaching key concepts and increasing employee on-the-job productivity. They are visually pleasing to make sure players are paying attention. And, they exhibit flexible and adaptive gameplay that allows users to learn at their own pace and in their own time.
GBL implies using games for educational purposes. These games are fun to play and contain practical information. Players are able to learn key concepts that they can then apply on the job. Essentially, serious games allow learners to solve real-life problems from the comfort of a simulation.
Some reasons to use serious games include:
Increase employee productivity
Create friendly competition
Empower employees (at your own-pace learning)
Foster a safe learning environment
Receive a high return on investment (ROI)
The basic serious game design elements extend to all games in general. Since the end goal of serious games is, in fact, knowledge acquisition, you'll need to add a few elements when designing your game. A successful serious game needs to:
Learning goals are vitally important and will probably take some time to pin down. The process will require that you find a way to glean this information from your staff. Surveys, meetings, and discussions with supervisors can help clarify what your staff feels like they need to learn and what skills they would like to improve.
Human beings are attracted to rules because they help make sense of the chaos of everyday life. Therefore, it stands to reason, that games must come with their own set of rules too. In fact, without straightforward rules, the game could fall apart. Basing the rules of the game on your initial game objectives will make it easier to define what those rules need to be. For example, you might want a player to keep repeating the same level over and over until they get it right. Or, you might allow them to branch off into various scenarios. The latter could happen when there are no right or wrong answers and the learner is just experimenting and solving a problem in their own way. Good communication between you and your game design team will help flesh out the rules your particular game needs.
For serious games, feedback is a fundamental factor for continuous improvement. Players get feedback when they make a mistake, either immediately or at the end of a level or quest. You need to make sure the feedback is relevant to the employee's job and real-world tasks. The feedback needs to clearly explain why one route or choice is better than the one they took. The learner will then understand the impact their problem-solving patterns can have in real-life situations.
Combining the fun and learning factors in a balanced way will yield an enjoyable gaming experience for your employees. The trick is to make it challenging enough that learners continue playing, but not overly difficult where they feel overwhelmed. This is a great place to consider using personalized learning paths. These learning paths can tell you exactly where your learners fall in a rubric of skills and understanding. And, they allow you to provide the right amount and type of information that is pertinent to each player. Relatable content goes hand in hand with a relatable narrative. If your employees feel you know them well enough to implement exactly what they need into the game, they'll be motivated to keep learning.
The game needs to be flexible and adaptive. This means that when you lay the groundwork for game creation, you must consider how the game might change in the wake of user feedback. Make sure your designers leave room for future changes and that the game can be revised to adapt to specific user needs.
Employees need to be able to relate to the story, the gameplay, and the learning material. By inserting valuable bite-sized chunks of the relevant information, you'll enable players to self-direct their learning. They'll have access to topics and go through tasks that they can reproduce in their job. Knowledge retention increases when the information comes in short modules and is directly related to their level of skill and knowledge.
People want to feel appreciated. By recognizing their advancement in front of peers, you motivate them to continue to exceed their own learning expectations. We discuss rewards in more detail in the following section of the article.
Once you have your design elements in place, implementation can begin. Some of the important components for a successful serious game application are rewards, competition among peers, the right gaming platform, and an interesting narrative. These can bring your serious game design elements into a cohesive whole and jumpstart player engagement.
Mixing fun and learning is the foundation of game-based learning. Offering learners in-game rewards, as well as recognition in front of their peers, will keep engagement and the excitement for gameplay high. Badges, a points system, or leaderboards can provide the incentive for friendly competition and learner objective completion. The game can offer these rewards after each level is complete, in-game (for completing a task), or at the end of the game. The effectiveness of rewards depends on how the learners react to them. If players are vying for points or badges then you're set. If not, then you might want to adopt a different rewards system for version 2.0 of your serious game.
This is also where a competitive approach comes in. Beating other players is always better than bettering your own score. Friendly competition is conducive to social interaction. This will encourage learners to talk about the game, give helpful suggestions, and compare notes. In turn, this generates a training culture in which employees are comfortable learning from each other. Knowledge retention will improve since learners are teaching other learners.
Another great way to maintain engagement and knowledge retention is through the narrative. If the story is interesting and puts the player at the center of the action, your game will be a success. If you manage to include personalized learning paths into your serious game, then you've struck gold. Players will appreciate the fact that the content is tailor-made for them. They'll become more aware of their own knowledge and skill gaps and will be able to self-direct their learning towards filling them.
If most of your employees play mobile games, then make sure that there is mobile support for your serious game. In fact, making the game accessible on a variety of platforms should be one of your starting goals. This way, you give players the flexibility of learning-through-playing regardless of their location or the time of day.
Employee learning goals complemented by your own goals for the business should always be at the back of your head when implementing a serious game. After all, these are the reasons why you're using GBL in the first place: to increase revenue by increasing employee productivity and job satisfaction. So, all of the above elements need to be created through this 'ultimate objective' lens.
You'll need to sit down and really think about what your objectives for the business are. Then, you'll want to survey the staff. Find out what types of games they like, what platforms they mostly use, and what they would want to learn from the experience. Doing this will help the game become immersive, interesting and engaging.
Serious games are extremely popular right now because of their proven success. The plethora of benefits they bring is well worth the initial investment in game design. If you keep in mind these serious games elements, you'll have a great base for creating an effective, engaging, and growth-enabling game. To learn more about serious game development and for tips for success, download our complete eBook today!
Please note this article was originally published by our team on elearningindustry.com.