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Learning & Development professionals are always looking for new ways to get employees excited about corporate training. One method that’s been around for years is wrapping training inside a Serious Game. A Serious Game is a game designed for a purpose other than pure entertainment. In L&D, it is an engaging way to teach employees defined learning objectives.
You can develop Serious Games in all shapes and sizes including mobile apps, multiplayer video games, or modules housed in a Learning Management System (LMS).
One of the most evident advantages of Serious Games is that they force learners to interact with the content. They cannot passively daydream while a presenter or narrator lectures them – they have to take an active role in the experience. Playing games is inherently fun! Learners appreciate the opportunity to engage in interesting, dynamic training that does not feel like mundane mandatory training. Since it’s enjoyable, learners focus all of their attention on the activity. This dramatically increases comprehension and knowledge retention.
Engagement is one of the many qualities of Serious Games that overlaps with training simulations. They both facilitate “learn by doing.” Serious Games, however, may be less literal than training simulations. They can place learners in an imaginative environment rather than a direct representation of the workplace. Learners can work through levels and earn achievements in the game that may not be indicative of actual workplace rewards.
We had math homework in school because it was important to practice the skills we learned in class. Serious Games afford the same concept of practicing working through pertinent scenarios. A traditional assessment, presented in an eLearning module or given after a classroom training session, tests learners on the information they memorized. These correspond to the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: remember and understand. Serious Games challenge learners to analyze situations, apply their knowledge, and sometimes even evaluate their own decisions or the decisions of other players, pushing themselves to higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Serious Games camouflage the assessments by wrapping the requirements in game mechanics. Yet, learners are undoubtedly practicing the skills. They can effortlessly transfer the experience gained in the game to their job functions and professional competencies.
Offering fun, engaging games is one of the best ways to encourage learners to successfully complete their training. They stir intrinsic motivation, which is an internal drive to perform an activity for personal enjoyment. We want to reach the next level, find all the items, or beat all the challenges. This self-directed ambition helps learners sharpen their focus and gets them genuinely interested in the content. The opposite of intrinsic is extrinsic motivation - a desire to achieve something to avoid punishment or earn an award. Employees are typically extrinsically motivated to complete their training. If it’s mandatory, they have to complete it to avoid reprimand from their boss. Some companies offer fun rewards for completing training, such as a gift card or the privilege of leaving early one day. While these awards are satisfying to the recipients, they do not inspire a deeper learning experience in the way intrinsic motivation does.
Some people enjoy following instructions and performing each step perfectly. Others prefer trying different things until something comes together. Serious Games are a perfect match for the latter group because they can experiment, explore, and fail in their quest to find the best solution. Game-based learning is also enormously beneficial for the first group of people, those perfectionists who don’t want to make mistakes or disappoint anyone. Serious Games give them a safe environment to fail and learn from mistakes without consequences.
Freedom to fail is another benefit shared by Serious Games and training simulations. They are both great ways to let employees practice hazardous or high-stakes activities without any actual danger. We always remember the awful outcomes of grave mistakes, hence the saying, “I only made that mistake once!” The ability to mess up gives the learner autonomy in their training and also helps them internalize the information.
A key element related to failure is that employees can learn from their mistakes. You don’t want them to get frustrated and give up or commit bad habits to memory. Therefore, feedback is an important aspect of Serious Games. Inform learners of the mistakes they made and give them the opportunity to correct their actions.
There are many ways you can structure feedback. In the Serious Game called Mercer City, sales associates hold meetings with potential clients. We wanted to show learners how well they performed in each meeting without giving away the correct answers. We designed a conclusion screen for the end of each interaction that shows the number of dollar signs they earned, the specific number of items they performed correctly, and a hint button that gives general advice on how to handle the client scenario. Yet, we never point out the exact opportunities they missed in the meeting. The game encourages learners to repeat meetings so they can increase their score.
Games that teach processes or tactile procedures may need to give more targeted feedback. For instance, learners may see a list of the steps with a check mark or an x next to each one, indicating exactly what they did right or wrong.
Serious Games look quite different from typical microlearning modules. However, they can fulfill the same purpose of breaking up content into small training sessions. Well-designed games bookmark learners’ progress so they can pause and return at a later time. This allows learners to set their own pace for training and practice.
Self-paced learning is convenient for learners. They can work for 5-10 minutes when they have a gap of free time, rather than setting aside a longer period of time to focus on an eLearning module or scheduling their day around a classroom training session. In addition to convenience, self-paced learning increases knowledge retention. Learners can stop when they feel overwhelmed or fatigued with the material. They can pick it back up later when they are refreshed and ready to take on new information.
Educators and trainers agree that repetition helps students and employees remember information. Unfortunately, adult learners are quick to say, “I’ve heard this already. I don’t need to listen to it again.” The same applies to articles we read, videos we watch, etc. As a result, we rarely engage in repetitive opportunities that would actually make us smarter.
Game designers can create scenarios and different levels that present or test on the same information in different ways. In essence, this tricks the learner into repeatedly practicing skills without realizing it! Serious Games also encourage learners to repeat activities to strive for a higher score. Adult learners are far more likely to play a game again than sit through an eLearning module a second time or re-watch a recording of an instructor-led session.
Tracking learners’ scores and progress is often a critical piece of the corporate training puzzle. If you use traditional SCORM tracking in an LMS, you can easily gather learners’ overall scores in the game. Additionally, if you want to ensure they are competent with the material, you can set a minimum score. The game will not mark as complete in the LMS until they obtain that score.
You can gather more detailed information if you choose to implement xAPI tracking. It allows you to observe which parts of the game a learner struggled with, repeated multiple times, or completed quickly. This data can help you identify areas where certain employees excel as well as topics where you may need additional training resources. Supervisors may use this information to coach employees and direct them on career paths that match their strengths.
Serious Games are fun for learners, and they are also exciting to create! Start thinking of topics you can present to employees inside a Serious Game. Sometimes it is challenging to gain momentum or approval to introduce games in the corporate setting. If this is true for you, try to identify a few benefits from this article you think are most applicable to your company. Start advocating in multiple circles of influence to get people thinking about the positive impact Serious Games could make.
To learn more about Serious Games for L&D solutions, download the full eBook today!
Please note this article was originally published by our team on elearningindustry.com.