Gamification in Training

Hi Everyone,

I work for a financial institution (credit union) and we are looking to take our existing online product training and enhance/redesign it with gamification. I'm curious if anyone has any experience developing gaming for training or have used any vendors to develop this type of approach?

Some additonal items:

  • we need to integrate it with SumTotal LMS
  • we would like to incorporate leaderboards, badging, social recogniton, etc.

Any input or points in the right direction would be appreciated!

Thanks

26 Replies
Joshua Roberts

Travis Merrifield said:

Hi Everyone,

I work for a financial institution (credit union) and we are looking to take our existing online product training and enhance/redesign it with gamification. I'm curious if anyone has any experience developing gaming for training or have used any vendors to develop this type of approach?

Some additonal items:

  • we need to integrate it with SumTotal LMS
  • we would like to incorporate leaderboards, badging, social recogniton, etc.

Any input or points in the right direction would be appreciated!

Thanks


My first point would be, don't believe that because you develop leaderboards, badges and social recognition that you are creating gamification.

Gamification uses game mechanics in order to engage learners with the experience they are completing, it's not a case of slapping together badges and a leaderboard. You need to be link theories of game development to learning science in order for content to be effective and engaging to a learner.

Far too many people are of the opinion that as soon as a leaderboard is present you've suddenly 'gamified' your learning package, it simply isn't true and all it does is turn more people off gamification. However when it's used properly it is an absolutely wonderful theory and I believe genuinely has a large part to play in training going forwards.

I have worked to develop several large gamification modules with corporate clients, my advice is, unless you are very comfortable and know the topic inside out, seek out assistance on this project. I've seen too many projects like this crumble because of a limited understanding or managers saying 'WE NEED GAMIFICATION! I hear that's big now, right?'

Jeff Kortenbosch

Hi Travis, welcome to the forums.

Joshua is making an excellent point. That being said, there are ways to implement external leaderboards, create a badges/reward system in Storyline but I'd suggest you design the full concept of the game first (after your training needs analysis) before selecting a tool to build it in.

Personally I'm not a big fan of leaderboards as they can have a negative effect on user engagement, After all, being on top is cool but there will be more people in below the top that might not be to keen on being seen on the middle or bottom of the list.

Harri C

Hi Travis,

I agree completely with Joshua, gamification is a big buzz word but it is not always the answer to your prayers...

You may want to start by exploring theories of motivation and how game mechanics can support them - rather than the other way around. A lot of the clients I'm working with at the moment would absolutely run a mile if I suggested gamification to them, however I have manged, in all of their courses to date, to sneak in a few gamified features such as unlocking of content, visual progress, lives or attempts at a question or activity, use of engaging narrative/storytelling/characters etc. subtle gamification if you will...

Another factor you may want to consider is the fact that e-learning modules, especially when delivered to augment what are supposed to be existing competencies, provide the learner with a safe space in which they can explore their own knowledge and repeat sections they don't understand without anyone ever knowing that they didn't instantly understand the 'obvious' .

Leaderboards make failure public. I believe the damage that could be done by exposing people's weaknesses far outweighs the motivation gained by the few lucky ones that sit at the top. If you decide to go down this route you will need to manage it very carefully.

Hope this helps

Joshua Roberts

Jeff Kortenbosch said:

Hi Travis, welcome to the forums.

Joshua is making an excellent point. That being said, there are ways to implement external leaderboards, create a badges/reward system in Storyline but I'd suggest you design the full concept of the game first (after your training needs analysis) before selecting a tool to build it in.

Personally I'm not a big fan of leaderboards as they can have a negative effect on user engagement, After all, being on top is cool but there will be more people in below the top that might not be to keen on being seen on the middle or bottom of the list.


Absolutely, Jeff brings out an important point here regarding leaderboards as well.

I've seen the development of a number of leaderboards this year for clients and there are usually two ways that they go:

1. Companies create a leaderboard that is publicly displayed and has meaningful content behind it that people do indeed feel a sense of achievement from completing. They are awarded points for their final score, number of mistakes and total courses completed (etc) which in turn decreases the morale of other team members who rank lowly on this table. It also creates nervousness around the office as people feel as though they are 'in danger' if they are near the bottom of the leaderboard - it began affecting job security levels. That's some pretty serious stuff from a leaderboard that on the surface is very friendly and inspires competition!

2. Companies create a leaderboard but do not have meaningful content behind it. I've seen many instances where companies do not have gamification in built into training packages and therefore there are just points awarded upon completions of modules. What you end up with is 50 people all with 1,000 points, it isn't a challenge, it hasn't been thought through and essentially that leaderboard should not exist with training in it's current state.

There is a very fine line to run with leaderboards, one solution I've been attempting to implement is by showing the user the score below them (so they know who they are beating) and the score above them (so they can see their next challenge, but aren't put off by the users who's been online for a solid year and has over 1 million points).

My advice is that there is seriously a huge amount of analysis to go into your whole training structure before you throw gamification into the mix.

Phil Mayor

Agree with Joshua here Gamification is much more than badges and leaderboards. Gamification is really about motivation and engagement.

I also agree with Harri that the ramifications of leaderboards that are publicly visible or within an organisation can be very dangerous.

Gamification is a buzz word that in reality gives a name to what good instructional designs have been already doing for years, tracking progress, unlocking sections, quick fire quizzes, using feedback loops, discovery.

You need to research this well and perhaps engage with someone who can help you, there is a real risk if done incorrectly that you will increase the cognitive load for no real benefit and disengage the learner.

Dario De Angelis

Hi Trevis!

I found a couple of very good blog posts on Gamification (especially for Corporate Training). This particular one was written by Josh Squires, who has more then 10 years experience in instructional design, so I guess it's worth reading. Gamification in corporate learning.

This blog post instead will give you a general overview of gamification for learning strategies: Gamification for effective elearning courses.

Hope this helps,

Dario

Jerson  Campos

Joshua Roberts said:

My first point would be, don't believe that because you develop leaderboards, badges and social recognition that you are creating gamification.

Sorry Joshua, but I'm going to have to disagree with you on this. Adding leaderboards, badges, etc is gamification. Gamification is adding game like elements to in a non-game like context to engage users. BUT... just because you add these elements does not mean that learners will be engaged. It has to be done right or it will seem to cheesy and actually discourage users. Any gamification element has to be thought out properly and external elements have to be considered like your audience, the company culture, and there was a few more but it's been a while since I took the course. If the company culture is more competitive, then leaderboards might help motivate the audience. If it's more of a teamwork based culture, maybe something more like adding social networking into it would help out.

Gamification is a big buzzword right now, and many people think that just because they throw scoreboards, badges, and points into a course that it will make it more engaging, it doesn't. Gamification has to be planned and thought out, not only for the technical side, but also the user side.

Travis Merrifield

Thanks for the responses,

What we are looking for is a vendor who has experience designing game based learning to assist in designing the concept of the game as well as developement and LMS integration. (Storyline or other platform)

I appreciate all of your insight/opinions/advice on gamification. We are a large financial institution with a team of experienced instructional designers. We've done our reserach, needs analysis, etc, and have the content ready. We've conducted focus groups with both the end-user group of participants as well as sr. managment and are aware of the pro/cons of developing game based learning.


Thanks

Cary Glenn

Personally, I do not believe that there is enough evidence or strong enough evidence to support "gamification" of learning, especially in a corporate environment. There is strong evidence that extrinsic rewards (badges, leaderboards) are harmful to learning. Games (card, tabletop, board, video) are very hard to design, and gamification of learning is even harder to design and harder to judge the effectiveness of such training.

Ruth Colvin Clark has written on the subject of gamification. http://www.astd.org/Publications/Blogs/L-and-D-Blog/2012/04/Why-Games-Dont-Teach.aspx

Joshua Roberts

Jerson Campos said:

Sorry Joshua, but I'm going to have to disagree with you on this. Adding leaderboards, badges, etc is gamification. Gamification is adding game like elements to in a non-game like context to engage users. BUT... just because you add these elements does not mean that learners will be engaged. It has to be done right or it will seem to cheesy and actually discourage users. Any gamification element has to be thought out properly and external elements have to be considered like your audience, the company culture, and there was a few more but it's been a while since I took the course. If the company culture is more competitive, then leaderboards might help motivate the audience. If it's more of a teamwork based culture, maybe something more like adding social networking into it would help out.

Gamification is a big buzzword right now, and many people think that just because they throw scoreboards, badges, and points into a course that it will make it more engaging, it doesn't. Gamification has to be planned and thought out, not only for the technical side, but also the user side.


Jerson,

On the face of it yes it's gamification. But it's lazy gamification.

Also previously badges and social recognition have played no part in games, this is a modern trend and therefore is more of a shift in expectations rather than an engrained theory. Historically a leaderboard was the only thing present for the gamer.

I also believe that those who take on the thought process of adding leaderboards, badges, etc to create 'gamification' in learning are merely perpetuating the negative feelings and thoughts people are associating with the topic. People may feel as though technically speaking this means modules are 'gamified' and whilst on the surface this may be correct it's a pointless debate because to anyone who has been involved in games their whole life, this is not an experience, it is not engaging, it's just a poor attempt to tick some boxes so you can put the latest buzz word on your project. They have to be done correctly and with an incredible amount of integration with other areas of training, it's a fine balancing act.

As you rightly said Jerson, the key word is 'engage' and in 95% of the cases I see, people use leaderboards and badges because that ticks the gamification box. They do not realise that gamification is an engagement principle and it is that simple to achieve.

Shelly Blair

Hi Travis,

What you're suggesting is using game mechanics in existing material to make it more engaging. That's what I'm doing! The recent T&D magazine has a great article on this, and the did one a few months ago too. There's also a good Coursera here https://www.coursera.org/course/gamification

We aren't using a vendor since I am just picking a few game mechanics to add (progress bar, plot, badges) as a pilot. If it goes well, we may consider doing more. I find that articulate can handle a lot of the game mechanics that I'd like to add (such as the three described above).

Good luck!

Cary Glenn

Bruce, I agree with you completely.

It is possible to create engaging scenario-based learning that is effective without badges and leaderboards and the other doodads of gamification. More important than gamifying learning, make the learning, relevant, timely, practical and engaging. You will then see real results.

Bruce Graham

Jerson Campos said:

Gamification is just another set of tools that can be added to a developers skillset, just like videoscribe and powtoons. When used properly, it can help engage the user while they are learning.


Do not quite agree with this.

Videoscribe and Powtoon are specific tools to provide cartoon-style output. You use them when appropriate for the style and effect you want. I often tell people that alternatives would be preferable. They are NOT an end unto themselves.

"Gamification" is increasingly being used as a buzzword, a concept that contains a set of tools and expectations, and a concept that is being increasingly, (from what I see...) being used to EQUAL "good". It's an umbrella term for whole genre, being applied in many cases as a "fix all" for poorly conceived training, and badly designed/researched training needs.

Not saying it is ALL bad, obviously companies such as Growth Engineering use it to great effect.

I often explain to clients that if they could just focus on "The Plot" part of games, (i.e. WHAT is your story, and WHY do your learners care?) then they would probably have extracted the main benefits from eLearning combined with gamification.

Back to basics really.

Just my 2p - yet to come across a commercial opportunity where they have even mentioned it as a requirement.

Phil Mayor

Gamification is the latest buzzword for elearning and is seen as the holy grail for a lot of people.

As an elearning developer I don't see anything unique in Gamification, in all the course I build I use progress tracking, unlocking sections, quick fire quizzes, using feedback loops, and discovery. I used these before gamification was suggested and will use them when it is gone.

The coupling of games into learning is not new and play has always been used as a way of learning. Gamification is an umbrella term that encompasses all the great things instructional designers have been doing well for years.

I find a better use of gamification is in real life application using things such as bonus schemes, employee of the month and loyalty programs better reflect gamification in organisations and work better to motivate the employees.

Bruce Graham

The WONDERFULLY perceptive Harri C said:

Leaderboards make failure public. I believe the damage that could be done by exposing people's weaknesses far outweighs the motivation gained by the few lucky ones that sit at the top. If you decide to go down this route you will need to manage it very carefully.


Hi Harri - just spotted this.

Yep!

Maybe that's why it seems to work in some sales training, but do it among other groups, and it is doomed to failure.

It might work if people could "play" in private, but then it means no leaderboards, no public "stars".

We implemented a "Leaderboard" system in Oracle once...some top managers said "Aha! a public Dashboard - great", some sales said "We're better than you...nanananana", and some people said "Why do you have to use ritual humiliation in L&D?"

I absolutely LOVE the idea of using (internal) social media as well - especially to rib others about their performance. Not.

Nancy Woinoski

Gamification for the sake of gamification is stupid. You need to take a step back and look at the skills or tasks you are trying to "teach" and then take a look at the time restraints your learners are under. If either of these can benefit from using gaming techniques then more power to you. If not then forget about it.

Bruce Graham

Nancy Woinoski said:

Gamification for the sake of gamification is stupid. You need to take a step back and look at the skills or tasks you are trying to "teach" and then take a look at the time restraints your learners are under. If either of these can benefit from using gaming techniques then more power to you. If not then forget about it.


Agreed completely - but even if it IS beneficial, there is a whole realm of other business constraints, (time to produce, time to consume, culture, personalities, sponsor preference, cultural norms and so on) that need to be considered too.

I've been on one contract for over 2 years now where while it WOULD benefit from gamification, (in fact - even branching options would

be a step forward....), but "Click and Read" is still being seen as innovative black-magic wizardry, and getting some great results. Very often, you just have to be a pragmatist in what you can ACTUALLY do rather than what you would LIKE to do, or (according to all the "experts") SHOULD do.

A lot of "learning theory" is great, but it is often spouted by people who are siloed in "L&D", and have no/few business skills and/or experience, and no/little appreciation of social/culture skills. They then wonder why they do not win the contract or get replaced.

Nancy Woinoski

Bruce Graham said:

Nancy Woinoski said:

Gamification for the sake of gamification is stupid. You need to take a step back and look at the skills or tasks you are trying to "teach" and then take a look at the time restraints your learners are under. If either of these can benefit from using gaming techniques then more power to you. If not then forget about it.


Agreed completely - but even if it IS beneficial, there is a whole realm of other business constraints, (time to produce, time to consume, culture, personalities, sponsor preference, cultural norms and so on) that need to be considered too.

I've been on one contract for over 2 years now where while it WOULD benefit from gamification, (in fact - even branching options would

be a step forward....), but "Click and Read" is still being seen as innovative black-magic wizardry, and getting some great results. Very often, you just have to be a pragmatist in what you can ACTUALLY do rather than what you would LIKE to do, or (according to all the "experts") SHOULD do.

A lot of "learning theory" is great, but it is often spouted by people who are siloed in "L&D", and have no/few business skills and/or experience, and no/little appreciation of social/culture skills. They then wonder why they do not win the contract or get replaced.

Bruce Graham

Spot on Nancy.

I sometimes think that a lot of IDs are so afraid of challenging clients/prospects, and potentially losing them, that they just "go with the flow". Our job is to show people how to train effectively, and tell them why if they are not being successful. Anything less and we are not doing our jobs.

I had a prospect contact me yesterday requiring a PowToon. I told them I could not "...put lipstick on a pig", (I phrased it more nicely though...), explaining that their main problem was that their website was muddled and confused both from a messaging point of view, and from grammar and spelling perspectives.

I'm not going to take $400+ when I know that my product will fail/have absolutely no impact, and I'm not going to "game-ify" something if there is no reason to do so - which in my experience is most of the time.

So - to the OP (Travis), what are you going to do?

Nancy Mucklow

As I see it, the point of gamification is not the leaderboards and badges, but the central quest. The learner has to have a mission. You can have the learner set his/her own goal for the course, then track their progress toward the goal. But you'd also need a goal that's built into the narrative. What is the learner supposed to accomplish in this story -- the set of events that leads to triumph and the ending of the course? There also should be an adversary -- something/someone that is an obstacle to the learner's success and that he/she has to gain control over in order to complete the quest.

In my opinion, no quest, no game.

I'm interested in the question of gamification because colleges and even universities are using it -- and with good results. The point of gamification is engagement, especially for the younger generation. If all we're doing is adding competition to ecourses, then we're not gamifying them in any way that's meaningful to learning.