Wikipedia

Gamification: A fad or the future?

Photo of individual participating in online game.

On the professional LinkedIn group, Learning and Development, Eng-Sing SOON from Singapore initiated a discussion by asking if Gamification was a passing fad or the future of learning.

It was not surprising that the discussion quickly jumped towards defining what gamification meant.
Kenneth Camel from New Zealand stated first with, “The process of gamification means using gaming techniques in developing learning events, not necessarily making a game out of learning. Gaming techniques use engagement, teaming and communication to reach an objective. This brings different types of learners together to solve problems (scenarios, role playing and practice). The techniques have been around for a long time. (war gaming, D&D, board games, learning maps, lean manufacturing).”

Jack A. Loganbill from the Unisys Corporation was quick to note that he found that there is a wide difference in opinion of what exactly gamification is as it applies to training. He went on to responded to the question by asking the question “Is it turning the training into a game? Or is it applying gaming attributes the principles that make games so attractive, to the training.

For those who read my recent blog, I too have noticed that when working with different organizations I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So I opted to simply used Wikipedia’s definition. “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

Personally, I think Katin Imes, from Expedition 21 Media, Inc. provided one most clarifying definitions when he stated, “I want to point out a word-transformation that is happening. The term "gamification" means really different things in different domains. The current term is "on fire" in sales, media, online "customer engagement", and corporate offices but there it means:
- adding track able, effectible metrics to simple customer actions
- presenting those metrics to the public or to a subgroup in a themed, "fun" way that provides competition or rewards
- providing prizes, rewards, freebies, or recognition awards to the highest-metric participants.”

“When a learning professional hears gamification in a sense of applying it to training or learning, the term is much more to do with providing exercises ("games") that directly include the skills or knowledge being learned to be applied in a system ("rules") that provides a clear outcome ("win or lose", "measurable benefit or loss", "rank"). Quality games provide problems or resource situations that cannot be solved well without the skills or knowledge being learned, and allow participants to experiment and "tweak the dials" to experience the outcomes and effects of different strategies and factors or sequences.”

Once you settle on a definition for the term “gamification” you can go back to the question that the title asks: Gamification: A fad or the future of learning? Hopefully your interest has been peaked. There is a general consensus developing among those participating in the discussion on the LinkedIn Learning and Development Group that you can follow. I however will not provide a spoiler.

Gamification as a Situational Learning Tool

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The use of games or gamification for learning enhancement is not new in education. During the past few years however, there has been a renewed interest in gamification due largely to the new technologies that has become available. If you Google “gamification” it displays more than 700,000 results. Unfortunately too many people create educational games so that they can demonstration a technology rather than because it is the correct tool to improve or increase knowledge or a competency. Before selecting any delivery tools consider context and learning situation.

Working with several different organizations this past fall I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So for those of you reading this blog let’s establish a common definition used by Wikipedia. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

In the January 2015 issue of Chief Learning Officer is an interview with Jake Orowitz, Head of Wikipedia Library. In the interview Orowitz explains how Wikipedia uses gamification for situational learning to onboard volunteers, sharing the process related to editing material.

There are several interesting business case studies that use Gamification to enhance learning. For Microsoft the situation was to create a bond between the consulting business’ senior managers and to use the opportunity for content delivery and learning, bringing management up to date on the vision, financial results and strategy for the year. A full gamification solution considering context and situations was designed to motivate participation in the event, measuring engagement with the content presented and creating team spirit within the ad-hoc teams formed during the process. As a part of the process the tools to deliver the content were selected using mobile phones and tablets.

Another situation called for improving a course designed for those learning how to specify building materials for the new LEED MR Credit: Building product disclosure and optimization credit, under the Health Product Declaration (HPD) option. A collaborative team between Expedition21Media.com, Lowther7, LLC, and GreenCE was created to meet the challenge. It was determined by the team that a good way to increase learning and have participants better demonstrate competency was to imbed a mini-game in the course at a point after students learned how to specify building materials. To see the results for yourself play the free version of the LEED Materials Credit mini-game!

For the last three decades the popular workshop, the Accounting Game was offered by Educational Discoveries, Inc. and Professional Training International. The situation called for assisting non-CPA’s to understand basic accounting and balance sheet practices. The one day, on-site workshop used a simple lemonade stand business simulation format.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog post, the use of games or gamification for learning is not new to education. One of my first graduate courses was how to create and use games to promote learning, develop skills, and improve competencies. Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter have written a book entitled, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Wharton Digital Press, 2012).

Through Wharton – University of Pennsylvania and Coursera, Kevin Werbach, offers the free course, Gamification. It is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course teaches the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.

How to Be Effective Using the Situational Classroom

Learning objectives are a key to selecting the best delivery approach for use by the instructor in a classroom. Once you determine the development and motivation level of your students, your learning objects should indicate when it is appropriate to be directive, when to use a coaching technique, when to be supportive and facilitate a group activity or when to delegate a learning approach.

Being practical, time is an element that also needs to be considered. For an individual class that is typically one hour in length it would be difficult for the instructor to effectively try and incorporate more than two delivery styles. Keep to the philosophy that the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need. The instructor should focus on a simple and effective delivery style. Subject matter substance should be emphasized over multiple styles when time is limited.

If you are teaching a half day or full day session, and the learning objectives indicate that a progressive learning track is the expected outcome then the use of multiple teaching styles and techniques might be considered. For a course that is a full day or longer, adult learners will find that instructors following a situational delivery progression more rewarding. If the learning activity is a day or two in length, as are many workshops and seminars for professional and executives, try not to cram too much “new” material into the timeframe. An eight hour or twenty hour course allows ample time to progress from a directive instruction style (lecture) to a delegating style of instruction (agreed upon action plan).

For those of you who teach an online instructor lead course, or certification courses, or traditional college classes I recommend breaking the overall course down into four parts. Start with the basics using directive, lecture approach and continue to progressively increase student involvement with each session. The instruction should progress slowly through each instructional style building one upon the other. The instructor needs to check regularly to ensure that students have reached the learning development level which matches the style of instruction that is being used.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a directive style

Educators all know the importance of clear, well written learning objectives. Knowing what you want the student to learn and what knowledge they should leave the classroom with is critical to the success of an instructor. Once the learning objectives are written the instructor needs to select the correct delivery approach to most effectively reach the students. Not all instructor delivery styles will effectively transfer the knowledge to the students identified in the learning objectives as intended. The variables of learning in the classroom are many but the instructor can increase his/her success rate by selecting and using the appropriate delivery style.

How do you know which delivery style is the most effective to use, and when? One method to selecting the appropriate style can be determined by referring to the core elements of situational leadership. There are four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. What’s important to know about situational leadership is that it considerations the development level of the student. Using a four step sliding scale the student is rated on competence and commitment. Similar to reaching success following the situational leadership model, to achieve maximum learning the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

The best time for the instructor to use a directive style of delivery (telling and showing) is when the student has a high commitment to learning the subject but has little or no competence in the subject area (enthusiastic beginner). Examples of a directive style of delivery include speeches, lectures (PowerPoint), and demonstrations. On the internet, delivery of a webinar generally comes under the directive style of delivery.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a coaching style

So your next class is intended for students who have some knowledge of the subject matter but they do not have a strong comprehension? The student’s commitment to advance their knowledge to learning more about the subject matter seems to be wavering. Think of the individual who learned the basics of tennis but wants to give up because they aren’t very good after four weeks of training and just can’t seem to consistently keep their serve between the lines. Or the individual who purchases a new phone for the twitter function but can’t figure out how to use the hash marks correctly so they just give up on that function.

After you finish writing the learning objectives for the class you realize that just telling the students about the topic or showing them how something is done is no longer the most effective approach for the student to truly learn the subject matter. You know that the student has some knowledge but realize too that the student does not yet have mastery of that subject matter. Knowing what you, the instructor want the student to learn and what knowledge they should retain after leaving the class is critical to the next level of learning in their development. The key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

When students are at this moderate stage of learning development the use of role playing and roundtable discussions are two excellent ways to engage and support the students learning process. At this stage of the students development the instructional techniques require that the subject is told “how to” and/or is provided with a demonstration of what they are expected to learn. The student is then expected to try to demonstrate their knowledge or skill. The instructor stays involved by observing the demonstration and providing constructive feedback to the student. Ideally, this process is repeated until the student correctly demonstrates mastery of the knowledge or skill enough to take successfully to the next level. Some simple online gaming tools have been developed and designed that follow this model, such as the DMV’s defensive driving school. Using both a high directive style of instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a coaching style of delivery correctly.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a supporting style

You have now been working with your students for awhile and they are progressing in the subject matter. You notice that they have reached a high level of competence but you also note that the student’s commitment is not consistent and still varies. Think of the individual who has mastered most of the basic skills of drawing and design but is beginning to get bored by the daily routine and repetition of fine tuning the skills that they have already learned. After awhile it becomes difficult to stay focused and committed.

Your current learning objectives indicate that the next level of development is more than individual skills sets that the students have been practicing. The students are consistently demonstrating their mastery of the skills when required. They have grown to the point where they are becoming frustrated by either repeatedly being challenged by you or by challenging themselves. Since the key to successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need, the students are ready to demonstrate their knowledge or skills in front of their peers.

Several excellent ways to engage students at this next moderate level of learning development include group activities such as gaming, case studies and charrettes. The instructors skills need to transform from directing, lecturing, coaching and feedback to one of facilitating, listening, praising and providing constructive feedback. At this stage of the students’ development the student interacts with peers demonstrating their knowledge and/or skill. The instructor stays involved but at more of a distance observing and guiding. For online instruction, chat rooms, discussion groups and designed group learning activities can provide similar results. For the instructor, using a low level of directive instruction along with high supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a supporting style of delivery correctly.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

A Situational Classroom: What about the impact of group dynamics?

So far in our situational classroom series we have stressed what classroom format and delivery model the instructor might best utilize to maximize learning by the individual student. So when the instructor determines that a supportive style of instruction is most appropriate, plan carefully. For the best learning results review the course content and design well ahead of time. Consider how different the skills of supporting and facilitation are from lecturing, directing and coaching during the implementation and delivery phases of this learning model. Remember that facilitation of a group correctly usually takes more time to cover. Think of covering the material by a lecture or covering the same material using a case study. http://www.lowther7.com/courses/instructor-facilitator-understanding-gro...

Let’s look here at the similarities of an individual’s learning development and stages of group development. According to Bruce Tuckman there are four stages to group development. The first stage is forming, individuals seeking acceptance as they avoid conflict. According to the Situational Leadership, team approach, this first stage is orientation. Group participants enter with low to varied competence but generally high commitment, similar to an individual’s first development learning level.

Storming is Tuckman’s second stage of development. At this level team members determine what they are suppose solve and how they will participate within the group. The situational team approach calls this stage dissatisfaction with individuals demonstrating some competence with a low to varying level of commitment.

Groups that successfully work through stage two move into Norming or resolution, the third stage. Some members of the group may have to give up their ideas and agree with others to work towards a common goal. Individuals demonstrate a high competence with variable levels of commitment.

Successful groups reach the fourth stage, performing or production. The team members are motivated, demonstrating high competence and high commitment while working towards the completion of the groups goals.

In a situational classroom, the instructor using a supportive approach needs to be aware that student’s may enter into the group learning activities at different levels of competency and commitment. It is important to facilitate the group as if they are all at the same basic level during the forming/orientation stage. On the part of the instructor/facilitator it is critical that they carefully guide the group to each new development level as a group. Moving to a new level is a skill of balance. Move too soon and you can lose the involvement of students who are not ready. Move too slowly and you can lose the involvement of your advanced students who may get frustrated.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a delegating style

As your students progress, at some point they should reach a high level of understanding and competence in the subject matter. When they also demonstrate a high level of commitment it is the right time to adjust your instructional style, using a delegating style. Think of the individual who has mastered the basic theories and concepts. They have demonstrated some advanced technical techniques. Working in small teams they work well and are able to design some interesting buildings with sustainable features. As their instructor it is now time to challenge them again. Since the key to continued successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student at the correct time of need. It is time for the student to demonstrate what they have learned moving beyond theory and concept and into practice.

Several models that you can use to engage students at this high level of learning development include research projects, self-directed studies, or learning contracts. It is time for the instructor to turn over responsibility to the student in decision-making. That means that the instructor provides little supervision or support. As within the structure of a contract, expectations and outcomes should be agreed upon between the instructor and student at the start of the project. Unless specified, either individual or network group approaches should be acceptable for the project. Upon completion of the project the instructor should providing constructive feedback.

For the instructor, using a low level of directive instruction along with low supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a delegating style of delivery correctly. Delegating behavior should not be confused with dumping or “hands off” instruction. Delegating means that there is still some, just limited involvement of the instructor.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

The Emerging Blend of Degrees, Certification, and Professional Development: Impact on Higher Education

It about the degree, right?

Let me state my point of view of higher education upfront, I am focusing on the student who is interested in obtaining a college degree to improve their employment options. It may be the graduate student or it could be the undergraduate or the student in a community college or technical school that wants to get a promotion, a better position or a raise. Today, it is also more than likely that these are adult students. They have experienced the stress of a difficult economy and observed the rising cost of tuition. A record number of them have taken on student loans and many now face default. Higher education is about the degree, right? The degree has been the path to gaining knowledge, education and better employment. But tens of thousands of students and employers are questioning the perceived value of that degree.

Along came the Internet with free information. Today you can take free online courses from leading universities such as Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other colleges. Suddenly, what had been the exclusive domain of courses for the purpose of receiving college degrees becomes part of anyone’s opportunity for continuing professional development (CPD). But colleges cannot afford to give away their courses and expect to stay in operation. Community colleges, technical colleges and associations are offering certificates and certifications. These certificates and certifications are becoming widely recognized and accepted by professionals, employers and government agencies. Certification may show a demonstration of advanced knowledge, of a competency, and/or a skill. In some cases the certification has replaced the degree for that person who wants to get that promotion, the better position or a raise and the cost of a certification is generally much less that the college degree.

So, what might we expect for higher education? Well, the college degree is not going to go away. Society still values the college tradition, the credibility and trust the college degree. Most colleges will increase their online education programs and online course offerings. For example, the Boston Architectural College offered the first online Sustainable Design degree and their colleges are searching for their niche. Schools will increasingly offer certification programs and the courses that support those programs. Schools will increase the number of partnerships they develop with professional, technical, and trade associations as well as related businesses and industry. Pratt Institute for example, partners with the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA). offering IFMA credential programs using Pratt IFMA certified faculty.

Two major expenses for a college, the campus and the faculty and online education affect both areas. Online education allows the college to expand their reach to students globally without greatly expanding the cost of a facility or an instructor. Partnering with a business or industry and setting up a satellite facility in an office is becoming a common practice. Online education expands the college faculty’s reach globally, 24/7. The online instructor can offer a lecture to hundreds or thousands at a time. It would be similar the professor offering a class lecture in a large auditorium while discussion groups make it more personalized for the student.

The Emerging Blend of the Degree, the Certification, and Professional Development: The overview

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We often hear that change is constant. In yesterday’s issue of the Washington Post was an article on education, “An alternative to high-cost college?" A major focus of the article was about how start-up companies are providing free or low priced programs are designed to compete against the expense of a college degree program. This article is yet another statement about the current assault on the expense of obtaining a degree in higher education and the perceived value of that degree. While the Post article focused mainly on higher education, this is just the tip of the transition. There is a related larger issue that needs our attention, the emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development.

In their book, Nine Shift that was published in 2004, the authors William Draves and Julie Coates introduced to us the changes that were beginning to occur in our society because of the acceptance and use of the internet. They described changes that were just beginning to occur in our approach to work, in our life styles, and in our approach to education. As the Washington Post article describes the situation, we are now well into the middle of the transition described in Nine Shift. So, where are we now? What'€™s the current landscape?

Related to formal education MIT, Harvard and others have used the internet to design a new education landscape. The Washington Post article sited MITalong with other universities as pioneers for offering open courseware. To date there are more than 15,000 online open courses provided by more than 250 institutions. Suddenly, what had been the exclusive domain of courses for the purpose of receiving college degrees become part of anyone'€™s opportunity for continuing professional development (CPD). In their association'€™s official publication, Training + Development, the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) indicated that in 2010 more new online courses were being developed by companies than traditional classroom courses. Online companies such as Ron Blank, RedVector, AECDaily, Saylor.com, P2PU are using college faculty to develop and on offer online CPD. And don'€™t forget McDonald'€™s Hamburger University or the Disney Institute.

Throw into the mix a few online certificate or certification programs offered by associations, community colleges and technical schools. Suddenly the lines between degrees, certifications, and professional development begin to blur. You now have a real conundrum. How do you sort through what I refer to the "€œterrible T's" - Turf, Trust and Tradition. Who is supposed to offer what to whom? Who can you trust? And, who are these people – have they ever offered education before?

So, what’s next? What can we expect? In the upcoming series of the “emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development” we will offer papers specific to the impact on higher education, associations, firms, product manufacturers and the workforce.

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