Gamification as a Situational Learning Tool

Photo by by azwaldo

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.