Game-based learning serves as an interactive framework that enables players to collaboratively participate in the creation of collective results. This group effort helps organizations improve their knowledge transfer process and motivates learners to perform better. Relevant scenarios involve managers and decision makers in managing the integration of changes and innovation in different types of virtual organizational contexts. A learner who takes on the responsibilities in the virtual environment gains targeted skills through the gaming experience.
“An essential element of gaming is competition, and a spirit of friendly competition between teams fosters collaboration,” said Tyler Whitworth, director of product management at learning product provider Intrepid Learning. “As anyone who’s ever played a multiplayer online game knows, collaboration is key to reaching your goal, and the team that works together the most efficiently tends to win the game. These lessons translate easily to today’s business environment, where you often find yourself working with team members who may not sit in the same office, same building or even the same city.”
In 2006, technology research firm Gartner forecasted that by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes. Gartner also estimated that by 2014 more than 70 percent of Forbes Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application. The conclusion was that in the future, gaming will be used as a means to have employees learn better and stay more engaged — both leading to tangible business results.
“Gamification is one of the most notable techniques to engage learners,” Whitworth said. “It aids learning by making it fun and encouraging friendly competition, but most of all it aligns with the one principle that has been shown to best motivate people — progress. Games allow learners to measure their progress, receive regular feedback, work as teams and solve challenging problems, all while learning.”
When training feels dull, learners are not engaged or motivated, so they’re not really learning. Within an effective game-based learning environment, learners work toward a goal, choose actions and experience the consequences of those actions along the way. They make mistakes in a risk-free setting and through experimentation, actively learn and practice the right way to do things.
“Any game that requires players to think, coordinate, communicate or plan makes certain demands from the person playing it, thereby creating a situation where players are doing the very things by the way of play that they are usually trained on painfully in austere classrooms,” said Mike Stacy, senior vice president of learning and performance at Aptara.
According to Stacy, games can aid the development of proficiency by allowing users to interact with objects and manipulate variables. They are particularly effective when designed to address a specific problem or teach a certain skill in curriculum subjects, where specific objectives can be stated when deployed selectively within a context relevant to the learning activity and goal.
“Games are very good at using drama, storyline, humor and characters to create a compelling experience, which, from a training point of view, develops memory hooks and means learners not only remember what happened but also why it happened,” Stacy said. “If undertaken appropriately, game-based learning is the vehicle for embedding new knowledge or skills that can immediately be applied in the workplace.”
Three years ago, Deloitte made a strategic choice to move away from a lecture-based model to simulation, game-based models. According to Bill Pelster, chief learning officer at Deloitte, this doesn’t conflict with the build-out of brick-and-mortar Deloitte University. The university has 35 classrooms that are optimized for simulation and game-based activities. Games are used to connect diverse and distributed people as well as groups, networks, organizations and communities. This year Deloitte will deliver a million hours of simulation-based learning — out of the total 4 million hours of learning and development offered — through four programs each geared toward either:
• New employees to Deloitte.
• Newly promoted managers or senior managers.
• New partners, principals or directors.
• Advancing industry knowledge for all employees.
Each simulation is delivered through spreadsheet technology. Algorithms and logic are built into the spreadsheets. Groups of five to seven employees work on a laptop and input their ideas onto a screen, which is only available to that team. Spreadsheet data is then aggregated on the back end. A team of individuals work on the algorithm behind the scenes and see the consequences of the team’s decisions. That feedback is then presented through graphs to highlight the types of decisions teams are making.
“Aside from the technical aspect, in order for our simulations to work, we decided early on that we need leaders in the room to facilitate the conversation,” Pelster said. “It’s of no use to have a team going through a complex game board or simulation, making decisions and not having someone who can observe and provide them feedback. Along with our decision to go the simulation route, we also [decided] that all of our live, national learning would be leader-led. You have senior people in the room facilitating conversations so it’s very personalized around the experience employees are getting.”
The leader-to-learner ratio is one to five. Pelster’s team measures each individual’s learning program using standard Kirkpatrick evaluations to measure the business impact and has seen positive results. Further, once a year the organization conducts an internal talent survey. From this, it has seen its employee development programs are valued by employees and aid retention.
“The amount of buzz and the generated excitement that comes from having not only a gaming-based solution but then having a senior partner in the room to talk about the decisions they made and providing coaching feedback to a team of five is absolutely invaluable,” Pelster said.
Ladan Nikravan is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at lnikravan@CLOmedia.com.