Gamifying Education

Clinton Swaine, CEO and Founder, Frontier Trainings
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Clinton Swaine, CEO and Founder, Frontier Trainings

Clinton Swaine, CEO and Founder, Frontier Trainings

Gamification has been a growing trend since 2010 and one of the most important areas which it has impacted is Education. Participants for too long have been sitting listening to speakers on stage telling them how to succeed or how to do a skills but are missing one of the most important elements of education. People learn most when they are involved, participating or doing. When we were children we learned by interacting with our world. We used blocks and toys and move and built and interacted with our world. As we got older, they began to take away our toys and tools away colored crayons and gave us colored pencils then pens then gave us lined paper. Before long we found ourselves sitting in long lines in lecture halls listening to ‘experts’ drone about topics we wish we could forget as soon as an exam was over or to a motivational speaker than built up our energy but watch it dissipate as soon as we leave the building. There had to be another way.

Games-based trainings emerged in the late 1970’s through a number of business companies aiming for greater impact in their students. In addition, there was the growth of LGAT or Large Group Awareness Trainings that emerged creating transformation through exercises and processes. Following on from the work of these pioneering companies, some companies such as Frontier Trainings emerged to move deeper into gamification of education. Taking the education into the areas of measured results, performance indicators and trackable progression. One of the cornerstones of game-based education is 100% engagement of 100% of the students for 100% of the time. There have been small games used in companies for many years, but often high achievers are left bored as they complete the task well before the deadline. The question is ‘How do you create complete engagement of all students for the whole time?’. The answer is Multi-Layered Games. These are games where people of all different levels can be fully engaged. CEOs can play with shop floor employees and each one can have lessons at their level with can transform their role in the business.

  Our education needs to become more relevant, applicable and entertaining and the cornerstone of that new approach will be continual growth of Gamified and Experiential-Based learning 

A Game can run for 20 minutes or as long as 13 hours, depending on its intent. A well-run game will have the primary lesson as well as many secondary lessons that will emerge. While the game may be fun, challenging and packed full of learnings, the true value of the game will only emerge in the debrief hence a great facilitator is an instrumental part of gamified education. We are not simply using gamification concepts to gain higher usage, adoption or loyalty but as an integral part of training and development to improve production, communication and skill acquisition.

Games ideally take the student out of their comfort zone. We have games set in Egypt, Greece, Military Themes, Renaissance, Age of Discovery, Futuristic and more. Each game is designed with a specific purpose. It may be to understand the Innovation Process, to develop greater negotiation skills, to learn financial management or the importance of cost control.

There are many challenges in creating powerful game-based educational experiences that have true long lasting and transformational impact on your students. There are many ways to destroy the viability of a game through poor planning, an inability to understand human behavior or insufficient ability of the facilitator to handle the contingencies that can emerge from a game. When one is teaching is a didactic or lecture style there is a list of content to go over and it is generally done in a linear fashion. In game- based learning the lessons can often come from the unexpected, from creative thinking put forward from the students and from unthought of opportunities that can be seized. It is often from these exceptions that true breakthroughs and progression can be learned by all parties including the facilitator.

With such a high level of commitment and expertise from the facilitator, the question may arise is it worth the effort. I have been training for fourteen years in gamified education around the world and the results I have seen continue to astound me. The participation rate is higher because students feel involved versus being talked to. The contribution level is higher because material is debriefed, taking into account, each person’s experience and perspective of the games played. The retention rate of material is much higher due to the immersive nature of the learning.

With the younger generation growing up playing games and using computers and smart phones as daily habits any hope we had of traditional chalk and talk education surviving is rapidly disappearing. Our education needs to become more relevant, applicable and entertaining and the cornerstone of that new approach will be continual growth of Gamified and Experiential-Based learning.

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