September 8, 2021

Why You Should Separate Gamification From Technology

4 min read
By Maryam Mohamedali


70% of business transformation efforts fail due to lack of employee engagement.

In the L&D space, employee engagement (or lack of it) isn’t a recent issue. But in a world where learning and talent development has had to rapidly pivot to virtual (and, more recently, hybrid), it is an increasingly important one. No more so than for learning professionals and HR leaders.

Just as employee engagement is not a new phenomenon, neither is the solution: Gamification as a learning tool can be used to create a safe learning environment, where participants feel free to experiment, fail, move out of their comfort zone, and ultimately accelerate their engagement with learning content.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of gamified learning is its adaptability: in a rapidly-virtualised world of Zoom and email, gamified learning experiences are being used for everything from core skills to inductions and onboarding, in order to revolutionise the traditionally low-impact format of online learning.

“The concept of gamification in learning is not strictly about games themselves, but rather the implementation of the elements that make them so engaging.”

The concept of gamification in learning is not strictly about games themselves, but rather the implementation of the elements that make them so engaging: Rules. Feedback. Goals. These elements are able to activate the neural circuits that play a critical role in recall and remembering, boosting knowledge retention by up to 25%.

Contrary to popular belief, gamification in learning does not depend on the use of technology. In other words, the core elements that make games engaging is not the sophistication of the technology used, but how well they meet your audiences’ learning needs.

So where should your learning sit on the spectrum of gamification? How should technology be incorporated? And to what extent?

Regardless of your organisation’s view on the return to face-to-face, it’s critical that L&D functions put learning outcomes first by ensuring that the vehicles to communicate and convey information are appropriate for their audiences. Gamification should then be geared to deliver on those learning outcomes. And technology, in turn, is one of many ways to gamify: it’s a vehicle for delivering learning, rather than being synonymous with gamification in and of itself.

Here are three areas to consider when you are deciding the most appropriate format for gamification and, more specifically, the use of technology for gamifying the learning experiences you design. Keep in mind technology in gamification can be anything from to Mixed Reality – knowing where you are aiming to land will help you focus your tech efforts. Answer the following to ensure your learning experiences meet your audience’s needs and your learning outcomes:

1. Cultural Variation

  • Consider the cultural references you make. The rules of Scrabble or Monopoly might not be familiar to some of your audience. What is the best way to meet culturally diverse learning needs?
  • How might people’s learning and listening needs differ in these varied contexts? Might there be restrictions on tech capabilities or accessibility?

2. Technology Literacy

  • If yours is a less-technologically-driven or equipped audience, is a technologically-driven virtual learning experience going to alienate or distract your audience from key learning outcomes? Might a lower-tech, highly gamified experience hit the mark more effectively?
  • If it is a highly technology-literate audience, the same question applies: high expectations on what technology should deliver might lead your audience to focus on what isn’t there in terms of fidelity, world-building, and seamlessness. How can you use the right technology to enhance the learning rather than distract from it, and execute on it faultlessly?

3. Neurodiversity

  • A virtual experience may well reach a wider audience, since logging into a laptop is easier and more cost effective than physically attending in-person. However, within a virtual experience, are you able to gamify that experience to account for the neurodiversity of your audience?
  • Technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and MR (Mixed Reality) are not yet mainstream enough to be neurodiverse. They are still being trialled and tested. Will your audience be able to learn effectively through these mediums? This is not to say they cannot be incorporated. The question becomes, what is the most effective way to incorporate them?

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