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Here are five tips to consider for creating successful game-based e-learning:

n Understand the ‘dopamine cycle’ First of all, it is important to understand the dopamine cycle of ‘pleasure’, ‘challenge’ and ‘achievement’ when you are developing content, as this holds the key to successfully using gamification to improve the learner experience and drive engagement. Consider your objectives, how you are going to address each stage of the cycle, and how you can optimise motivation within the course. Think carefully about whether you want to use badges and trophies as rewards. Even if you’re not one of those people who is spurred on by winning points and trophies or getting to the top of a leader board, plenty of people are, and these incentives can sometimes be just what is needed to activate learner engagement and achieve real and lasting behavioural change. But remember, first and foremost the focus should always be on achievement rather than the reward, and this means giving your learner an experience that they feel genuinely pleased about completing.

n Know your learners Everybody has different learning preferences, so it is important to make sure you know your learners and understand what makes them tick to engage with them more effectively. Some people love fantasy games, while other learners are likely to be occasional game players who have only ever used apps. This means you will need to ensure that you develop something that addresses the needs and desires of the cross-section of learners or you could risk alienating people or failing to get the results you are looking to achieve. Above all though, what you develop needs to be exciting: if learners are having fun and actively participating in the learning, then they are going to be all the more likely to acquire information.

n Use scenarios Scenarios are your gateway to gamification. They are one of the most powerful applications you can use because they give the learner the opportunity to make meaningful decisions while the general principles of the theory are being introduced. With scenarios, learners feel that they have the power of choice, which is an important factor for motivation and engagement. When you are developing your content, make sure you spend plenty of time concentrating on the narrative and how you can hook the learner into a personalised approach. This will be time well spent, because the success or failure of a module more often than not hinges on the strength of the solid narrative created throughout the experience. Remember, there is no need to make things too complex or difficult: using branching scenarios is one of the best ways to begin gamifying content.

n Use bite-sized chunks It’s becoming harder than ever to avoid information overload, and limits to short-term memory capacity make it essential to prioritise information. Content ‘chunking’ – breaking up content into shorter, bite-size pieces that are easier to digest and remember – has become an essential strategy for creating ‘less is more’, brain-friendly, gamified e-learning. This approach enables users to learn and practice skills, prior to having to demonstrate mastery of those skills. Try breaking up content into short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. As well as avoiding cognitive fatigue this will help to drive engagement through mystery and achievement.

n Let your learners act freely It’s important not to restrict the flow of content, unless of course you have a process that needs to be conducted in a precise way. A free-flow approach that allows the individual to explore the learning environment can help to bolster the dopamine cycle by helping to create that sense of mystery and intrigue. This type of approach can help transform even the driest of content, turning the chore of seemingly tedious learning into greater enthusiasm and interest from your learners.

We also created a gamified healthcare module to help improve patient care, which gives the learner first-hand experience of what it is like being taken to hospital from the perspective of someone with dementia.

Proof that gamification works While gamification of e-learning in the workplace is still in its infancy, there are already some compelling examples of how it is increasing learner engagement by making learning fun, improving knowledge retention, and enhancing the overall learning experience through greater interaction. E-learning can be gamified in many different ways and for many different

purposes. For example, we recently developed a destination virtual board game which was highly effective in reinforcing learning from five different e-learning modules. We used a combination of point scoring systems, bonus rounds, achievements, video scenarios, computer opponents and leader boards to create a highly engaging multimedia-rich environment. We also created a gamified healthcare module to help improve patient care, which gives the learner first-hand experience of what it is like being taken to hospital from the perspective of someone with dementia. The use of narrative and scenarios has helped ensure the insight and knowledge learned online can be put to good use in the workplace. This is a great example of how gamification in e-learning allows learners to see the real world applications and benefits of the subject matter in a risk-free environment. Today’s learners are increasingly demanding content that is more relevant, rewarding and engaging than ever, and more and more learners are buying into gamification. Research shows that almost 80% of learners say that they would be more productive if their learning environment was more game-like. Meanwhile, over 60% of learners say that they would be motivated by leader boards and increased competition with other learners; and 89% of learners would be more engaged with an e-learning application if it had a points system (Source: When you consider that engagement in the workplace is at an all time low,

clearly it’s time to challenge the status quo and look for more innovative ways to engage our learners. With gamification beginning to prove its worth, there is everything to play for!

Rob Caul, CEO of Kallidus and Josh Roberts, Kallidus instructional designer @kallidus

e.learning age april 2015


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