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A Spoonful of Gamification Sugar, Sir?

This week’s blog comes from Learning Designer Angela Wood, who is based in our Sheffield office.

The Friday elation I feel is often shattered by thoughts of helping young sons with weekend homework. The wonder of what’s in store – obscure spellings, lyrical literacy or menacing maths. How many boxes of tissues will we use this time?


This weekend I was delighted to find that my youngest son had ‘only got to play a game on the computer’. How delighted I was – happy kids make a happy mum. Reduced share prices for tissue manufacturers. In fact, I struggled to stop him doing his homework! The task was practising subtraction – not much competition for bicycles, Lego or even carving erasers with a ruler. However, put a task on the computer with a pirate who receives a fatal cutlass attack whenever the answer is correct and the boys are engaged for hours.

It made me wonder how well suited games are to adult learning. We have all read headlines about how addictive computer games are for children, and many adults have personal experience of the draw of computer games. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if adults were as drawn to learning as kids are to their online homework? Is it possible to create this effect for adults too? Is there a spoonful of sugar to help the adult medicine go down in the world of training?

Glazed eyes

As a former teacher, the memory of glazed eyes reminds me how little is absorbed when something is not engaging. An engaged learner is much more likely to retain and use the information they have gained than someone required to sit through dry, boring content. Studies have found that students given a task or simulation could recall 90% of what they learned, compared to 10% by reading alone.

Could gamification be this spoonful of sugar? Is it the magic that makes marvellous mandatory training? Gamification has been used successfully in many further and higher education institutions to train our future generation of employees. It’s also becoming more popular in the workplace as L&D colleagues are realising the benefits of delivering learning in this format. Just as Monopoly, Cluedo and Game of Life can provide basic training in financial management, problem solving and life events, interactive games have provided scenario-based learning, from fracture management to military training.

Intrinsic learning

For those readers who would like a bit of evidence to support gamification, here’s the bit for you. In order to learn, students need to be engaged in the learning by some means. Students who are active in their learning become creators of knowledge rather than a passive recipient of information. Using games gives learners an opportunity to experiment and experience errors without risking incorrect decisions in the real world. Games with purpose also make for more engaging platforms than dry text – engage the learner and you are well on the way to passing the required knowledge over to the student. Gamification can ‘shift the motivation for learning from extrinsic to intrinsic learning’ (Bowen, J., n.d. in elearningindustry.com’s ebook what are the most effective uses of Gamification in Learning?), i.e. the reward for learning is an internal feeling of satisfaction and motivation, rather than a carrot on a string. As humans – like many creatures – love to play games, tapping into this innate desire is a perfect way to deliver training.

Improve compliance and retention

Using gamification as a learning medium can not only motivate learners, it can also improve participant compliance and retention. Why not create a Mandatory Mayhem, Delightful Dealing or Hectic Hygiene game for your team to be hooked on?

LEO Learning Preloaded, our specialist games with purpose division, is dedicated to creating games which engage, inform and inspire. Talk to us today to discover how LEO Learning Preloaded can help you get your learners ready and raring to learn.

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