figuRing it out

If gamification is so wonderful – and indeed has earned its buzz word status – why can’t I find a practical example with some ROI attached?

I can find a lot of information on vendor sites.  They provide white papers and work books and really cool examples of what you could do if your resources were endless.  But what I want is to talk to an instructional designer or learning consultant from a company that implemented gamification – and see how the sustainability piece is.  That great initial THIS IS COOL – how did it last after a year, two years?  Does gamifying your learning bring a sustained increase in retention and completion?

I understand the science.  But I just don’t see examples of sustainability.    I’m worried that it’s like a new drug – seems to cure something going on right now, but no one is sure what the long term effects are.

My gut tells me that gamification is not sustainable and this is why:  all the cell phone games that use “gamification” – bejeweled, candy crush, etc.. I don’t play anymore.  The gamified experience initially hooked me and kept me, but long term it wasn’t worth the time investment.  And it’s also this:  I reached out to a friend who works for a company that “gamified” their learning and she had no idea what I was talking about.  Her response was like “really?  I didn’t notice and haven’t been asked to do that training in a while”.

If it was really gamified – wouldn’t she have been on there quite a bit?  As a customer-facing employee, she might not have known the learning was gamified, but shouldn’t she have taken training – unprompted – in the last year or so?

an ID’s peRspective of a T3

When I first started training, the train-the-trainer (T3) always followed a certain format (and, to some degree, any live training I am involved with still does).  The format looks like this:

  1. Review the material
  2. Watch someone train it while taking notes
  3. Review the material
  4. Co-train with the original trainer (as many times as it takes)
  5. Do it on your own

But in a world that trains virtually and live, and in instances where the material is new and not established, this doesn’t always work or it isn’t always the process.

Sometimes, it looks like a page-turn – the ID and the trainer(s) sitting together to discuss and understand the design and its intentions.  The “how-to” and links and answering questions about “why” we put in polls or breakout rooms or activities how and where we did.  The danger of this process is that it can sometimes become a review session instead of a preparation session and we become bogged down in the wrong things.  Generally speaking, this format requires content that has been thoroughly reviewed and an ID who can keep things on track.

From an ID perspective, the T3 is easily fluffed over but the most important piece when designing live or virtual training.  There’s no point in designing original, creative courses if we’re not going to take the time to ensure the trainers understand and buy-in to the design.  There’s no point in spending hours of time deciding how the material will most be absorbed if the trainer doesn’t have direction about which activities are optional and what content can be “cut” if time becomes an issue.  It’s worth our time to both schedule and campaign for meaningful T3s with the people that will be delivering our courses.

Recently, I’ve been involved with a series of T3s that uses the page-turn format with some modifications.  For a 15-module virtual class, our first T3 was a walk-through of each module: how many slides, what themes were covered, what activities exist and why, and any self-study assigned.  This allowed us to get feedback on what they felt confident in verses what the trainers felt might be different enough to spend some additional time on.  Based on that feedback, we were able to schedule more meaningful T3s on specific areas of content that will increase the trainer’s buy-in and confidence.  This style removed the potential of spending time reviewing content that the trainers were comfortable with and allowed for the bulk of the time to be spend understanding the challenging or newer areas of the design and building confidence in the course and their skill in delivering it.

anotheR Look at gamification

I was sent the link, today, to this free webinar.  It’s on gamification – and most of you who know me in real life know that I wish I had a nickel for every two-bit instructional-design-wannabe that throws that word around.  Having said that – the webinar brings up some interesting points.

My favourite being that gamification is an INSTRUCTIONAL METHOD and not a delivery system. As I’ve said before – all the slick skins in the world won’t engage learners if the content is not stellar.  But the ID presenting in the webinar also goes on to talk about practical ideas – instructional methods – to enhance the learning aspect of the eLearning and I like what she suggests.  Even her ideas for badges and score-keeping, usually enough to make me shift-delete an email – fit nicely into her premise that the eLearning and its gamification must be well-designed.

Her focus on storytelling, branching, and risk of failure are things I’ve tried and believe in – although prior to this webinar I might not have listed them as “gamification tools”.  I think these are instructional methods that increase learning.  And, perhaps using the definition of gamification as an intrinsic motivator, I can make the argument that they might be gamification tools.  She also explains the difference between gamification and learning games, and addresses the idea (and benefits) of allowing learners to re-do their training to get better scores.

Someone re-taking training to learn more and do better?  I’m down with that.