Gamification: Are you Ready?

By Vincent L. Cyboran, Ed.D.  Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Training and Development

Most Baby Boomers can remember the opening episode of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ in which Mary Richards is seated in the office of her new boss, Lou Grant.  After she answers a few of his questions and is grinning from ear-to-ear, Mr. Grant says to her:  “You know what you what you’ve got, Mary?  Spunk……I hate spunk!”  That’s how I feel about fads in learning and development.

As T&D professionals, we know better than to ignore or dismiss fads, especially when they are addressed at every conference and in every trade journal. The following graphic shows the results of a simple Google search on this topic:

Game1

Gen X’ers and Millenials grew up playing video games.  And while there is learning to be had from any kind of video game—first person shooter or role-playing—we are talking here about games to help employees learn and to assess their learning in the workplace. These games are not designed to be played on game consoles; they are designed to be played on standard-issue employee digital devices:  tablets, phones, phablets, and even computers.

Though I had every intention of writing a blog article, I found a free e-book that explains everything I was going to say, and it’s written by people directly involved in the gamification of learning. Click here to access the e-book. My referring you to this e-book is an example of social learning, not laziness.  “You’re welcome.”  J We are all learning together!

As T&D faculty, especially those involved in designing and teaching e-learning courses, we follow fads closely, for fads often become trends. We’ve been covering gaming for years in our ‘Learning Technologies (TRDV 450)’ course and in our Online Teaching credential courses. But sometimes, we jump in too soon for our students.  Back in 2006, when I was still teaching the e-learning design and authoring courses, I gave students the option of developing a simple game using Captivate. The text I had chosen was the now-classic Engaging Learning:  Designing e-Learning Simulation Games by Clark Quinn. That book was first published in 2005, nine years ago. Not one student was interested.

Vince Cyboran is a professor in the graduate program in Training and Development of Roosevelt University.

Vince Cyboran is a professor in the graduate program in Training and Development of Roosevelt University.

I will add a bit on what I would have written in my blog article.

  • If you cannot write a clear instructional goal, you are not ready to develop a learning game.
  • If you cannot write a clear performance objective, you not ready to develop a learning game.
  • If you cannot define what makes something a ‘game’—as opposed to a case study, a simulation, or simply an activity—you are not ready to develop a learning game.
  • If you think that gaming is all about the game-development tools, you are not ready to develop a game, and you have some serious reading and thinking to do.
  • Finally, if you think that games require extensive and expensive video and audio components, you are not ready to develop a learning game.

Happy gaming!

The references I am listing here are not the latest and greatest, but are seminal works in the field that are still on the bookshelves in my office.  Yes, there was great anticipation back in 2003-2006 for what we are now seeing in the workplace.  The K-12 world beat the workplace learning world to meaningful gaming.  I am purposely avoiding the term ‘serious gaming.’

References

Gee, P. J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Prensky, M. (2006). “Don’t bother me Mom—I’m learning”: How computer and video games are preparing your kids for 21st. century success—and how you can help. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.
Taylor, T.L. (2006). Play between worlds:  Exploring online game culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
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