The Training Game: How to Use Gamification Effectively

Learning Science

Gamification is an industry buzzword among learning and training professionals, but complicated and over-the-top training games can muddle the message and work against creating an effective environment for learning. So the question becomes, how can you engage through gamification effectively?

We’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret: keep it simple.

Here’s a question for you. When your local bar wants to engage customers do they:

A. Host a board game night?

B. Host a video game night?

C. Host a trivia night?

Unless your local bar caters to a specific demographic, you probably answered C. Trivia is a simple, timeless game for every generation. It’s easy to understand, and even if you aren’t competing for a $10 bar tab, you still pick up some fun facts to tell your friends later! (plus, we just tricked you into playing trivia just now, didn’t we?)

According to Geeks Who Drink, bar owners use trivia as an easy way to increase revenue anywhere from 3-10 times. In a work/training setting, trivia-based microlearning can increase company wide engagement up to 79%.

Some training gamification solutions offer digital scavenger hunts, space invaders-like graphics, and similar arcade-like throwbacks.. We’ve heard from so many companies that the kitschy-ness factor of these games muddles their message, cheapens their efforts, and they can’t tell if their employees are a) actually using those games or b) effectively learning from them. 

These kinds of training games can even be patronizing to adult learners. While LeapFrog and ABCMouse are great for kids, adults shouldn’t need a company to hide broccoli in their mac n cheese to make them eat their vegetables. 

Why Trivia-Based Training is Effective

While quizzes might not seem as sexy as other games, it holds some of the key elements to what makes training effective: It’s universal for learners, dynamic for instructional designers, easy for administrators, motivates employees to take ownership of their learning experience, and rooted in brain science

Let’s tackle each of these elements as it relates to effective employee training:

Universal for Learners

Of the four generations currently in the workforce, learning administrators have been scrambling to get everyone on the same page.

Clemente Diaz, a professor of Organizational Psychology points out that modern learning environments need to cater to each generation by creating a program that requires participation/feedback (Baby Boomers), be self directed (Gen X), be digital (Millennials), and not preachy (Gen Z). Microlearning solves all of these.

Dynamic for Instructional Designers

Instructional Designers who are looking to refresh and rethink their programs might be reading this article thinking that quizzes and trivia can really only mean one thing: word questions with word answers, so what? How dynamic can that be? Stefan Allsebrook, an online training guru, writes about how to deliver your training to maximise its reach. As long as training is accessible, bite-sized, and provides a variety of content, employees will stay engaged. There are endless possibilities to present new information when you introduce multimedia beyond just words in a question. Even Jeopardy has Daily Doubles to keep the audience awake.

Easy to Implement

According to Design Digitally, 77% of US-based organizations use e-learning and ask the question of companies that use an LMS: “Do you leave (learning the information) all up to them?” Since having an LMS alone might not be an automatically engaging delivery method, everything on top of that seems like a hat on a hat. So what’s a solution that doesn’t make L&D leaders want to spontaneously combust? Provide the information and quiz them on it. Simple. Done. 

Motivates Learning

The RapidLearning Institute argues that assessments not only measure employee knowledge, but also further motivates employees to engage in their learning experience. Think about the bar trivia example: why would bar patrons who lose come back the next week? Why is it still fun to get answers wrong? Even though every right answer feels good, the wrong answers are where opportunity lies to learn something new and interesting. It’s easier to take ownership of your education when your biggest competitor is yourself.

Rooted in Brain Science

Trivia as a format allows us to incorporate proven learning techniques such as retrieval practice, spaced repetition, and interleaving. These techniques were pioneered by the authors of Make It Stick, Peter Brown, Dr. Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel. By incorporating these techniques in a trivia game format, you not only create an enjoyable learner experience that’s accessible, you actually drive long-term retention. Science IS fun! 

University of Michigan professor Barry Fishman who writes about video games as models for learning environments quips “school was a game all along—just not a very good one.” He says that one must refine that game to provide support, autonomy, and have a clear higher purpose. 

By talking with countless learning leaders across the country, we found the three common cardinal rules of providing a fun and effective learning game: keep it simple, keep it clear, and keep your audience coming back for more. Who knew that bar trivia would have so much relevance to workplace learning?

We’ve packaged all of this together in a fun, easy-to-deploy adaptive learning solution. Chat with a learning expert to make your training programs quicker, more engaging, and measurable. 

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Trivie is a "learning as a service" platform that uses neuroscience and gamification to increase knowledge retention and engagement while providing companies with powerful data to improve business outcomes.

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