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How Game-based Learning Helps Businesses

Katie Parr

February 10, 2021

As corporate L&D teams increasingly adopt ‘game-based learning’, and ‘gamification’, we look at the value that game-based learning is bringing to businesses and how you may be able to use it.

Game-based Learning vs Gamification

It’s no secret that game-based learning (GBL) has been around for centuries. The concept is simple; use a fun, engaging, and challenging game to teach and develop a skill. Chess teaches strategy and logic, scrabble teaches linguistics and, now, employers are using custom built e-games to teach their employees pretty much anything. 

The difference between game-based learning and gamification is that with GBL the entire learning process and the game are combined into one. With gamification, a non-game environment is ‘gamified’ with some game elements and gaming mechanics. This is to try to make things more interesting; think badges, rewards, and leader boards to entice better performance from the learners.

The Three Types of Game-based Learning

  1. Gated Games
  2. Interval Games
  3. Simulation Games

Gated Games

Learners have to earn the best parts of gameplay by completing learning content in the game to unlock new challenges and levels. Learners are rewarded for their hard work and employers can see who is motivated and which rewards are most enticing for their employees.

Interval Games

Gameplay challenges and learning content are divided into sequences. Learners may answer a series of questions or watch a video in between completing fun gaming tasks.

Simulation Games

Almost any environment or situation can easily be simulated, from flying a plane to interacting with customers, problem-solving a broken-down vehicle, or teaching human resourcing policies. Life-like 3D graphics and cartoon characters help create real-life situations where learners can apply their knowledge and improve their skills.

How Game-based Learning Helps Employees and Employers

As fun as gamification of any learning material may be, GBL takes learning to a new level. Instead of simply glamourizing the learning environment, employees are immersed in gameplay where they are able to learn complicated skills and retain new information. Topics that were once a struggle to teach, either because of complexity or sheer dullness, can be transformed into exciting interactions, offering up real-life situations and emotionally engaging tasks. 

The key benefits of game-based learning are:

  1. The measurability of personalised learning
  2. The immersive enjoyment of gaming
  3. The normalization of failure
  4. The instant feedback
  5. The use of both the cognitive and the affective brain

1. The Measurability of Personalised Learning

Any learning and development (L&D) strategy is at risk of failing without clear, measurable goals. GBL enables easy and complete measurement of any individual’s or team’s performance. Employers can track and assess behaviour and achievements, and then manipulate the learner’s journey to give targeted support, helping the learner improve in any aspect of their journey.

2. The Immersive Enjoyment of Gaming

Studies have shown that when an individual enjoys a task or learning about a particular topic, they work harder to understand and retain information better. Gaming is, by definition, good fun, and so employees are far more likely to engage, immerse, and apply their new skills in the workplace. Some of the best games merge gaming and learning together so well that users can engage in the entertainment for hours without realising that they’ve learnt a new skill set.

3. The Normalization of Failure

In the workplace, no employee wants to make a mistake, yet doing so is a fundamental part of any learning process. It can be hard to encourage full engagement and effort on a task where an employee may be reluctant to get something wrong. In other instances, mistakes can lead to more than just a dent in one’s pride; they could be catastrophic. In workplaces like in the energy or transport industries, human errors can cause death, so practical training for a role is usually limited and mainly theoretical. 

Game-based learning provides a safe, simulated environment, whereby failing is normalised and completely harmless. Learners can focus on trying to solve a problem without fear of repeated attempts giving them a bad image. Better still, analytics can identify which learners perform better and go as far as high-lighting risk areas where repeated behaviour has demonstrated that learners are more likely to make mistakes.

4. The Instant Feedback

For users, it’s easier to learn a topic when you know how well you just performed on a certain task. In gameplay, learners can instantly receive feedback on their performance. Equally as important is that whatever the employee is seeing, the employer can see too, making it easier for the employer to have real-time measurements of an employee’s performance.

5. The Use of Both the Cognitive and Affective Brain

Gaming lights up both the cognitive and affective parts of the brain. Whilst cognitive learning is necessary to develop comprehension and analytical skills, the affective part of the brain is required for certain tasks including applying emotional intelligence in decision-making and improving interpersonal communications. 

Options for Incorporating Game-based Learning into an L&D Strategy

There are several ways to incorporate game-based learning into your learning and development strategy. Almost any size team in any setting can benefit from this style of learning. Three key formats that you could consider are:

1. Rapid Game Authoring

For employers who wish to deliver training and are less interested in creating unique gaming narratives, simple gaming templates are an ideal place to start. Puzzle games or arcade games easily inject fun into a learning task and can be used alongside a variety of learning assets like videos and multiple-choice questions.

2. Commercial Video Games

At the other end of the spectrum are commercial video games, a growing, but less well-known, solution for L&D. Administrators of the game must have sufficient knowledge in game design and programming to adapt existing games to suit their learning strategies. An example of this could be an adaptation of any sandbox game--a video game that gives the player a huge amount of freedom and creativity during gameplay. Learners can go on adventures, completing tasks in simulated real-world scenarios along their way.

3. Custom-built Games

Last but not least, custom-built games are learning games built specifically for the task at hand. Employers can use templates to easily stitch together gameplay journeys for their employees to undertake. The design of the games can reflect the branding and values of the company and the games are fully customizable to include all kinds of learning content. Most importantly, existing learning management systems can easily be plugged into the backend to collect performance data. 

Some Final Thoughts on How Game-based Learning Helps Businesses

It seems slightly counterintuitive to encourage employees to play games during working hours to better understand complicated topics for work. It is, however, a remarkably simple and effective way to engage and develop employees; through fun and games. The critical difference between game-based learning at work and playing hungry hippos at home? It’s the smart measurement and management of employee behaviour that is key to optimising L&D strategies and business growth.

Adeptly is an authoring tool that enables anyone to create decision-based learning games and record behavioural data. Create custom learning paths to achieve learning and development goals and easily track, assess, and adapt employee performance and behaviour.