Gamification in Learning and Development

I came across an article yesterday where the author was trying to connect how we can use gamification in learning and development. The author failed. Miserably.

What he tried to describe was essentially that through the use of exercises, energisers, icebreakers, and the such like, that this is gamification.

He also tried to suggest that in making learning fun, this is too gamification.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as someone wiser than I said this morning in a blog post of his.

Gamification is using gaming principles to enhance the experience of carrying out an action. It uses things like badges, leaderboards, social sharing as fundamental principles of carrying out an activity.

A recent (and obvious) example is Foursquare – now called Swarm. This was a location based app where you could check in to a location. After a certain number of check ins, you could become mayor of that location. If it was a popular site, like a train station, you would often be competing with others in being the Mayor. If you checked in at numerous train stations, you got a badge for being a ‘trainspotter’. If you checked in at numerous coffee shops you’d get a badge for loving coffee. You also scored points for unique check ins, and those points would place you on a leaderboard. The people you were scoring against typically tended to be your friends on the same platform. Every check in could be shared via social media so others knew where you were and what you were doing.

What Foursquare did was take a very mundane thing – checking in to your location, and made it a fun experience. That’s gamification.

Energisers, exercises, icebreakers and simulation exercises are not gamification. They are good learning interventions and techniques that support learning design. Big difference.

In the L&D/OD context, we would use gamification in the following way.

If you have a management development programme, you could use gamification as a way of encouraging the delegates to engage with the programme. You could give people points for every module they attend, and through that create a leaderboard. If people complete certain modules, or they do other activities which are supportive of their learning, they could earn badges. These badges could go towards showing their contribution to and engagement with the programme.

On your Corporate Induction, you could use gamification in a very similar way I described with the management development programme. What this does it take the concept of completing a set series of tasks and activities which are deemed to be ‘vital’ and create some sense of ‘fun’ in doing them. Through e-learning and LMS, it’s quite easily possible to build these things in and socialise them via the marvel of intranets and internal comms.

It is easier to gamify things like compliance training because it’s one of those activities which a lot of people (if not everyone) have to do, and through these techniques create something more competitive and engaging in the completion of it.

I’m no expert in gamification, and in truth, think it’s quite a unique thing to introduce in businesses as a form of engagement activity. I certainly haven’t used it in my solutions, and I don’t search out ways to do so.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Gamification in Learning and Development”

  1. Good post Sukh

    I’m not sure what I think of gamification…not everyone is motivated by some of the leaderboard/badge collecting approaches and I fear a narrow approach to defining gamification in those termsmight be as excluding as it is energising.

    I do like the idea that game playing has a role in learning and development. I think the playful exploration of our greatest game players (children imho) is the sort of unbounded inquisitiveness we might want to foster in learners. That doesn’t come from a narrow range of games with badges and leader boards, but from a rich landscape with opportunities to play in many guises.
    My goto example is mine craft… no badges, no leader board, no instructions, no objective… and still a great game that L&D could learn a lot from.

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