How to incorporate gamification into adult education

All work and no play,

       make Jack a dull boy.

Is play important for intellectual development? Is learning the traditional way effective in the modern society?

Experts say that games are not only for children. Games have a proven positive effect on the cognitive and analytical abilities of children. This is the main reason for leading training experts to look into its applications for adult education. Another point is that, well, with the rise of portable video games, mobile games and social media platform games, adults seem to have more and more interest in playing.

Gamification, or game-based learning, has received quite a lot of attention in the past few years. Gamification is, simply put, using games and game tools for non-game purposes and activities, learning and acquisition of new skills. Gamification has enjoyed increased interest especially in training and education, specifically in the business sector.

There are several reasons why training has turned to gamification in the last decade:

  • over 70% of US households own video games and over 50% of adults who own mobile devices say they play games on them which indicates the rising interest in games;
  • gamification has proven record of increasing organizational loyalty and improving retention;
  • adults, as well as children, enjoy games and show increased abilities learned through games.

Recent research results have supported the innovators who applied game-based learning decades ago. Gamification of education starts as early as college for adults. Especially in business schools, it has the potential to simulate real time situations, show cause and effect relationships and show how business decisions influence an organization in the long-term.

However, there is difference between games and gamification. While games are used purely to engage audiences (reportedly 30% of organizations in 2014 used games in their marketing), gamification borrows the features of a game and has an educational goal.

So should your organization apply gamification and is it beneficial for adult education?

Gamification has quite a few benefits when applied right. The biggest one is engagement. Learners become better performers, understand processes more in depth and have a more proactive role. The benefits are clear, but how do we do it right?

Here are a few tips to implement gamification in adult education and employee training:

  1. The objectives should be clear from the start – that it is a learning process that feels like a game and there needs to be an educational outcome, i.e. it’s not just for fun
  2. Gamification is popular because it is fun, but it doesn’t need to be funny or ridiculous
  3. Apply time management and competitive elements
  4. Make sure that the learner moves up the ladder and gets upgrades – progress is essential for an effective game
  5. Start with something small like giving badges or awards for achievements and make it a competition.
  6. Verify that the game objectives and the content of the game match to avoid confusion (or you lose your learners and players)
  7. Focus on the mechanics, not the theme – it is the rules and results that make a game fun!

For example, Japan Tobacco International is a part of the worldwide campaign for more walking and less driving. Each employee of the company in offices internationally received a small device counting their daily steps and the results are uploaded onto a website where each country office is a team. This has been one of the most successful team building activities of the organization.

Our best tip is to incorporate gamification in training and learning step by step, testing the learners’ attitude and experiences with the game. In addition, let’s not forget what is the goal of gamification – learning, gaining new skills and training to become better, not only fun and entertainment.

In conclusion, let’s just say that not every learning experience or training can and must be gamified. There are things that can be better understood via other media channels but on many occasions games have proven to reveal aspects of processes and concepts that can be hardly communicated otherwise.

With clear goals, rules and competitive environment your game can turn into the most successful training, team building, education or marketing tool that you have ever used.