Redesigning the Learning Process via Gamification
The model of training in corporate America has shifted over the last twenty years. However, it over the last two years a significant change occurred.
Spurred by technology and a need for cost savings, the learning function in business has been either minimized, outsourced, or eliminated. A large number of training staffs have been reduced to a handful of program managers that merely coordinate, facilitate, or contract learning experiences.
Early corporate training mimicked the academic model where companies would hire instructors and regard them in the same light as college professors. Although, that model is probably not needed anymore. Technology gains and increased learning acumen have made those models cumbersome and redundant. However, a structure is still required to expertly transition new employees into skilled team members.
Unique to the history over the last twenty years is the speed at which markets and organizations experienced change. Missions and value propositions of several companies pivot on a dime, either leaving their employee base in the lurch or requiring a high level of learning agility to adjust to their new roles. The ability to employ a workforce that can rapidly acquire new skills to stay on pace with the market is the new competitive advantage.
The key issue is characterized by the dichotomy of a required training staff that can adjust and quickly build new training content, and the fact that most of such training staff have been let go. The knowledge infrastructure is no longer in place. In many cases, the learning culture has been destroyed as well.
Multiple organizations face this conundrum, pondering how to turn their learning function from an afterthought to a force multiplier. Thus, a new model must be built – one that would align with the current environment, address the learning styles of multiple generations, and possess the ability to operate in a virtual environment.
Then emerges the time to then develop a gamified learning experience. A journey where the learner drives their experience to the destination of the organization’s choosing. Gamification is nothing more than applying a game play approach to learning, eliciting a level of competition and driving deeper engagement.
Intertwined with this model is the establishing of micro habits or levels that help guide the process. This categorizes learning objectives into bite-sized tasks that can be taught and mastered rapidly. This micro credentialization results in the accumulation of many tasks that lead to a foundational knowledge base and understanding of the skill from the very basics.
We have noted these results in the video game industry where players can learn highly complex games and rules with a very little need for time commitment. This model provides a gradual curve toward the knowledge goals, also offering a quick diagnosis of individuals that are not advancing as designed.
The trick to bringing such an ideal to life in principle is very easy. However, in the context of digital application, it becomes much more difficult, especially with finding the right development talent to create it.
It starts with a project. As always, the first step is to garner stakeholder support and a champion to fund the build. Next, you will need to directly engage with the stakeholders early on in the planning process. You will need them to build into your vision while helping to design the program. At least one of the stakeholders should be a member of the project team, offering guidance for the journey. Lastly, you should plan on weekly to monthly reviews of your progress with the client population.
The team has been built; the next step focuses on the needs assessment. Who will receive the training? What do they do? Is there a generalized or preferred learning style? How have they learned in the past? What are the specific skills that they need? At what point in the journey do they need to acquire these skills to be able to move forward? What does proficiency look like?
These questions enable the creation of the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) of the population. The project team will then be able to classify the needed KSAs into categories. Those categories are then broken down to the micro level, such that a job that may have eight major knowledge areas could consist of 280 micro knowledge areas.
Once identified, the micro knowledge areas define the learning journey and experience design. This is the roadmap and the path creation. Here, you figure out the right time for each skill to take place. Since this is experience design, ideally you will start this process during the recruiting and onboarding phase and conclude the map when you would consider the learner at 100% efficiency. This typically occurs between six months to a year after they start.
Now that the map has been set, the team can go through each specific micro experience. Here, the team can design the most effective way to transfer knowledge. They can dictate the approach, the medium, and the content of the step. Is it a lecture, self-reading, a virtual simulation, or a live practical application? The experience is for you to design within the confines of your parameters.
With the learning levels in place, a validation step is needed. This is a step where the learner can test out their skill or knowledge area to determine whether they can move to the next level. This can come in the form of testing, simulation, practical application, etc. Take the video game Super Mario Land as a point of reference – if you can figure out how to beat Bowser at the end of the level, you qualify to move onto the more advanced level.
Now comes in the gamification design of rewarding an accomplishment. This could take the form of awarding badges and status or even monetary rewards. Early project research will inform the project team what would get them to want to move to the next level, as well as providing them with a comparison mark with which they may know their position in relation to their peers.
The last design element focuses on status tracking. This is for the learning team to understand where learners are on their journey. Training in the past occurred as a team following an organizationally driven event. However, a gamified approach calls for a customized individualized approach. Knowing where each student is on their journey and who should have visibility of their progress is essential to the learning team.
The training world is changing by leaps and bounds. Quarantine has forced the industry into a highly innovative space to work through the challenges of remote learning. This proved as the catalyst the industry needed to grow beyond the learning approaches that organizations applied for the last hundred years. Use this opportunity or ones like this to build something that you couldn’t build in times of normalcy.
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