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Gamification - Diverse Options in Play Between Classical E-Learning and Serious Games

11. August 2015

Learning should be fun! Both advanced learning delegates and learners in corporate organisations agreed on this. For this reason, game elements are increasingly being used in classical advanced learning concepts. Falk Hegewald, lecturer at the College for Art, Design and Popular Music (Hochschule für Kunst, Design und Populäre Musik (hDKM)) in Freiburg, is a trained designer and specialist for the conception and implementation of digital learning games. As Director of the New Media Content Department at IMC, he is responsible for the development and production of individual learning formats, with a focus on game-based learning and Web 2.0. In our interview, he reveals the most important points around the topic of "gamification".

What is understood by "gamification"?

Falk Hegewald:

The keyword "gamification" is an approach in which different game-mechanisms are extracted from games and placed into new contexts. For example, game elements can be integrated into classic assembly line work by displaying monitors with high-score tables so that individual teams can see their performance status. Through this, workers should be motivated to work in a success-orientated manner. It really is human nature to strive for success in competitive environments.
Finally, the incentive to learn may be kindled through the use of game elements, and learning can be adjusted to the particular needs of the younger generation. The focus of "gamification" lies in the modification and accumulation of existing concepts and approaches, and not necessarily in the development of new computer games. The use of game elements in the working world, however, should be well-conceived in order to generate a genuine added value. Negative examples also come to my mind, for example in American restaurants, when clothing of different colours is required to convey a statement of the qualification and performance of an employee.

How can the "gamification" principle be implemented in e-learning projects?

Falk Hegewald:

In the area of e-learning, there are both classical web-based training (WBT), with information and knowledge questions packed into text, and elaborately produced serious games. In this interplay, media containing elements of gamification are put in motion depending on their use. Diverse game components in WBTs are integrated - from digital symbols and learning certificates to small mini-games and complex role-playing components. Game elements are mainly used where an interaction between the learning content and a sense of entertainment takes place. For example, this may occur when a time component is integrated into knowledge questions. The time component makes developments measurable and comparable, and enables friendly competition. As a result, the learner is more motivated and an online community comes into existence.
In the future, the development of such communities will play a much larger role in e-learning. We are increasingly moving away from the idea that the learner must concentrate on the media in e-learning without any social interaction behind their monitor, working independently. Generally speaking, this is not associated with fun. However, e-learning that is correctly created can indeed be fun and the outcome no less effective.

Nowadays, if we look at the high numbers of visitors attending advanced training fairs such as LEARNTEC in Karlsruhe, the subject of e-learning and "gamification" appears to be a hot topic. Is this a temporary hype?

Falk Hegewald:

I would not describe it as hype, but rather as a constant trend that is strengthening. Anyone looking at this topic quickly establishes the fact that there is continuous development promoted by changing technology and all that digital media nowadays allows us. In my own eyes, "gamification" will certainly be a long-term subject. The world of advanced training will increasingly develop in a direction in which, perhaps, we will see the classic world of certificates and diplomas, as we know it today, amended so that learners have the opportunity to collect various awards in games, which may be recognised as a form of e-learning evidence.
We realise that these problems and ideas are not dreams of the future, but rather they already exist. Companies thinking about how they can shape their education and training can hardly miss the topic of 'gamification'.

What should companies pay attention to when they decide to use gamification elements in e-learning?

Falk Hegewald:

If you do not just want to use game elements in WBTs occasionally to break elements up, but rather want to achieve genuine added value through their use, these must fit the contents that you want to convey. If this is not the case and the elements used have no relevance to actual learning success, the result may have a negative effect. In a well-conceived training programme, the learners are not required to knowingly perceive the use of the game elements, but rather these are required, as a matter of course, in the learning environment.

In addition to the selection of gamification elements that fit the content, what else must companies take into consideration when looking at the target group?

Falk Hegewald:

During the last few years, the so-called "digital natives" are increasingly in demand in companies. The younger the learner is, the more extravagant the gamification elements may turn out. "Generation Gameboy" have become well-versed in games and video games, and the expectations of this target group are correspondingly high when it comes to visuals, usability and the motivation of the media.

Would you say that learner behaviour has also changes in regards to usage, due to the increasing trend of knowledge transfer in games?

Falk Hegewald:

I would rather say that modified usage behaviour of learners has inspired the trend of knowledge transfer in games. Due to mobile technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, learning no longer takes place solely in the workplace. This in turn has a strong effect on the learners' expectations of the configuration and the media preparation of contents. Sitting on the sofa in the weekend with my tablet, suggests that game elements can be used as both stimulation and relaxation.

What are the common issues companies discuss with you nowadays? And how do they go about this?

Falk Hegewald:

We have noticed major changes in this area. When contacting our customers, we increasingly fulfil a consulting role. More and more frequently, we design corresponding workshops with customers where, together, we look at what media should be used, and eventually implemented. Generally, we at IMC try to allow gaming elements to have some influence in all training. In this process, however, we always look at each specific situation individually, and develop a holistic concept based on this.
Want to learn more about how IMC approach their projects? Read our recent case study on how electrical engineers at Hager are trained on product knowledge with their new web-based training game.

Expert

Falk Hegewald


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