In the technology world, we believe in the two-year half-life. Only half of the technology skills one knows today will be relevant two years on. As the Indian IT industry goes through a generational shift in technology and business models, the importance of re-skilling and foundational skills development in new age digital technologies has risen like never before. Today skills development is a strategic imperative in the IT industry that is followed closely by CXOs and business owners to operationalize their business strategies.
While employers invest in skill development one of the major challenges that today’s learners face are digitally induced cultural shifts. Recent studies have indicated that a human being has the attention span that is narrower than that of a gold fish. These distractions erode the effectiveness of learning. While online learning provides counter measures that adapt to shrinking attention spans like byte-sized learning and data-driven personalization of learning, there is also a need to expand attention spans. Gamification provides an effective counter measure against shrinking attention spans while learning.
Gamification is the application of game elements into non-game contexts. In the learning context, gamification helps bring out characteristics of game players while learning – persistence, attention to detail, problem solving and risk taking. Why is gamification important while learning? The answer is – freedom. Think about the last time you played a game – maybe in your childhood, maybe professionally or maybe last weekend as a recreation. Games give freedom to experiment, freedom to think, freedom to jump in and out of roles and provides a platform to collaborate while learning. This is very different from a formal classroom or virtual environment where there is relatively lesser immersion.
The three most important elements of gamification in learning are Progression, Pride and Play.
- Progression creates a narrative for a learner. Learning a subject can be like going on a road trip while hitting various milestones or building a house with foundations, walls, flooring, roof or any other creative situation that the learning designer can think of. Progression creates levels, stages, conflicts, steps, milestones and gives the learner an intuitive sense of where she is vs. the end goal.
- Pride creates a sense of recognition as the learner navigates the progression narrative. In multiplayer games, the learner is incentivized to work with fellow learners to solve problems, share tips and hints and is publicly rewarded for her achievements. Pride evokes the need that human beings have for recognition and feeds that need with progress in learning
- Play is the degree of unpredictability that all games have. When brought into a learning situation, learners can be given pop quizzes and unexpected challenges. If they solve a challenge without help, they get more credit, if they take help, they get fewer credit. Play makes learning interesting by throwing the learning a few unpredictable googlies along the way.
In our interaction with over 13,000 enterprise companies around the world and in India we found that there are two distinct personas of employees that take to gamification in learning. First ones are the new hires from colleges who need to be trained in foundational competencies. Second are the mid-career technologists who need to learn a new technology after having spent many years on older technologies. With Code School, we cater to both these segments and bring in elements with Progression, Pride and Play into our platform. Today Code School is available with a Pluralsight subscription and we support more than 4 million learners with gamified learning. We provide a gamified virtual lab where the learner can code snippets based on what she has learnt and progresses to the next level based on whether she got it right or not. Game design in Code School is aligned with learning objectives of an enterprise.
Apart from technology skills, Gamification can be used to learn how dynamic systems function – like the stock market or the financials of a company. Here the learner can change the status quo by changing a few variables, say make an investment or lay-off a hundred employees and the system re-computes to provide a new scenario with the changed variables for the learner to consider the next step. Gamification can also be to understand concepts like using a card game to understand probability. Decision games can be used to place the learner in various decision making scenarios
“Through gamification and game based learning we can attempt to resolve problems we cannot even fathom solutions for in the real world because games remove realistic limitations our environments enforce upon us”, said Mohsin Memon, CEO, MemCorp and an expert on Immersive Learning and Game Design
As companies make investments in skills development, they must not lose sight of making learning personalized, social and most importantly – fun, for their employees. Else the ROI on skill development investments will be found wanting. Gamification in learning is an important dimension that Indian IT companies should infuse.