More and more learning in the work place is being done through Computer Based Training. Online tutorials now frequently take the place of face-to-face classroom style activities, often providing new learning opportunities to audiences around the globe.
Still, in corporate training, some of these experiences can be dry to say the least. They try to push as much information at you in as short a time as possible. Most humans are not wired to learn in this way. This is increasingly true of the current generation who are at school. They are used to learning in small chunks, using a method know as Information Cascade.
Taking video games as an example here, most come with a very, very basic manual. Rather than the user having to revise the manual for hours before being able to play the game, they are dropped straight into a tutorial level. The player is then given just enough information to get to the next level. On the next level, they are shown a bit more and so on. Eventually, after about 15 minutes, they have all of the knowledge they need to enter the game properly.
Using this spoon-fed approach they have mastered the controls in far less time than it would have taken if they had to keep referencing the manual every few minutes. More importantly, because they were “learning on the job”, they retain the information far more than if they had just read the manual. Most people tend to learn more effectively by doing.
One very good example of how this kind of learning is being used can be seen in Microsoft’s “Ribbon Hero 2″. This is an add-in for Microsoft’s Office 2007 and 2010 suite of tools. The premise sees the player taking control of the legendary paper clip “Clippy”. He must travel through time, solving office related tasks. Each task has you using some feature of Office to gain experience points and of course expertise in the feature. As you use more features, more levels are opened up to you and more tasks. This way you are being encouraged to try features of Office that you may never have considered in the past. I for one have found it to be a fun way of learning more about Office.
This can be applied to most online learning. They key is to make the “game” aspect engaging rather than patronising. As with all gamification, the idea is to improve the experience in some way. If all you do is add cute graphics or animations, then you most likely are going to increase the time it takes to complete the exercise without actually making it more interactive and engaging. If these gamified elements have no meaning, then they just get in the way, thus defeating the object.
A great tool to use when looking at this sort of gamification is to ask yourself one question – “Would I enjoy doing this”. If you have taken a 10 minute learning object and made it into a 30 minute epic that users will lose interest in after the first 5 minutes, you have failed.
Now, the flip side of this is that when you get it right, when the experience is enhanced, engaging and even fun, users will not only remember the lessons, they may even thank you.
Being playful is an underestimated way of making people more open to learning.