Include learning games as part of a larger learning strategy for the organization, not as simply a “bolt-on” to existing learning or as something “extra.”
In creating a strategy of learning with game-based interventions, it’s important to consider a game or certain type of game as just one piece of the learning puzzle. For example, a branching simulation is a great tool for teaching novice or relatively new employees certain concepts and procedures but a branching simulation is not as effective for experience learners. The experienced learner looks at the options in a branching simulation and says “I’d never pick anyone of those answers.” At that point, the learning opportunities within the branching simulations are severely limited.
However, conducting a role-play in a 3D virtual environment where the learner assumes the role through the use of an avatar and interacts with a real person controlling the other avatars within the role play provides an experienced learner an unlimited number of branching opportunities. Because an actual person is controlling the other avatars, no matter what the learners says or wants to say, a response can be provided within the virtual 3D world.
A well designed, holistic training approach would include branching simulations, role plays in a virtual 3D environment and even face-to-face role plays within the classroom where a learner is confronted with a difficult situation or a unique sales call and he or she would need to handle the call themselves and then receive feedback on their efforts.
The level of design is different than many traditional training programs but the results lead to increases in retention, application and recall.
At the same time, a simple matching game is a great way to start to teach vocabulary necessary for any job within an organization but should not be the first and last time a learner is exposed to vocabulary. The next step would be to integrate the vocabulary into the right context so the learner understand context as well as what the vocabulary means.
Research is pretty clear that learning occurs best from games when the games are give a proper introduction, “Here is what you are going to learn when you play this game.” The game is then played. And finally a debrief is provided to the learner. This three step process is part of the concept of learning as a process as opposed to learning as a one-time event.
When designing a learning strategy to get a learner from point A to point B, ensure that the strategy incorporates many different types of learning delivery mechanisms and that you are carefully placing all of the learning pieces together. Games should not be an after thought when designing and instructional strategy. They need to be an integral element within the entire strategy.
When thinking about games, think about using them as a method of applying learned knowledge, an opportunity to generate discussion around a topic, as a method of problem-solving and even as a method of thinking about things that normally “won’t happen” but are a real distinct possibility. (see BP Spill NOT Fun and Games)
So think of games as one more piece in the puzzle of creating an effective overall learning strategy for reaching desired learning outcomes.