When most people think of digital training, they envision text-heavy online manuals accompanied by a few corresponding images. Fortunately in contemporary eLearning, this is not always the case. Corporate eLearning is a diverse and multi-faceted subject that can cover a lot of ground. With any training initiative, its intended purpose usually boils down to two simple learning goals: improving employee knowledge and behavior (skills), that ultimately deliver better results (improved performance).
The Next Level
Online instructional manuals although admittedly somewhat limited, remain a time honored and relatively inexpensive format of training. They are a simple formula that allows for the straightforward dispensation of information. However, digital manuals alone are generally not considered an effective method in engaging the attention and interest of the employee. Lack of engagement leads directly to anemic course completion rates and insubstantial knowledge retention, therefore restricting performance improvement.
One innovative technique for vastly improving employee engagement during online training is to apply interactive elements to the course. Interactive components can range from simple drag and drop matching challenges, to game-style challenge and feedback scenarios or simulations. These gaming aspects, when added to an existing program, have the potential to perform with spectacular results.
Games In Learning
According to gamification.org, DevHub a site for web developers, added gaming feedback to their applications and watched in awe as the percentage of users who completed building their sites shot up from 10 to 80 percent. This jump in product realization may not numerically translate into the field of eLearning, however it does successfully demonstrate the potential for gamification content. At Vantage Path, we like to define Gamification in this regard, as a simulation that includes an objective requiring challenges to be met by learner feedback. By adding time limitations and other challenging features, the learner can be encouraged to focus more intensely, thus enhancing engagement levels and boosting skill improvement. The proper balance between course learning objectives, challenges, and feedback provide for superior online training.
When examining the demographics of the next wave of young new hires (Millennials), a game changing element may be just what is required to keep these technically skilled employees engaged in online learning. As a result of Millennial’s natural aptitude for technical navigation in the digital world, corporate trainers are being forced to consider introducing new and exciting gamification techniques into their repertoire.
Many of these new practices employ a high degree of interaction, including game-like learning that features player objective, challenge and feedback elements. Due to the constant bombardment of digital stimuli such as texting, online games and social media, Millennials have subsequently grown up in a radically different environment, unfamiliar to any generation preceding them. Companies today who are unwilling to acknowledge this new trend in the workplace, risk the possibility of obsolescence.
With Baby Boomers retiring in vast numbers in the next few years, Millennials are set to comprise a large part of the work force in a short period of time. From their perspective, working for a low-tech organization that cannot adjust to something as basic as digital onboarding, much less the BYOD boom is a no-brainer. They will quickly and consistently move on to greener pastures that offer a familiar, technology driven culture, where their skills are best put to use. This phenomenon is illustrated clearly in our blog post titled Exploring The Landscape Of Employee Engagement and Retention. It addresses some of the difficulties companies face – such as employee retention – when they fail to embrace a high tech, digital culture.
Thanks to Millennial’s tech-savvy upbringing, keeping them engaged in online training programs becomes something of a challenge. When attempting to teach younger employees in a style that ensures retention and performance, more and more eLearning courses are being constructed to include high-tech gamification, offering player objective, challenge and feedback features. Simply delivering a text-heavy manual, PowerPoint slides, or lengthy video by themselves, is no longer a viable solution in many fields. These older learning technologies now often need to be paired with contemporary hi-tech interactive ingredients, in order to remain relevant to younger generations.
3 Game Skills That Enhance Interactive Online Learning
An online training program needs to develop different types of physical and cognitive skills and is consequently comprised of the following three criteria:
Cerebral And Intellectual Skills
These games trigger the learner or employee to follow instructions to succeed, as they apply rational thought to overcome obstacles. Comprehending the game, facing a challenging situation and using their mind to solve problems, helps employees gain a comprehensive understanding of the material and a clear idea of why they succeed.
Cerebral and intellectual gamification skills increase knowledge retention as the learner processes the consequences of their actions. Based on Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, this type of learning develops new skills through creating, evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding, and remembering.
Social and Emotional Skills
These skills can be optimised on several different stages. Utilizing activities where an employee has to listen to others speak and then respond accordingly, is advantageous when stimulating understanding and retention. E-learning programs that exercise online role-play scenarios are an effective means to teach high-touch skills to staff and assist with critical thinking and competency. Furthermore, online learning programs that employ advanced gamification or simulations represent an effective approach that drive increased levels of learner engagement, improve critical thinking and competency, and most importantly, enhance overall job performance.
The greater challenge presented through advanced gamification triggers the emotional side of the brain, where an employee can apply their feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes to the learning process.
Kinesthetic and Psychomotor Skills
Games that enable a person to touch and feel, will trigger their physical perceptions and help develop movement and coordination. This involves a first person feedback simulation experience that only a digital game can provide. It is a type of experience where the learner can feel like they are driving a car, flying a plane, operating a mechanical device, playing the piano or adjusting a control panel.
This variety of game requires intensive involvement and interactivity from the employee. By interacting with the simulation in an eLearning course, an employee’s mind and actions can be conditioned to respond to similar stimuli on the job. The digital challenge and feedback replication experienced by employees, teach them how to correctly rely on their senses. This consequently assists in developing the desired automatic physical responses requisite to job performance. However, it must be noted that there are indeed complex learning scenarios that require the added element of post-eLearning guidance; hands-on practice and instruction through personal coaching.
Game Over – Or Just Begun?
Many custom eLearning courses are created to simply help employees accrue knowledge and build cognitive skills through the presentation and testing of their proficiency. These courses on a fundamental stage, are adequate for straight up information transfer. However, they tend to ignore the significance pertaining to digitally deployed games. These interactive elements without doubt, assist learners to develop social/emotional and kinesthetic/psychomotor skills effectively and efficiently.
If an organization looking to employ an online training program wants to drive performance, they must insure that their eLearning courses are built to be highly interactive, thereby achieving employee engagement, critical thinking and competency skill improvement. At the same time it would do well for companies to remember that the type of effective course they require, is hinged upon the employees being trained. Staff demographics, environment and exactly how complex the projected learning goals are, all must be taken into account.
If the skills required for performance proficiency are highly involved, eLearning may very well require instructor follow up. This situation may call for “on-the-job” training, overseen by an individual with previous experience, who is then able to “coach” the employee while they progress into full and independent job-skills performance.
In today’s competitive workplace, it has become crucial to ensure a company’s staff is able to consistently perform at a high level. This can most effectively be achieved by delivering the type of online training that includes gamification and simulations,or an eLearning program that blends those digital aspects with coaching and/or instructor led training.
If you are interested in seeing what can be accomplished in an online learning game for a corporate environment, check out some demo courses on our samples page. Additionally, download our free ebook Learn How To Create Performance Based E-learning.
Image Credit: jpmatth