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Jul 2012

The gamification of learning and instruction - review

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Shaping the future of learning

If you think gamification is just about putting badges into your courses, then this is the book is for you.

If you're still on the fence about whether games work for learning, then this is certainly the book for you.

If you need to gain buy-in for games within your organization and need to know what theories to cite to support your arguments, this is the book for you.

If you need some examples of how games can be used in learning, yep, this is the book for you.

But if you really want to start designing and creating games, go out and play 'em….

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education by Karl Kapp, Ph.D.

Gamification: it’s a real word already… 

Karl Kapp is a professor of instructional technology in Bloomsburg University’s Department of Instructional Technology in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. His latest book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction takes on one of the current buzzwords in the learning business. You can’t go to a learning conference these days without seeing a session or four on gamification; it’s becoming more common to be asked to “add gamification” to a learning experience.

Kapp brings great passion to this topic and has written on using games and learning before in his 2007 book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning. His newest offering takes it to another level, going deep into game and learning theory as well as offering practical tips for getting started.

We were particularly interested in this practical element and read this book with a focus on what it takes to build games within organisations.

Does your team have a game face?

In Chapter 9 "Managing the Gamification Design Process", Kapp talks about the process for designing a learning game and who you'll need on your team. This project team list may be daunting for most internal organisations: "The following team members typically are involved with a project for the gamification of learning and instruction. Not all of these individuals will be involved every time. It depends on the size and scope of the project. However, a project manager, instructional game designer, artist, at least one subject-matter expert, and a programmer or two are almost always involved."

Kapp then goes on to talk about the need for animators, music/sound technician, and other specialised roles.

Kapp says if you don't have an instructional game designer (and these are hard to come by), you should go out and get an instructional designer who likes to play games. But if you then consider that many organisations, especially smaller ones, are working with "home grown instructional designers" (who are maybe self trained in a tool or two, but not actually instructional designers in the truest sense), then many organizations may not be able to do this level of game play in-house -- or at least not do it well. This probably bodes well for the growth of the outsourced instructional game design companies!

Now all that said, we think Kapp was talking more about the design and development of larger scale games. Adding more simple game-like elements to a program may not require such a deep set of skills. But just because you can add a touch of gamification to an elearning experience doesn’t mean that’s always the right thing to do. It’s easier to overdesign than to keep it simple and honest and focus on getting the messages and experience right for the learner.

You can, but that doesn’t mean you should…

So should there be more learning games? Absolutely. Will more organisations design and build them? Absolutely. Will there still be a lot of the same old training solutions coming out of the same old training departments? Most likely...

So we'll leave you with this cautionary tale from Karl Kapp:

"Too often the learning profession embraces a new concept as the answer to all learning problems and overhypes the concept to the point of backlash. It is important to approach the gamification of content and learning carefully and methodically. If gamification is seen as a panacea and applied to every single learning event, it will quickly become trivialized and non-impactful. Stay focused on using gamification for the right learning outcomes."

(Which is to say, don't be part of the problem. Instead, go out and read Kapp’s book and find out why gamification isn’t just badges and points, but much, much more….)

Game on

Follow the conversation on Karl’s Facebook page

To dive into the book more deeply, get the book here: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.



Shaping the future of learning

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