Game-Based Learning: What not to do

Game-based learning and gamification are two buzzwords of the e-learning industry that seem to be only gaining in popularity! While they are undoubtedly effective online learning tools, they are not infallible and may not be applicable in every situation.

We have gone through how to implement game-based learning in a number of earlier blog posts. In this post, we’d like to cover an equally important topic: what NOT to do.

1. Don’t force the content to fit

Something we’ve often seen is that management is interested in getting on the bandwagon and pushing e-learning through games. They’ve heard that games boost engagement and improve learning outcomes – both absolutely true, as long as the game is designed well.

Ask yourself: What content does my lesson plan need to convey, and is this game effectively communicating it?

When the lesson content is adapted to suit the game or forced to fit the game, learning may not be effective. Don’t go for a game-based strategy just because of ‘shiny new toy syndrome’ or FOMO! Focus on your learning content and design the game around it, if a game is suitable for your content and learning objectives.

2. Don’t use game-based learning as a single-point strategy

Game-based learning does not replace a traditional learning strategy. For example, consider a game to allow young learners to practice basic arithmetic problems and grow more familiar with the concepts. While effective, it does not do away with the need for training on how the operators (+, –, etc) work.

Ask yourself: What is the objective of this learning module, and is a game the right way to achieve it?

If games do not fit the purpose, accept it! Game-based learning is not a silver bullet, and it’s unlikely that it can be the only item on your learning strategy. It needs to fit in as part of the overall plan and may not be able to stand on its own.

3. Don’t overuse for tech-averse learners

Some learners, especially older learners, are not comfortable with using technology. They are more likely to engage with a PPT or short video than with a fast-paced game delivered via smartphone. 

Ask yourself: Who are my learners, and how tech-savvy or tech-literate are they?

Don’t overuse game-based learning for an audience that may not appreciate it! Use games intelligently in your learning strategy, and target it to audiences who understand the technology intuitively and engage well with games.

4. Don’t make the game too interesting!

If the game is too interesting, your learners may focus on winning the game rather than on the learnings that you’re trying to impart! The game is an important vehicle for the content, and the content must remain king throughout the game.

Ask yourself: Is my game interesting enough to engage learners, without distracting them from the core content?

Focus on the learning objectives of the course, and the skill development being driven through the game. By focusing on different types of experiences, you can build in the training content and the benefits of collaboration and cooperation into the play pattern.

5. Don’t measure the wrong parameter

Very often, the benefit of game-based learning is seen to be learner engagement. This is definitely a significant advantage, as engaged learners are more likely to absorb the content being communicated and thus learn faster and retain longer. However, the parameters to be measured are the learning outcomes (such as learning speed and retention). 

While you can measure engagement, positive attitude to the learning module and time spent engaging with the course, remember that this is not the objective of the course.

Design your reportage system to measure learning outcomes that you care about, in order to understand how successful your e-learning project truly is.

With several years of experience in the industry, Hornbill is well positioned to help you avoid these game-based learning pitfalls and create a strategy that works. Do reach out to our team to learn more and get started.