3 Ways to Use Game Based Learning in Corporate Training


Want a really cool way to get the facts on Game Based Learning? Check out our new Game Based Learning Infographic! We lay out some great examples of the efficacy of game based learning and gamification, all backed by solid research and great case studies. Click Here to view.


“We learn everything that all the other schools learn, we just learn it differently.”

This is a quote from a middle school student at the Quest to Learn School that opened in Fall 2009. It’s one of the intro comments made in a short YouTube video that does a fantastic job of explaining and SHOWING the answer to “Why games as learning and teaching tools?” The video is embedded above.

The entire school is organized around game design. The curriculum uses game concepts – missions, quests, challenges – to help kids learn things such as science, math, and literature.

Katie Salen is the executive director of design at Quest to Learn, teaches game design, and runs a nonprofit institute called the Institute of Play. She says,

“We believe kids can and do learn in different ways – including digital. It’s a school that from the ground up has been designed to leverage the digital lives of kids…. it’s developed a pedagogical approach that leverages game-like learning.”

How so? Every class uses game concepts such as missions, challenges, and quests to allow kids to think about issues and solve complex problems.

Sound fishy? Can kids really learn well from this approach as opposed to say, a more traditional model of a teacher delivering a lecture, assigning reading and perhaps a project where the student writes a paper or prepares a posterboard?

Watch the video and see what you think. One class project focused on Aesop’s Fables. In a traditional class, the students might read several of the fables, talk about them in class, and perhaps write reflection papers on them or create their own modern fable. In Quest to Learn’s class, the kids work as a team to create a 3D game about the fables. They have to design and script the game, render it, and then “virtually” perform a fable in the game. Which approach do you think engages these students more and requires a greater amount of reflective thinking and problem-solving?

Bringing Game Based Learning Into Corporate Training

Now…how does this translate into corporate training? Here’s a few ways that immediately come to mind to me. I offer them all based on experience. I’ve done each of them:

  1. Structure an entire learning experience around a goal of designing a game. Give learners the topic, the learning objectives the game has to teach, and the freedom to create a game. Let them build the paper prototypes and have others playtest it. Huge learning comes from figuring out how you’d turn a topic or issue into a game.  We’ve done several learning game design workshops like this; people remain completely immersed in the experience the entire time.
  2. Create a multi-level digital game on your topic instead of a “click next” experience. Instead of telling people what they need to know, force them to find it or figure it out if they want to succeed in the game. Make succeeding in the game mirror what it takes to succeed in their jobs; for sales reps, success should mean they meet high sales goals… and so on. In the game, you make the measure of success hitting a targeted sales goal while making complaints and customer dissatisfaction negatively impact points or progress.
  3. Design and use a simulation instead of an “interactive discussion.” Forget about presenting the ideal leadership or team member traits/behaviors. Instead, let people rate their perceptions of themselves and then simulate a team experience – complete with personnel, budget, time, and regulatory pressures. I designed a 90-minute simulation that gave participants a HUGE ah-ha moment around the disconnect between their perceptions of how they would behave as a project team and how they actually behaved when time pressures, regulatory pressures, and environmental factors started pressing in around them. The post-simulation discussion was extremely powerful as people had to acknowledge these disconnects. It also gave them a framework for meaningful discussion. So – we didn’t have to completely abandon the idea of an interactive discussion. We simply created an experience that could make the discussion far more meaningful than it otherwise would have been.

workshops on Getting Started With Game Based Learning

I’m partnering with Dr. Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, to present a one-day workshop on learning game design. It focuses on people who know nothing about game-based learning and want to get started designing it. We start with the basics (questions like “What are games?”) and end with every person participating in the creation of a learning game that we playtest and modify as part of the day. You will walk away with tools you can use. Join us for one of these offerings and start building your learning game design skills.You’ll have a few chances to participate:

  • We’re doing this workshop as a pre-conference offering at ASTD ICE on May 18th. Only 3 spots remain. Learn more and register.
  • We’re doing this same workshop in downtown Indianapolis on August 28th. Learn more and register.
  • Finally, we’re also doing a “mini-version” of the workshop at the Training Magazine Online Learning Conference in September. Registration for the hands-on clinic will be available soon on the Online Learning Conference website. 

Game Based Learning Design: It’s What We Do

Knowledge Guru learning game engineWant the heavy design lifting done for you? BLP has developed one game engine already that allows you to create a simple, quiz-based learning game. Called Knowledge Guru, it is an easy way to get started creating a simple game. We launch the Game Creation Wizard tool at ASTD ICE, which will let you create your own games.

We are in the midst of creating a much more ambitious Guru GameBuilder that we plan to have available in January 2014. This tool will allow you to create a complete multi-level game OR to select small “mini-games” that you can embed in other things you do. Here’s a sneak peek – or really just a proof of concept at this point – of a very simple mini-game called Walk the Plank.  A game like this might be used very early in a multi-level play experience to enable the player to score an easy mission win while learning basic terms/definitions associated with a topic. Warning: this is designed for IE9 and above. It doesn’t function in IE8.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004620602442 Facebook User

    I really like the concept of game based learning. I think more of our nations schools would benefit from the curriculum. It integrates some very important critical thinking skills that will prepare them for the next century.

    Tonya Simmons
    smartandsnazzykids.com