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 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.

“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 partner with Dr. Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, to present workshops on learning game design. The workshop 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. Check our events calendar for chances to participate.

  • 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