A Lesson in Gamification from Car2Go

I was in a hurry to get home the other day and the bus wasn’t going to get me there in time, so I hopped in a Car2Go (if you’re not familiar with Car2Go, it’s a pretty ingenious way to get around town without having to own your own car; check it out here).

As I sped home in the little Smart Car, I noticed what seemed like a warning light. I pressed on the touch screen display and up popped a message, something along these lines: “you need to drive better.” Apparently I wasn’t driving in a very fuel efficient manner. Then, on the touch screen display, this image popped up:

Gamification 1

My initial thought was: What the hell? I’m just trying to get home. It’s rush hour. I’m driving in city traffic. Seattle is full of hills. And drivers who don’t go when a light turns green (nor do they honk). How am I supposed to drive in a more fuel efficient manner?

And then I took a closer look. Those trees did look pretty sad. And who wants a monitor displaying grey rain clouds? And what were those numbers? What was the highest score? 50? 100? Guess there’s only one way to find out. So I started pressing a little lighter on the gas pedal when I accelerated. When I was cruising I stopped pressing the gas pedal when I was going down a hill. I eased into traffic stoppages and stop lights a little more gently.

I noticed that the forest started looking a bit healthier. A cloud even went away. And those clouds that remained had turned white. Who doesn’t like a few white, puffy clouds in the sky?

Gamification 2

What lessons can learning & development professionals take from this?

As I drove, there were no detailed instructions. There was no carrot nor was there a stick. Nobody at Car2Go would ever yell at me (nor would they ever reward me) for my driving habits. There was barely any message given to me at all, yet my fuel efficient driving apparently improved. It tapped into my curiosity (hmmmm, how do I get these numbers to go up? How do I make the trees get bigger? Wait, the clouds turn different colors? And if my score gets high enough, the clouds go away? Well then, what happens if I ease off the gas pedal a little more? What happens if I ease into slowing down and stopping a bit more?). It tapped into my competitive nature (just how high can I get those numbers?). It tapped into my playful nature (all right, there are some electronic images of trees… how can I get them bigger and healthier?).

Whether elearning or in-person, do we need detailed instructions? Is there a way to tap into our learners’ inner curiosity? Their innate sense of play and competitiveness? Is there a more fun and simple way to motivate our learners?

If the car sharing service Car2Go can do it, why can’t instructional designers and learning and development professionals?

Gamification: Am I Doing It Right?

My boss is a wise man.  Any time someone on our team attends a professional development event, my boss requires us to share what we’ve learned and what we plan to do with it during a team meeting.  I’ve written about this before – a supervisor who holds employees accountable following a professional development experience is essential to ensuring transfer of learning.  During our team’s weekly meeting this morning, I plan to share the following idea:

The Challenge

My work focuses on developing the skills and abilities of eye bank (as in cornea transplants) professionals around the world (primarily in India).  Once a year we hold a managers’ retreat and over the past several years we’ve honed in on how to ensure these meetings produce a measurable return on our investment.  Every year we ask ourselves if there are ways to better keep our managers engaged and excited to develop new skills once they return to their home eye banks, where they are welcomed back with emails and voicemails and fires that need to be put out after having been away from the office for several days.

The Inspiration

The following idea has been percolating in my mind since viewing this video of Jesse Schell several weeks ago. Jane McGonigal’s general session presentation at last week’s SHRM Talent Management Conference and her book Reality is Broken have really helped paint a picture of what is possible.

The Idea

I’d like to begin this year’s managers’ retreat by introducing a fictional patient – perhaps we’ll call him Ajay – who is corneal blind in both eyes.  Over the next two days, it will be the attendees’ goal to provide two corneas that can restore sight to Ajay.

Where will these managers get these sight-restoring corneas?  They’ll have to earn them.

Biologically, a cornea has five layers.  Over the course of the 2-day retreat, managers will need to complete a series of five challenges based upon each presentation in order to earn a “full cornea”.

For example, we may have three different learning activities (“challenges”) that focus on quality control, another learning activity after a coaching skills session and a final activity after a key performance indicator session.  Pay attention during the sessions, successfully complete each challenge (sometimes in teams, sometimes on your own), and you’ve earned all five layers of your first cornea!

How will managers earn all five layers of their second cornea?  Come back on time from each days’ morning and afternoon breaks, and show up on time to begin day 2 (since the rules will not have been described prior to day 1, we’ll steer clear of penalizing people for tardiness on the first day).

Since certificates of attendance are a big deal for our training sessions, the certificates from this session will reflect how well each manager did when it comes to restoring Ajay’s sight.  Successfully earning all five layers of both corneas will earn a manager a Certificate of Alleviating Bilateral Blindness.  Those attendees who struggled with tardiness or didn’t quite complete one of the challenges will receive a Certificate of Alleviating Unilateral Blindness.

But that’s not all.  I envision creating additional challenges and certificates when managers apply these skills when they return to their home eye banks.  I envision additional fictional patients and additional corneas to be awarded for those managers who complete a prescribed set of online learning modules and for those managers who contribute a certain amount of content to our community board/wiki.

And I envision a plaque of recognition at next year’s annual meeting for the manager (or managers) who achieve a certain number of corneas following our managers’ retreat.

In Sum

I don’t hold a monopoly on bright ideas.  My team will debate the structure and the merits and we’ll go through a revision process and it could look very different if/when we choose to do something like this later in the year.  My point is that none of these ideas would have been possible if it weren’t for several amazing learning experiences and a supervisor to hold me accountable for figuring out ways to put these experiences into action.

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Case Study: The Gamification of the Foster Care System

In 2010, I was asked to help design a 2-day training curriculum.  In a stroke of what I considered at the time to be genius, I worked with another instructional designer to create a board game as a final assessment activity.  As I wrap up Gamification Week on the Train Like A Champion blog, I present the following case study to offer details on how this situation played out.  Would you have done anything differently?  Add your thoughts to the comments section.

The Problem

A non-profit organization had been awarded funding to create a training curriculum to assist professionals in the foster care system to improve outcomes for adolescent youth who “age out” of foster care.  These professionals would be asked to assist youth in envisioning a healthy and successful future while addressing the looming uncertainties of access to health care, higher education and independent living.

The Solution 

A 2-day training curriculum was designed that included theory, best practices and job aids such as a specific checklist for the professionals to use when interacting with the adolescent youth.  In order to tie all of the content together and to assess whether or not the learners “got it,” the designers crafted a final activity in the form of a board game.

In order to advance through the board game, different learners were given different dice – some had 6 sides, some had 12 sides, some had 18 sides.  Before reaching the end of the game board, learners needed to respond to a number of challenges an adolescent youth might face – an encounter with a relative that would expose the youth to some bad habits, some type of housing crisis, a problem at school.  If the learner reached the end of the game board without having helped the youth with all of these challenges, the youth would “age out” of the foster care system without being prepared.  Learners were required to use the job aids and checklists they were given throughout the training to assist them through the game (and so that trainers could assess whether or not learners could properly use the tools).

Learners with 18-sided dice moved through the game much more quickly (and generally much less successfully) than learners with 6-sided dice.  This was an intentional design element to simulate the fact that some professionals would be working with youth who were much closer to “aging out” than other professionals, and it would be important to be prepared for the inconsistent and unfair nature of the work.

The Results

Initially confusion reigned.  There were so many elements and tasks that learners had to complete, very few learners finished the game successfully.  Challenge – almost to the point of being impossible to be successful in the game – was an intentional design element.  The game designers wanted professionals to understand the difficult nature of their work.  However, because it was so challenging, some of the learning points became lost in the confusion and frustration felt by the learners.  The designers allowed trainers the latitude to revise the game rules in order to simplify the activity.  When they interviewed the curriculum’s beta testers, the designers discovered that some trainers remained faithful to the game rules stating that it was useful in reinforcing the skills and tools introduced during the training.  On the other hand, some beta test trainers had adjusted the rules though they still found the game helpful.  Some trainers discarded the activity altogether.

An Expert Breaks Down The Gamification Aspect

By nature, humans are a competitive lot, so after spending nearly two days together the participants of this workshop were allowed to “win” by playing a board game with their colleagues. By using media (a game board & dice) that most people have used before in social or familial settings the initial introduction immediately evoked a sense of fun.  Although the true training objective was to practice fluently & spontaneously using the tools introduced and having conversation with integral components embedded in these conversations, some participants were focused on “winning.” From a trainer’s perspective, I like to sum this up as “whatever it takes to get them engaged!” This game turned out to be a great interactive capstone experience, mixing fun, competition and skills practice, while sprinkling in scenarios in which participants may not have yet experienced outside the classroom in order to prepare them for “the real world.”

– Peter Dahlin, MS, Principal of Dahlin & Associates Consulting

Additional case studies with expert commentary are also available on the Train Like A Champion blog.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!

Why “Chutes and Ladders” is a Better Learning Game than “Jeopardy” or “Trivial Pursuit”

Who was the 17th president of the United States?  Knowing the answer (Andrew Johnson) doesn’t prove I can do anything, I’m just spouting off a piece of trivia.  But when my 2½-year-old son spins the Chutes and Ladders spinner and moves his game piece the correct number of spaces, he has proven that he can apply the concept of numbers.

Gamification is a hot topic in instructional design circles these days.  While the concept goes beyond any single training component, I’d like to focus on how the design of several popular board games can be applied to accomplish various levels of learning.


Bloom’s Taxonomy Level

Design basics

Application for training

Trivial Pursuit; Jeopardy Knowledge Games like Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy test the ability of someone to recall facts – nothing less and nothing more. This can be a fun way to review concepts that simply need to be memorized – steps to a process or answers to frequently asked customer service questions.  But if the goal of your training is to build or assess your learners’ skills,   you might want to choose a different game upon which to model your activities.
Chutes & Ladders Comprehension/   Application Teachers can use this game to assess whether children can demonstrate the ability to count accurately.  Speech therapists can use the game to determine if a child can pronounce the “sp” letter blend  (“It’s my turn to spin!”).  Children don’t care about any of that, they just demonstrate all of those skills because the game is fun. Chutes and Ladders has a very simple design: advance along a path by completing one simple task (spinning a spinner, then counting).  In the training room, this can be replicated by giving small groups a game board and requiring they complete a simple task (greet someone on the phone, balance a line item in a budget, etc.).  A correct answer allows them to advance, an incorrect answer and they slide down the chute.
Monopoly Analysis There comes a time in every Monopoly player’s life when they’ve had to decide whether to mortgage their property in order to buy something else that may or may not produce a good return (maybe the B&O Railroad).  It’s risky, but it could come with rewards.  And that’s how Parker Bros. has built analytical skills in children for decades. Instead of purchasing properties, Monopoly concepts can be used to train purchasing managers or others in charge of budgeting for how and when to build their inventory.
Battleship Synthesis After a few minutes of calling random coordinates, Battleship veterans begin to methodically locate and sink their opponent’s armada.  This is a game that requires players to begin with trial and error, and quickly learn from their mistakes and put together a strategy. Allen Interactions has perfected this philosophy in eLearning: throw a learner into the experience (whether or not he knows much about the topic) and let him take some guesses, receive feedback and begin to make progressively better choices.
Clue Evaluation Well, you know you didn’t do it.  Perhaps it was sweet old Mrs. Peacock in the study using a candlestick.  Clue forces players to make recommendations based upon the best information available to them.  And you can’t get reckless, because if you make an accusation, then look in the secret envelope and find out you’re wrong, you are immediately out of the game. Clue offers a tailor-made blueprint for an interactive case study in which learners proceed through an activity, getting pieces of information along the way.  This can be used in teambuilding where different learners get different pieces of information and they need to work together in order to make sense out of all the information.  It can also be used in training on problem-solving, conflict resolution or coaching skills.

Tell us about your inspiration for training games or just about your favorite game from childhood!

A Spoon Full of Gamification Helps the Learning Go Down

“Gamification” has replaced terms such as “sustainability,” “getting a seat at the C-level table” and “ROI” as the hot trend in learning and development.  Just what is “gamification” and is it truly effective?  Or is it more of a passing fad?  Or worse, is it simply a gimmick?

In an effort to try to answer some of these questions for myself, I recently began reading The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Learning and Education by Karl Kapp.  I haven’t finished the book yet, so unfortunately I don’t have well-formed answers to my own questions.  (If you happen to have answers to some of the questions I’ve posed above, however, please post your thoughts in the comments section… the person with the most comments will earn one Train Like A Champion badge!)

One of the first examples of gamification offered by Mr. Kapp came from an idea to get more people to take the stairs in Sweden.  If you haven’t heard this story, take a quick peek at the video below.  The idea definitely seems to make taking the stairs more fun!

The world of training is all about changing behaviors.  The question I constantly ask myself is: how do I engage my learners and offer them experiences that help them want to learn and do things differently?  Thus my venture into the world of gamification.

Is gamifying the learning experience simply a gimmick?  And so what if it is?  After all, adding a spoon full of sugar does help the medicine go down.  And a sick child can’t get better without taking her medicine.

It’s gamification week on the Train Like A Champion blog.  On Wednesday, I’ll share some thoughts I have about how Bloom’s Taxonomy intersects with the world of learning games.  On Friday, I’ll share a case study of an attempt to “gamify” strategies to effectively work with older youth in the foster care system.

I’m sure you have some thoughts.  I’d love to read what you have to say about gamification (sound design? gimmick? passing fad?) in the comments section.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!

Let’s Just Bloody Play Cricket!

Here we are in India and our office’s second annual cricket match has come to an end.  I’ve come up on the losing end both years.  I don’t really want to talk about it.  Except I can’t stop talking about it!

"So, IF we choose to run, which way do we go?!"

“So, IF we choose to run, which way do we go?!”

Each time we play, our Indian colleagues need to explain the rules to the American members of the team because it’s such a different game to us.  And our Indian colleagues are often quite patient with our questions (“Oh, so bowling means pitching?” “Wait, you don’t have to run when you hit the ball?!” “So, how many hours does a typical match last?  WHAT?!  It takes how many days to complete a match?!?!”).

As one co-worker explained the rules to us with the patience of Job, he shared with us some strategic tips – why some prefer to begin playing defense if a game begins in the morning (something to do with the field being wet) and how we should know where to stand when we’re in the field (something to do with the fact we should have been watching game film of our opponents the night before our match).

As we stood there, receiving directions with a smattering of strategy and history of the game, one co-worker asked to cut to the chase: what do we need to know to play today? Another suggested we just start to play, and learn as we go.

It reminded me of some training presentations I’ve facilitated, especially the ones that focus on topics which I’m passionate about.  Sometimes I’m so enamored with the content that I want my learners to know everything there ever was to know about the subject.  My learners on the other hand just want to know what they need to know in order for the content to be useful.  How, then, do instructional designers and presenters package their love for a topic in a format that learners will appreciate and enjoy?

The answer is simple: let them play.

On the cricket pitch, we didn’t need to know the history of the game.  And when someone hit the wicket (translation for the non-cricket savvy readers: when a batsman ran ill-advisedly and got “out”), we learned that it’s not always wise to run after hitting the ball.

In the training room or when designing elearning, how can we talk at people less and simply simulate experiences in which learners can play around with concepts and skills?  Do we need to explain everything before we allow learners an opportunity to discover some things on their own?  The answer to these questions will make the content more real, and it will make the whole experience more fun for everyone.  Win or lose, letting your learners play through simulations and gamification of content will hopefully make it so that they can’t stop talking about their learning experience.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!

eLearning Case Study: Going to the Next Level

Wayne was looking to take his eLearning design to the next level – instead of a series of PowerPoint-like slides that learners click through followed by a quiz at the end, he wanted something more engaging and effective.  Part 1 of this eLearning case study includes the background and choices that were made.  Part 2 of this eLearning case study features advice from eLearning and instructional design professionals.

Part 1: eLearning Case Study

The Challenge:

Wayne had been working as the learning manager for a small firm specializing in online advertising and social media marketing for about four years.  Prior to that, he led a team of online advertising and social media specialists for six years.  He has deep knowledge of the industry and made it a point to continue to stay on top of industry trends.

Since its inception, the firm had emphasized a culture of learning that included in-person and online training.  Coinciding with Wayne’s transition into the learning manager role, the firm made a major investment in online learning courses in order to better meet the on-demand training needs of staff.  After implementing a new learning management system (LMS), which was initially populated with a series of off-the-shelf courses on sales, customer service and various recordings of webinars that had been delivered to clients, Wayne quickly added a series of documents and job aids that could be used by staff when they were in the home office as well as when they were in meetings with clients.

Seeking to take full advantage of the technology available, Wayne began using Camtasia to create 5-10 minute eLearning segments focused on various product features and frequently asked questions.  In general, these eLearning components consisted of PowerPoint-like presentations that learners would click through in order to orient themselves to various product features.  Wayne included voiceover to make the presentations more engaging and included a 10-question quiz at the end of each segment to ensure learners could correctly answer basic questions about the content.  After churning out 25 of these segments, Wayne still felt something was missing from these online courses.

The Solution:

In this year’s training budget, Wayne included $50,000 in order to consult with an eLearning company on how to better create efficient and effective eLearning programs for staff.  After several meetings with the eLearning company, Wayne decided to use the money budgeted to invest in new eLearning modules for additional topics.

Together with the eLearning company, Wayne agreed that the money would best be allocated to create and develop 10 new modules over the next four months.  These new 5-10 minute modules would include professional graphic design and more interactive components where content would be integrated into true/false, multiple choice and matching activities.  Going forward, Wayne also agreed that future modules could benefit by including short video clips, in addition to solely featuring text on the screen.

The Results:

Wayne was impressed with the project management abilities of the eLearning company.  They were easy to work with, asked some questions that vastly improved the content and delivery, and completed all 10 modules within the originally estimated 4-month time period.

While post-module evaluation surveys included some grumbles from staff who just wanted to be able to read through the information and be done with the module, overall the feedback was very positive and enthusiastic.  One social media specialist commented that the new modules were “light years better than the other PowerPoint-style modules.”  When asked what could be improved, one online advertising specialist suggested “to make these modules accessible by smartphone as well.”

Part 2: What eLearning Experts Say:

Definitely Mix It Up

“Including multimedia as part of eLearning works to ensure students remain engaged in the process. Whether it is video or interactive games and presentations, adding even a small number of these activities helps to vary the educational rhythm for the student. Integrating a story as a unifying thread is also an important part of ensuring students retain information.”

Michel Hansmire, Principal, Sparkworks Media

But what about more complex training needs?

“Wayne should address some of the more nuanced subjects such as sales techniques, dealing with difficult people, and complex budget management. Wayne can take advantage of his budget allocation to work with a professional eLearning company in order to create scenario-based eLearning, grounded in the real world. By putting a case study into a realistic context, Wayne can build courses that assess a learner’s ability to solve real-world problems—and isn’t that what it’s really all about?  Check out Cathy Moore’s SlideShare presentation if you’d like to learn more about how to build courses that include real-world context.”

Kirby Crider, Sr. Instructional Designer, Windwalker Corporation

Go Gamified and Make it Fun (because life is too short for boring eLearning!)

“Wayne’s next step should be to think more audaciously about how to get learners to absolutely LOVE their learning. He should be thinking about how he can get the learners to look forward to every new course he publishes in the same way they would the next big blockbuster film. That way he can get a better ROI for his company, at the same time build himself L&D rock star status! He needs to think more about how he will improve user engagement first, not what subjects he will teach or what tool he will use.

Research shows that learners involve themselves more with gamified learning and LMS features than other types of training. In fact, they spend 50% longer on an LMS with gamification features, and in the world of eLearning, gamification increases participation, such that staff experiencing gamified training are 86% more active than non-gamified training.

The fact is that employees training on a gamified LMS, deploying game-based eLearning acquire more factual knowledge, attain a higher skill level and retain information for longer.”

– Juliette Denny, Managing Director, Growth Engineering

Do you have an eLearning case study that you want to get expert opinions on? Contact us or let us know in the comments.