Games or Learning?

Authors: Michelle Dizon & Lauren Park

In training and education, gamification isn’t a new term. It’s been a buzzword for a while now, and something that we’re not opposed to. However, as with any trendy topic, it deserves a discussion to see where it may benefit you, and where it may not.

Let’s start off with some reasons why gamification may help your training initiatives:

  • Its engaging: who doesn’t want to turn their work brains off and play a game?
  • There’s an appetite for it: telling your team that they can play a game seems easier than telling them to take a training course
  • Taking regular breaks, including gaming, can make you more productive

That sounds great doesn’t it? Sure, but the way the brain works, and the importance of training, aren’t always taken into consideration when it comes to gamification.

When you’ve been tasked with ensuring your team is trained, you want to make sure that they take the training seriously. You want to make sure they retain the information, have a way to review it, and that they know it’s not something that’s only important because of its immediate reward.

Let’s talk about some things to watch for when considering gamified learning:

  • Short- or long-term goals? Games, unlike traditional learning, have "short-term achievable goals that give a seamless progression to players by providing frequent rewards that act as external motivators" (de-Marcos, Dominguez, Saenz-de-Navarrete & Pages, 2014, p. 82).  These short-term goals do not hold the same level of importance for learners as learning objectives in traditional learning do.
  • Is it real? Games allow the learner to question the importance and relevance of what they are learning, but gamified learning “Blurs boundaries between virtuality and reality” (Bellotti et al., 2010).
  • Breaks in the day to play. Having a break in your mentally draining day is important but interrupting your workflow to immerse yourself in a game, can result in it taking longer to return to your work and a longer than normal delay in productivity.
  • Purpose of learning. Educational games serve the primary purpose of being a game and a secondary goal of teaching something (Goehle, 2013). This is probably the most important point when it comes to fully gamified learning. A portion of learning can be gamified, but the learning objectives which have a direct impact on business should be taught in a way that drives home their significance and importance.

When it comes to cybersecurity, what students learn can have far reaching implications on their personal lives and their businesses. We feel that making learning fun and engaging is important, but that should be balanced with education that has a sole purpose of educating.

Learning should be fun and engaging, but most importantly it should be educational.

Want to learn more about eLearning solutions? Read our whitepaper: Selecting an eLearning Solution for a Software Security  Environment

Dominguez, de-Marcos, Saenz-de-Navarrete, and Pages. “An Empirical Study Comparing Gamification and Social Networking on E-Learning.” Computers & Education 752014: 82–91.

Bellotti, Berta, and De Gloria. “Designing Effective Serious Games: Opportunities and Challenges for Research.” iJET 5 (2010)2010.

Goehle. “Gamification and Web-Based Homework.” Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies 23 (3)2013: 234–46.

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