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Points mean prizes: how gamification drives learner engagement with executive development Learning Management Systems.

By Dr Toby Thompson

Blog19_Pixabay_children_playing_computer.jpgIt’s no secret that executive development budgets are under pressure. Nor that executive educators and their corporate clients are turning to technology as a means of stretching those budgets further, through Learning Management Systems and similar advances.

But that leaves an awkward circle to be squared. For if it’s the case that technology serves to ‘de-personalise’ the process of executive development—as almost by definition it must—then how can Learning Management Systems deliver the high-quality executive development that we associate with personalised tuition?

So clearly, for any organisation mulling a move to Learning Management Systems and technology-enhanced learning in general, this is a quandary that must be addressed.

Yet here at Cranfield, we have an answer: gamification.

Learner participation

Gamification? If the term is new to you, you’re not alone. But it’s an increasingly popular technique among software designers and system implementers, where it is credited with driving impressive levels of user engagement.

And user engagement, of course, is exactly what organisations deploying technology for executive development are exceptionally keen to engender.

Because the higher the level of user engagement, the greater the level of learner interaction with the education process—and the more thorough the resulting education and development. 

Click for points, win prizes

Simply put, gamification takes gaming principles, and applies them to software systems—software such as Learning Management Systems—in order to motivate users and drive behaviour change.

Every time that learners transact with the system, they earn points, based on the calibre, nature, and duration of that transaction.

And with prizes awarded based on points earned, learners tend to engage more fully with the Learning Management System in order to win those prizes—and the more fully that they engage, the more they learn, and the better they become at leveraging the system to further their own executive development.

Simplistic? Far from it. Studies show that gamification genuinely delivers enjoyable and productive user experiences—and drives active engagement. Gamification, in short, is anything but a game. 

Design for behaviours

That said, as with gaming in general, careful thought needs to go into the design of the gamification process, with explicit links made between gaming points and the learning behaviours that are being sought.

Here at Cranfield, where gamification optionally underpins the learning that we deliver for clients through our own Learning Management Systems, we have certainly seen the need for that careful thought.

And paradoxes remain. Should management be a game? Should executive development be fun? As with the application of gamification in the wider world of enterprise software, such questions sometimes sit awkwardly with particular corporate cultures.

But one question doesn’t need asking: does gamification really work? Because as humans, we’re compulsively competitive.

Points? Prizes? Where do I start?!

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Tags: Cranfield School of Management, featured learning, learning