When it comes to increasing learner engagement, gamification is a tool that, at it’s core, has been around for a very long time. But why all the buzz about it now? And what are the elements of games that impact engagement and learning?
Karl Kapp, professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University, is a leading expert on the topic of gamification and learning. He’s co-authored half a dozen books, including The Gamification of Learning and Instruction and The Gamification Field Book and his work explores the research, theoretical foundations, and application of effective game-based learning.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Karl about why gamification isn’t just a trend, how it’s evolved over time, and the opportunities that it creates for organizations and learners.
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[00:20] – Thank you to YourMembership, sponsor of the Leading Learning podcast for the first quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s award-winning learning management system, CrowdWisdom, provides organizations with the means to manage all of their educational content formats in one central location, and also provides tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations and learning communities.
[1:02] – YourMembership is also the executive sponsor of our upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD) (registration opened today). LTD is an virtual event designed specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development. We launched LTD as a successful face-to-face event in 2016 but decided to try it out as a virtual event for 2017. The goal of the event will be the same – to help attendees find new and better ways to engage learners and create lasting impact through the effective use of technology. The event will take place March 1-3, 2017. You can get our preferred pricing rate – $100 off the full rate – through the end of January. Listen to the podcast to get a code that will enable you to take an additional $50 off.
The program will cover topics such as microlearning, social learning, effective marketing of learning programs, and gamification—Karl Kapp will deliver this session and he is also the guest on this episode of the podcast.
[02:18] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews gamification and learning expert, Karl Kapp.
[03:35] – Can you tell us more about what you do and your key areas of interest? Karl says his work at Bloomsburg University and beyond focuses on how we can use the game or the elements of a game from a learning perspective and how to make it more engaging.
[05:37] – Karl defines a game as a self-contained learning event that has a very clear beginning and end. He defines gamification as the use of game elements in a non-game environment or to engage someone in an activity. He emphasizes that whether or not something is a game or gamification isn’t important, it’s whether or not you are engaging the person in the learning process.
[07:46] – Karl further breaks gamification down into two types:
- Structural – using a structure around content but not changing the content at all (most gamification platforms use this)
- Content – changing the content to make it more game-like itself.
[09:19] – Is this a fad or trend? Is the all the gamification buzz warranted? Karl explains that a lot of the concepts/ideas related to gamification have been around for a long time and that the elements of making learning engaging (in terms of gamification) have been and will be around forever. Calling it “gamification” may be a bit trendy but it is actually very effective from a learning perspective – it divides the learning and distributes it out over time, a concept that will likely stick around. He explains how gamification is a bit of a backlash against what he calls, “PowerPoint on steroids”. Essentially, it demonstrates a different approach to get learners engaged and motivated.
[13:17] – There seems to be a proliferation of platforms that support game-based learning and provide options for game mechanics. Are you seeing that same type of momentum in the vendors out there, and if you are, is the proliferation of platforms a good or bad thing? Karl acknowledges there has been a huge explosion of gamification platforms and that he’s noticed vendors are approaching gamification differently (i.e. competition-based, progression-based, etc.) In his opinion, the proliferation of platforms and the different take on the platforms are really going to allow organizations and associations to customize the gamification solution that best fits their audience. On the other hand, more choices means more work because you have to find out what the best gamification platform is for what you want to achieve. He suggests starting with your end goal in mind before applying a solution. Karl foresees that there will be a consolidation followed by this proliferation phase.
[17:36] – You’ve said gamification is not a requirement but an opportunity – will you unpack that statement? Karl explains that gamification is an opportunity to engage learners in the content, with each other, and to discover their own mastery of the subject. He makes the case that you can use gamification as an opportunity to measure how people are learning over time rather than waiting until the end and as a way to engage with employees/members on a regular basis.
[20:11] – Have you discovered learning situations or subjects that tend to lend themselves particularly well to gamification—or, conversely, situations or subjects that tend to be inappropriate for gamification? Karl clarifies that content gamification works really well for problem-solving, critical thinking, and higher level thinking skills, whereas structural gamification is best for teaching factual/conceptual information. He adds that when teaching soft skills (or power skills), gamification may not be the best tool and that gamification is matching the right instructional strategy with the right design approach.
[25:00] – In the time you’ve been tracking and working in the gamification of learning, what changes have you noted? Karl shares he’s noted the proliferation of platforms, a greater interest in writing good questions, and also getting away from the points/badges/leaderboards to other types of feedback, mastery, and autonomy. He’s also seen an increase in analytics used in the backend of gamification. Two trends he’s noticed are: gamification tied to actual actions or activities and the potential for gamification related to virtual reality. Short term he says there is a focus and a market for creating really good, well-written questions.
[28:50] – When you look to the future of gamification, what developments do you think we’ll be seeing in the coming years? Karl predicts there will be a merger of gamification with virtual reality, sensors, and wearable devices. He also thinks there will be a trend towards making interfaces more game-like themselves.
[30:44] – What is your approach to your own lifelong learning and development? Karl reveals that he plays all different types of games and also likes to do stretch projects – the one he’s working on now is called Zombie Sales Apocalypse. He’s also an avid reader and although he reads fiction novels for pleasure, they actually help him in his work. He belongs to several associations which help him gain a broader perspective on gamification.
[34:35] – How to connect with and learn more about Karl:
- Twitter: @kkapp
- Website: karlkapp.com
Karl notes that communication is two-way and that he’d love to know what you’re working on in order to help him learn more.
[36:14] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to YourMembership for sponsoring of this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
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[38:12] – Sign off