There are any number of factors that motivate people around the world to tune into the Olympics, but among the most important is the healthy spirit of competition intrinsic to the event. Competition often brings out the very best in the athletes, inspiring performances that surpass anything they have done before. It’s thrilling and rewarding to witness.
Research recently published in PLOS One suggests that same spirit of competition may motivate stronger performance in your e-learning programs – a development I know many organizations would be thrilled and rewarded to see.
The PLOS One article provides details on a study in which a team of Danish researchers tested whether competition “widgets” in e-learning quiz modules improved “post-test and follow-up test results, self evaluation and learning efficiency” in a group of medical students preparing for an exam.
To determine the impact competition, two groups of students were randomly assigned to either a quiz-module with competition widgets or a module without. The students’ score on pre-, post- and follow up test were recorded as was the time each student took to with the modules. The students were also asked to self report the time they spent studying.
The researchers reported that the students from the competing group scored significantly better on both the post-and follow-up-tests (there was no significant difference on the pre-test). The competing students also spent more time engaged in the learning modules activities and took more tests, but spent quite a bit less time studying for the final test outside of the module, leading the researchers to conclude that they learned more efficiently than the non-competitive group. Finally, the students in the competitive group were much better able to predict what their scores would be on the post-test suggesting, as the researchers put it, “better self-awareness of their professional level.”
While this is just one study, it contributes to a growing body of research suggesting that competitive and game-like elements can contribute to learning motivation and effectiveness. Certainly, given that it is relatively easy to add these sorts of competitive elements into e-learning these days, it is an area worth some experimentation.
What do you think? Have you tried competitive elements in your e-learning? With what results? Is it something you plan to try? Please comment and share your thoughts.