Video games have been around for several decades now, and in that time, have undergone a drastic transformation. While you might look at Atari’s Pac-Man and the current bleeding-edge virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive and think they have nothing in common, they actually do have things in common – they engage multiple senses and help hone skills that can be utilized for effective training. By understanding how games can motivate and drive players to do better, instructional designers can begin to implement these practises into courses they create.
The most important thing to understand about how e-learning gamification (the application of video game elements into other non-related products) can enhance a user’s learning experience is that having several forms of stimuli will directly result in better retention. The brain stores each form in a different section of the brain, and when the content needs to be recalled, there are more parts from which the brain can pull from.
Consider these two examples: reading about the sinking of the Titanic and experiencing the sinking in virtual reality – the two cover the same material, but one is arguably better suited to teach the majority of people. Reading a paper about a topic is relatively one-dimensional with the reader having to read the text, interpret the information, then visualize the event themselves. On the other hand, with virtual reality, the information is presented to the viewer both visually and audibly at the correct time while leading them through the event. This linking of visuals and audio to key point of information lets the viewer pull from more sources when asked to recall information that they learned.
Studies have also shown that videogames can keep players engaged in the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This is a term coined by the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky that describes the area that sit between what a learner cannot do and what a learner can do without assistance. In other words, a task that is not difficult enough to frustrate the learner but also not easy enough to bore them. By assigning tasks that a learner cannot do on their own, but can do with assistance is a great way to keep them engaged. By providing just enough assistance so that the learner manages to complete the task, the problem solving cycle is kept and learners remained engaged.
If you apply the ZPD to training, you’ll find that knowledge retention increases together with user engagement. If a learner feels that they are being challenged and actually needs to put in some effort in order to succeed, they are more likely to retain what they have learned when compared to straight memorization of information.
By using multiple forms of stimulus and keeping content at a difficulty that promotes engagement, you’ll find that your learners are far more engaged and retain information effectively.