Part 3: Understanding How to Space Out Your Use of Games for Training: After the Training

by Carrie Wiser, Senior Learning Experience Designer, The Game Agency, a division of ELB Learning 

Think back to last Wednesday. Did you drink coffee, tea, or water in the morning? What outfit did you wear? It’s probably easier to remember if Wednesday was yesterday (recent), a special occasion (meaningful), or if you do and wear the same thing every day (repetitive). Training is the same way. No matter how engaged learners are during a training session, they tend to forget what they learned over time—a phenomenon known as the “forgetting curve.” But engaging in short, repetitive sessions spaced out over time, often referred to as spaced learning, can help minimize the impact of the forgetting curve

The Game Agency’s DIY game-authoring tool, The Training Arcade® makes it easy for you to integrate meaningful, self-motivated, repeated engagement into your spaced learning curriculum. We recommend integrating games:

  • Before to introduce concepts and get people into the mindset to learn
  • During to keep everyone deeply engaged and learning
  • After to reinforce learning and support transfer into long-term memory

In this post, we’ll look at how games and gamification after a training session can boost motivation and engagement in after-course activities.  

Games make repetition fun

As we discussed in previous posts, learners process new information in their working memory. But this is a temporary storage area. If they are going to remember and recall that information after the session, they need to connect to it in a meaningful way and find a place for it in their more permanent long-term memory. 

Repetition is key to this process. Just like practicing a sport or a musical instrument, repeating the same skills over longer and longer intervals improve retention and strengthen the ability to recall those memories or skills when needed. 

Learning games are a quick, fun, and engaging way to repeat content. Not only are players more likely to play a game, they are also more likely to repeat it. According to a sample study of 2500 games on The Training Arcade, 57% of players played 3 or more times. Players saw a 58% improvement in knowledge between the 1st and the 3rd attempt at play!*

Gamification motivates

As you transition to after-training activities, you may have less direct control over who participates and when. How can you motivate people to come back for more training after a session is over? After all, they already checked it off their to-do list!

Gamification can help learners stay engaged. It involves adding game elements and techniques to the training experience—for example, leaderboards, rewards, prizes, or team challenges. Some personalities and preferences are highly motivated by gamification, while others are less so. But appropriate, skillful use of gamification can motivate one or more segments of your audience to keep playing and learning.

Why games are effective after a session

Games are quick. Many games can be completed in 5 minutes or less. When people can play a short but effective game between distractions, it is easier to justify the time away from the workplace. 

Games are fun. Players are more likely to engage when you reinforce key topics and skills in a less traditional, more game-like way. It makes the experience more memorable and challenges people to use the information, and their brains, in a new way.

Games are active. Mindlessly scrolling through an eLearning course rarely leads to retention. But when learners play a game, they engage more deeply and make more connections to the content.

Games are a safe space to practice. When you release people back into the world after a training session, they have to figure out how to use the knowledge and skills they learned. Mistakes and new questions are bound to arise. Games give learners a safe place to engage with these new, real-life questions and problems and learn from their mistakes so they can make better decisions in the workplace.

Tips for adding games and gamification after a session

Know your audience. When considering your approach, remember that everyone is not motivated by the same things. Some people prefer story-based Scenario games while others want to win at JEOPARDY!® Some players thrive on seeing their score on the leaderboard, while others are driven by an internal desire to improve their “personal best” over time. Take the time to plan and craft an experience that reflects your audience’s preferences. Use a mixture of games to engage different types of players, and reward people for motivated effort (improvement, frequency, or trying a new type of game) as well as performance.

Use analytics to improve the experience. Games offer a variety of analytics, such as scores, frequency, accuracy, and duration. You can use the data to improve the game experience. For example, if all of your games are challenging (low initial scores), you might want to add a few easier games to give people a brain break and a confidence boost. On the flip slide, if your games are too easy (high initial scores), consider adding some more challenging games to encourage repeat play. You can also learn more about your audience’s gamification preferences, and schedule games and challenges when they are more likely to capture most peoples’ attention. 

In conclusion

In this series of posts, we described how games and gamification support active, repeat engagement before, during, and after a training session. As you begin to implement some of these ideas in your spaced learning curriculum, keep your audience in mind. How can you set them up for success? What skills do they need to do things more effectively and efficiently on the job? How can you motivate them to keep learning and growing? Ultimately, you want to craft a true learning journey that is a basis for growth, not a set of facts that will be forgotten over time. Games and gamification are powerful tools for transforming spaced learning into a fun, engaging, and memorable experience.

Aim for variety

Repetition is key to the spaced learning approach, but engagement may drop off if you use the same games too frequently. Consider using a variety of game templates to cover similar content. For example, you can use a Trivia game or a Wheel of Fortune® game to practice terms and definitions. Keep an eye on the game analytics and adjust your approach based on what games are most and least popular with your audience.

Repeat and refresh

You can build games that repeat the same information in a different format. For example, you can build a Jump game using the quiz questions from a prior training session. But you can also build new game-based challenges and activities that require players to recall the same information in alternate ways. For example, you can build a Detective game that challenges people to use their new knowledge to solve a real problem.

Encourage weekly games

Strive to build a library of quick, 3 to 5-minute games and challenge players to complete one game each week. If you do not have time to build entirely new games you can change the order of questions in an existing game, re-use questions from a previous game in a new template, or replace a few older questions with something new.

Encourage social play

Learning games are often offered as a solo experience, but they can also be used for group play. For example, you can challenge one department to compete against another department for the highest individual or cumulative score. Or hold a monthly JEOPARDY! game where individuals or teams compete to show off what they have learned over the last few weeks.

Accommodate different needs

Imagine that you’ve been asked to write your job description. . . in 5 minutes or less. Although time is an important metric to track from an analytics point of view, it is a less reliable motivator for learning. Some people are excited and driven, while others feel anxious or are totally left behind. If you do include time-based challenges, make sure to provide alternatives that accommodate a range of needs and abilities.

Schedule a 1:1 demo with one of our game experts and they’ll show you how easy it is to infuse games into your training.

Notes

*The results for the above analysis were based on aggregated, anonymous player activity data from across the span of The Training Arcade® subscribers.  The data included in the analysis represent approximately those points within +1 and -1 standard deviations of the normal bell distribution curve. Individual results will vary and are highly dependent on the quality of subscriber content deployed in the games, the frequency with which employees are provided access to games, and other usage factors.

References

Carey, Benedict (2014). How We Learn: The Surprising Truths About When, Where, and Why it Happens.

The Game Agency (2022). The Training Arcade® by the numbers. Retrieved from https://thetrainingarcade.com/game-study/

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