By admin • June 26, 2018

A Reason to Play

Growing up, learning was all about games. Cards, puzzles and nursery rhymes could all be used to teach important lessons. Children were encouraged to play and experiment to gain knowledge and learn about the world around them. Individuals grew up understanding that playing was a way to learn and that it was beneficial to add play to daily activities.

However, once individuals get to higher education, learning seems to lose that sense of play and instead focuses on creating a learning environment based on anxiety-inducing tests. Such learning styles leads to an increase in ‘cramming’ to hold information for a short-period of time for testing. Once the test is finished, all memorised learning is then forgotten. This has been proven to be an ineffective method for retention and real-world application.

Incorporating a sense of play into learning offers individuals a chance to consistently develop new knowledge through repetition and other training techniques. Managers have started to see the importance in gamification and have begun implementing tactics to develop a new LMS program.

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Benefits of Play

Play creates a sense of wonder in every professional and has the potential to develop a strong learning environment. Author and leadership coach, Liz Wiseman, states:

'We find that when we’re new, a learner’s advantage kicks in and in the process of asking, wondering, discovering, we tend to do our best thinking, often outperforming people with experience.'

Creating this sense of discovery in learning develops a desire to learn and generates positive outcomes for game-based learning. Additional benefits of play in learning include:

Active learning

Game-based learning offers an interactive experience with a set of objectives, rules and measurable goals. Learners are able to work through problems and scenarios by selecting specific actions. They experience the positive or negative consequences of each action, simulating real-world activities.

This type of learning allows individuals to repeatedly work through similar problems and learn through experiences in a new and engaging way.




Instead of having to wait days or weeks for feedback on assignments, tests and presentations, learning through games allows for immediate feedback. Seeing instant effects of decisions allows learners to understand how decisions can affect long-term results.

Learners are then given the opportunity to review the decisions after the game with peers and mentors. Once reviewed, learners can go back and reassess their decisions throughout the game.


Cognitive ability

When learners repeat the same game they perform cognitive functions, such as recalling rules, hazards and scenarios. Learners are able to develop their strategic thinking and creativity through decisions made in the game. Game-based learning has also demonstrated better retention rates compared to learning through reading.

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Game-based vs. gamification

Online training can be enhanced through game-like features. Individuals experience a more enjoyable learning experience with a play-like functionality and organisations are starting to realise the benefits of this type of learning. Before deciding to implement these features; however, it is important to understand the difference between game-based learning and the gamification of learning.

Gamification adds game-like elements to learning programs and game-based learning is a game used to achieve a learning outcome. These both have significant benefits to learning capabilities in the organisation and managers should research different options before determining the best mode of play.

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Game day

Organisations with established LMS programs can easily incorporate new game-like elements into learning capabilities. One way to do this successfully is by spaced repetition, which is a concept that involves sharing bits of information over an extended period of time.

Once the information is shared the next step of gamification is retrieval. This is where the learner must recall the information, improving pathways to the content.

Designers can also integrate a leaderboard in the LMS program to showcase learners’ achievements and create a game-like mentality. Offering recognition and rewards creates a gaming atmosphere, increasing competition. Offering games helps enhance key learning objectives and develops a sense of fun in learning.

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Done well, games in learning can motivate learners, improve job satisfaction and increase productivity in the workplace. Dr. Peter Gray, author of Freedom to Learn, says it best:

'Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom. It is what one wants to do as opposed to what one is obliged to do. The joy of play is the ecstatic feeling of liberty. Play is not always accompanied by smiles and laughter, nor are smiles and laughter always signs of play; but play is always accompanied by a feeling of ‘Yes, this is what I want to do right now.''

Play is something that we can all use today. Bringing back the basics to learning can improve every LMS to achieve inspiration, motivation and new levels of success with online learning.