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Toward a more interactive training experience

How successfully leveraging technology and gamification can elevate your employees’ training experience

We’ve all been there before. Sitting quietly in a chair, listening to a lecturer read information directly off a PowerPoint slide projected in the front of the room. You surreptitiously check your watch as you count down the minutes until you can get back to more important work, your mind wandering toward all the items on your to-do list. You’re stuck in training purgatory - attending a mandatory training seminar, or some sort of compliance training, or a day-long onboarding session. Whatever the training may be, it is unlikely you’ll remember many of the details a month from now.


More than ever, organizations recognize the critical importance of investing in the successful development of their employees’ skills and knowledge to maintain their competitive advantage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Association of Talent and Development (ATD) has recorded a steady increase in organizational spending on training programs for six years running, with organizations investing an average of roughly $1,300 per employee in 2018. 


Organizations spent an average of $1,300 per employee on training in 2018.


But with increased investment comes the increased need to ensure that training efforts are maximally effective. In response, many organizations are turning away from traditional lecture-based training methods toward more interactive and technology-dependent forms of learning. “Interactive training” involves learners in a hands-on, active learning experience, and has been shown to improve outcomes in learning, training engagement, and post-training transfer of skills onto the job


So what do interactive, technologically-driven training programs actually look like? 

At the very cutting edge, researchers are exploring the use of sophisticated augmented virtual reality programs to aid learners and a “Netflixing” approach to developing highly individualized training programs by leveraging big data and advanced adaptive learning analytics.


Gamification - applying the structure and mechanics of games to a non-game context - is a more immediately available form of interactive training technology that has been rapidly growing in popularity. For example, a gamified training experience may involve playing a digital game where participants create customized avatars and earn points and achievements for successfully performing training activities. Gamification has been shown to enhance trainee motivation, engagement, and learning outcomes


But buyer beware - simply making a training experience look gamelike isn’t a magic solution for creating an enjoyable, interactive, successful training program. In other words, gamified training should not just be a thinly disguised lecture or quiz (aka “fake” gamification ), but must instead effectively alter the psychological processes that influence human behavior. 


Gamified training should not just be a thinly disguised lecture or quiz.


Six design elements have been emphasized as crucial to gamified training design in order to effectively drive learning and motivation:


  • Mission - clear goal setting

  • Context - a rich game environment

  • Challenge - gameplay is hard enough to keep learners engaged, but not so hard that they give up

  • Choice - learners are given a reasonably diverse set of response options

  • Consequences - learners face explicit outcomes as a result of failure or success at a task

  • Competition - a comparison of one’s performance compared to others or with oneself overtime

Without these elements, enticing visuals and point-systems serve as little more than window dressing for more traditional forms of training. 


And while the thought of incorporating all of these ideas into your own training may sound daunting (and expensive), it doesn’t have to be. Just as Basil believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative, we also believe all organizations have the capacity to conduct interactive and engaging training sessions regardless of size or budget. Rather than investing in expensive virtual technology or shooting for sheer perfection, you can accomplish a lot by simply incorporating as many of these elements as make sense given your unique context and budget. 


At Basil, we frequently incorporate gamified training elements through the use of Poll Everywhere,  a low cost technology that allows participants to answer questions, compete, and provide feedback in real-time directly from their phone. We also drive engagement through thoughtful use of interactive activities, such as improv exercises and group challenges.


Have any go-to strategies to keep training sessions engaging? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

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