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What is Game-based Learning?

Imagine you wake up one morning, no one else is around (yet) and you can blissfully and quietly have a shower, make your breakfast and enjoy that first cup of tea, coffee or orange juice. You get ready for work, still blissfully alone and you go to work on your own, managing your own direction and fate.

 You arrive ready for the day – except when you arrive a team member informs you that there’s a major crisis. You’ve been hacked, or there’s been an explosion at one of your sites or a senior member is missing and is being investigated for fraud. You can no longer afford to be alone now.

 You round up your team and try to attack the problem together. Eventually it dawns on you or your boss that you and your “team” are tragically unequipped to deal with crises that require a cohesive unit. No investment was made to train and bring the team together.

 Some sort of battle will always need to be fought; be better than the competition, overachieve from last years to this year’s goals. However, doing this alone is impossible, approaching these challenges as a cohesive team dramatically increases the likelihood of success.

 Unfortunately though, teamwork and collaboration are underrated, underutilised and misunderstood in the modern workplace. Working blissfully alone has its uses, when you need to just get on with certain pieces of work, but it mustn’t come at the cost of a team. At some point you will need to rely on the strengths of others and aid them with your own strengths.

 According to Salesforce 86% of corporate employees, executives and educators cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. And according to Visix 39% of surveyed employees believe that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough but that 37% of employees say “working with a great team” is their primary reason for staying.

 Looking at these numbers, you can see why working in an effective team is good and why not working in a team at all can lead to some dire consequences. But despite these numbers why isn’t enough investment made into building better teams?

 The main reasons that the investment isn’t done is due to two concepts around team-oriented experiences. One is that they are costly and time consuming and the other is that they offer no long-term value to the participants. And both concepts are unfortunately true.

 Currently team-building exercises are time consuming and costly, because they have no long-term value.

The Problem

 The problem with team-building exercises currently is that many participants are often not fully engaged in the objectives and the learning material given to them by business schools and L&D departments. Adding to this is the general societal issue that many in the workforce lack certain basic and core skills; such as social interaction, effective decision making, time management and collaboration.

 The cause behind these issues is that often too many costs occur due to ineffectual team learning activities and due to bad planning/coordination, presentation and a lack of follow-up. Not enough emphasis is placed on meaningful and in-the-moment learning, leading to a transient experience for many participants. Additionally, another cause is that coordination failed and the facilitator was given vital information too late or not at all, leaving their proposed experience unfortunately somewhat hollow.

 And with that these experiences then become time-consuming, due to trying to battle too many missing aspects of a fully formed experience. The reasons behind this are varied, from participants simply lacking basic leadership and relational core skills to progress further, to participants being uninterested in the base material, or the demographic being too broad to allow for any significant collaboration.

 The effects of experiences that are not fully formed are that these team-building events are then seen as a “fun” day away from work, lacking value and therefore useless in the long-term. The goal is then missed in creating a more cohesive and intelligent team, that collaborates effectively. And due to these “fun” team-building events, participants are never really given the space or opportunity to develop social skills and leadership skills but are rather placed in mundane activities or competitive individual activities that either suffocate or irritate egos.

 As these issues have often been unaddressed, more and more participants are put through these experiences, never learning or practicing core skills. And due to a lack of emphasis placed on the possibility of long-term value because these are just “fun” experiences, inadequate prep-work is done. A general deficiency of doing and sending through assessments of participants to better tailor the experiences to them is correspondingly symptomatic. And as these team-building overall lack intrinsic value, participants will and have become jaded from doing multiple training workshops through their careers, leading to an L&D burnout for many.

 These issues and problems need to be solved now because allowing such an apathy towards collaboration and group training to continue will eventually lead to an isolated and socially inept workforce. Employees as participants need to be able to communicate effectively in real life situations and they need to learn this in a safe environment. And at the end of the experience they need to be able to return to their daily lives with concrete starting points towards changing their habits for the better. Life-changing epiphanies don’t exist but clear first steps towards a better path are useful and longer lasting.

The Solution

 The solution offered for solving these issues then is using a Game-based Learning Experience (GBLE) that has a self-contained, holistic and comprehensive framework for incorporating learning materials and objectives. As well as an engaging narrative theme that takes its participants on an adventure so that they can learn, practice and utilise their learnings and the core (social) skills they need to succeed in the social and business world.

 Using a GBLE is both logical and feasible. It is logical to create an engaging narrative so that individuals become quickly and easily immersed in the task set before them. Linking this with team oriented and collaborative tasks, the participants have no other options but to work together to achieve a desired outcome. Using this as a base framework allows business schools and L&D departments to attach their learning objectives to the overall experience.

 It is a feasible and easy method to get groups to quickly form cohesive units and work together. GBLE’s have clear goals and objectives that are easily understood and quickly grab people’s attention. And due to their flexibility and strong narrative basis they offer more meaningful experiences and better learning opportunities.

 The clear narrative goals also offer life-like situations in which participants can learn, use and practice various skills that will benefit them later. And incorporating strong feedback mechanics for the participants for the use in experience metrics offers the participants a more holistic experience as well as real measurable outcomes and change for continued feedback and reflection.

 The outcomes and deliverable’s for GBLE’s are done using Google’s HEART framework. 

Below is an example of how we would go about connecting the framework to our experiences:

Goals

Signals

Metrics

Happines

Player’s enjoyed their experience and would recommend it to others.

A satisfaction survey at the end of the experience as well as directed feedback opportunities.

  • Satisfaction rating
  • Ease of use rating
  • EQ statements based on mood and enjoyment of the experience

Engagement

Player’s quickly accept and adopt the rules of the experience and actively discuss with each other while searching for content.

Visual observation and directed questions – all players are interacting with each other and/or in groups – content is consumed continually and regularly.

  •  Number of players voicing zero concerns
  • Numbers of players with small to large concerns
  • The correct percentage of content is consumed at the right time intervals/points

Adoption

Players were able to understand quickly how the experience worked and start interacting with it within a few minutes.

Visual observation, questions and survey – all players develop an execution strategy and deliver it at the right time, are questioned by facilitators during the experience and a survey at the end check level of understanding.

  • Number of players voicing that they had no comprehension issues
  • Number of players with small to complex comprehension issues
  • Survey with rating around ease versus difficulty of comprehension

Rentention

Players were kept engaged for the entirety of the experience and did not lose focus.

Visual observation, directed questions and survey – all players remain engaged and are not left behind – any players who appear to be bored and have lost interest are questioned around this and the reasons for it.

  • Number of players voicing that they had no engagement issues
  • Number of players with small to complex engagement & comprehension issues
  • Number of players disengaged & bored and reasons why
  • Survey with rating around level of engagement & comprehension

Task Success

Players can successfully complete the goal in the time given to them.

How many players/teams successfully complete the experience in the given – discussion, questions and feedback from those that were unable to complete the task either due to time running out or inability and the reasons behind this.

  • Number of players/teams successful in the time period
  • Number of failed players/teams in the time period
  • Which tasks caused the issue or bottleneck at what time
  • Directed feedback around issue of failing to complete the task

Schedule & Budget

 The Game-based learning experience begins a month prior to the actual delivery. The month prior is there to align the learning objectives of the program with those that the GBLE can offer. A (psychometric) questionnaire can also be given to participants to be able to understand what they are looking from within the context of the program that they are following.

 Additionally questionnaires and follow-ups can and should be given to participants after they have gone through the GBLE. This aids in cementing the learning from the experience and offering valuable feedback to improve and iterate the experience for others.

 Delivering the GBLE would generally take a couple of days. One day at least to prepare the location for the experience, this includes gathering documentation, room set-up, prop placement and rehearsal if needed. And then a following day or two to deliver the actual experience.

 The main GBL experience can usually last between a few hours and half a day. Some versions may take place over a few days, but the experience is then split into half days over those days. These still include briefings, participation and a feedback and reflection session after the experience as a whole. The pacing for those days is quick, but breaks are incorporated into it so as not tire or burn-out the participants.

Conclusion

 Game-based learning experiences are more holistic collaborative learning experiences than the traditional basic team-building experiences. Due to their strong narrative basis and all-inclusive thematic activities these experience more fully engage participants, giving them meaningful choices and leaving them with a valuable and long-term learning experience.

 If the choice is to remain with traditional team-building experiences then the consequences will be a lot of time and money spent investing in “fun” but low value team-days. These promote in-the-moment teamwork but have no long-term value and low-to-zero meaningful learning embedded in them. Essentially leaving your team with an enjoyable but fleeting memory of a day out and having changed nothing in their relationships in the workplace.

 The benefits therefore of using GBLE’s is to create a safe environment, with realistic challenges that engage participants to learn, practice and apply skills and plan and execute strategies relevant to the narrative. And doing all of this in a collaborative manner, allowing for inter-communication to have a meaningful outcome and to embed learning across the entire team as a group experience.

 On average for a group of 20+ participants, a traditional team-building event will cost between €5,000.00 and €15,000.00 for a whole team of facilitators and a whole truck load of props and peripherals. With this minimalist, story focused GBLE’s, you will be able to save at 30% on the overall cost of delivery.

 Simply consider the human return on investment that a truly engaging and meaningful group collaborative activity will give your colleagues over an empty day out with a group of random co-workers?

 Thank you for taking the time to read this and we look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or enquiries.