Printed text imposes a minimum time requirement to read. For example, I know that it will probably take you 5 minutes to read this blog post.
A lot of people build e-learning programs by putting that same text on a screen and ask the user to “click next to continue”. This e-learning program is no better from a time or efficiency standpoint as printed text.
Assuming your company has a time limit connected to “rigorous academic learning” this is one of the main reasons why productivity improvement in HR and training has stalled.
Reduce the time to complete
Take my experience with a specific health group. These were registered nurses — 36,000 of them.
The government where this group of nurses worked has a law that sets a lot of standards and requirements that aren’t directly related to patient care, but which nurses need to know for their own legal protection. That’s where their association was trying to help.
The standard way they did this was to hand their members the legislation and then administer an exam on its contents. The law was over three hundred pages of dry, tedious language. Comparable paper-based, open-book exams in other jurisdictions took about five hours out of their members’ lives to complete.
You can imagine how much enthusiasm that generated.
Now, no offence to the folks who draft laws, but nurses are practical people. They’ve got more urgent stuff going on than wading through columns of legalese.
So, how do we make that same material more engaging? More digestible? More meaningful?
How do we connect what’s in the text of the law to what a patient might say on the ward or a situation a nurse might face in the operating room?
How? We gamify.
When the same legal material — every single word of it — was presented through a gamified experience, the nurses’ association noticed a couple of exciting things.
While the conventional test typically took four to five hours of their members’ time, the gamifed module covered the same ground in under two hours. And the feedback they got from their members was that it didn’t even feel that long.
Any Pace, Any Place
Because properly gamified training can be accessed anywhere at any time, users can pick it up whenever they like, at their own pace and place.
The payback is amazing.
Although the nurses in this case were allowed two weeks to finish the legal module once they started, many of them completed it one.
The reason they were finishing early left the association just blown away.
“These people are actually doing this outside of their eight-hour workday now, which they don’t have to, but they just are,” they told us.
Some nurses spent a few minutes with the module in the morning before work. Others got to work, then did a bit more.
So now, instead of a boring obligation that no one really wanted to buckle down to, they’ve got people learning the material on their time off — because it’s fun to do so.
And they’re doing it in less than half the time. That’s what improving the productivity of training looks like.
A related objection I hear sometimes is that a gamified test or assessment module feels too easy, or that it doesn’t feel enough like real work. That’s actually almost the exact opposite of what’s really the case.
Testing that feels like work or seems hard can often give a false assessment of what a person knows.
It’s a factor that many trainers are familiar with: learned helplessness.
First isolated by psychologist Martin Seligman in the 1960s, this kind of helplessness arises from the anxiety that comes up for people who have had bad experiences with tests in the past. And it makes it almost impossible for them to access their real abilities when they feel under the gun of a written exam.
If it’s a multiple-choice test at the end of a video, for example, they may fall back on the old, random, A-C-D-C-B-C-and-so-on approach. Or they may just lock up.
Either way, what the test is telling the organization that is administering it isn’t even close to a fair or accurate indication of what that person knows.
For too long test anxiety has just been accepted as an unavoidable noise factor in human resources assessment. It doesn’t have to be.
When assessment elements are integrated into gamifed learning, a lot of that anxiety goes away.
Because test moments happen within the “game” itself, the players often don’t even realize they’re being tested. This can make gamified assessment far more revealing than a conventional test. In fact, this effect is so powerful that it can sometimes raise valid ethical questions.
The resources behind the “game face” of gamified training can be just as deep and rigorous as anything on paper or in a PowerPoint, and more so than most of today’s e-learning products. And the assessments they provide can be more penetrating than ever before.
Users who think time is flying by because they’re caught up in the experience of game “play” can reveal far more about their real understanding of critical content than they would sitting in a room sweating nervously under the watchful eye of a proctor. And they can do it in as little as half the time as they did before.