To provide effective instruction, it needs to be as authentic to the actual experience as possible. The context of an online course or the context of a classroom is not authentic. Most people do not work in a classroom (except teachers or trainers) so learning how to perform a task or negotiate an outcome in a classroom setting doesn’t always translate well to the work environment because of the disconnect between the environments. May times in a classroom or in an elearning module, there are no consequences for wrong decisions or actions. Sure, you may get a slightly lower score on your “final” but, really? are most people impacted by that. No, they simply take it again until they get 100%. In authentic environments, that is usually not an option, few real life situations allow “do overs.”
Practicing skills and concepts in an environment or setting as closely approximating the actual setting as possible minimizes cognitive overload and allows for a more effective transfer of knowledge to application. Every major life and death training involves authentic rehearsal (flight simulators, war games, etc.) The same type of instructional environment should occur for skills such as working out a financial transaction or closing a sale.
Gamification of content allows that to occur. You can create an authentic environment through graphics, storytelling and visual cues. Additionally, forcing the learner to apply concepts within the right setting encourages them to act in an authentic manner which is different than how most people interact with courses. In a course, the person “feels” removed from the content and acts as they think the instructor or material would like them to. Then, when they return to “work,” they behave authentically. The goal is to have them behave authentically in the learning situation and then correct to achieve the desired outcomes or behaviors.
Gamification of context provides two key advantages.
One, the environment in which the learning occurs can closely resemble the actual environment in which the task takes place. A game could have the setting of an office or a warehouse, a conference room or a workroom. Wherever the tasks are accomplished, that can be reconfigured in a game setting.
Second, a game can actually enhance or highlight elements of an authentic situation that do not unfold at a rapid pace. In other words, games can accelerate authentic experiences and highlight consequences in a way other instructional tools cannot. So for example, a person who writes a mortgage that a client can’t afford might not see the consequences of his actions because the new home owner may be able to struggle in their home for 6-8 months before they can no longer pay the mortgage. In a game environment, the writing of a bad mortgage could impact the player the very next turn or in two or three turns. This accelerates the consequence and illustrates to the learner the cause and effect relationship that is hard to convey in a classroom setting and that isn’t always seen in the real situation because of the passage of time.
So, providing a game for learning creates an authentic environment other than a classroom or a slideshow and highlights how certain variables or actions taken in situation play out over time.