3 Reasons Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Gamify Your Mobile Apps

The Two Sides of the mLearning Gamification Coin

Conferences, Mobile Apps, Mobile Strategy Comments (0)

The Float Mobile Learning team is freshly returned from eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando which took place March 24-26. It was a gathering of 1,600+ learning professionals that included lots of networking, collaboration, and innovative thinking. The Guild does an outstanding job of staging events, and you would enjoy attending any of their upcoming 2015 conferences.

I had the privilege of serving on a panel that discussed the importance of performance support in today’s workplace and also joined Float’s Chad Udell at a book signing for our latest book, Mastering Mobile Learning (Wiley, ASTD Press).

The busy week also included my session, “Using Game Elements in Mobile Learning Applications.” This discussion looks at the potential power of gamification in mLearning and when it does and makes little sense to use. Virtually anything can be gamified, but that doesn’t mean that it should be.

What are some strong use cases for using gamification to your learning? Here are just a few reasons:

Good Case #1: The content has a track record of being dry and boring, and learners are avoiding it.

You probably already know the deliverable that falls under this category. What if you assign point values to completion and competency of these same courses and include leaderboard results? That could get the audience reengaged.

Good Case #2: You need reinforcement of existing learning, and you want to deliver it in a creative and different way.

You have delivered content in a traditional method such as eLearning. Could you build a gamified version for mobile devices that entice your learners into revisiting the information and strengthening what they have learned? A gamified mobile app can provide that learning repetition and reiteration they need.

Good Case #3: You have an audience demographic that would welcome gamification.

More and more people, regardless of age and other demographics, are playing games on their devices. If the target audience has a high potential of responding positively to a game-like experience, do it! This requires you to know your audience, but that should be true of any deliverable you are creating.

On the flip side of the coin, what are use cases to decide against gamification? Keep in mind, you want your first gamification user experience to be positive, so stay out of potentially calamitous implementations.

Bad Case #1: Your team has no experience in games or gamification.

Good principles of gamification need to be learned and practiced before you design and deploy an actual deliverable. Get smart before you get going.

Bad Case #2: The content is not appropriate for gamification.

Good discretion is needed when deciding when and how to implement. Some topics may be too sensitive or serious for game elements. You could gamify a sexual harassment policy eLearning module, but sound discernment should prevail on a critical topic like this.

Bad Case #3: The learning context does not lend itself to gamification.

Context includes a lot of elements and some could fight your gamification idea. The learners could be in a harsh physical environment (light, ambient noise, etc.) all day that any mobile application would struggle in. Many customer-facing situations, such as in retail or hospitality, may cause a learner to be playing a game and not serving a customer – not a situation you want your learning to cause. Know your audience and their learning context inside and out.

These are just a few of the good and bad use case scenarios for including or not including gamification in your learning curriculum. Add some of your thoughts to either scenario by sharing your reasons for or against in the comments below.

The points above and more were discussed in my session at Learning Solutions, and you can find the presentation here:

Using Game Elements in mLearning – Learning Solutions March 2015 from ScottFloat
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Scott McCormick is a founding partner of Float. Building on more than 30 years of experience in training, eLearning, and mLearning efforts for Fortune 500 companies, Scott helps companies embrace new learning strategies and deliver results. Scott is in charge of client relationships with global leaders in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and insurance, and is instrumental in building new business and contributing to Float’s thought leadership efforts. Scott is featured in Float’s latest book, “Mastering Mobile Learning,” available from Wiley and ASTD Press.

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