How to Use Behavioral Aspects for Highly Impactful Gamified Microlearning

Simply put, gamification is the use of game elements in a non-game context. But gamification is much more than just awarding badges and points, it needs to promote serious learning.

Gamification makes learning challenging and fun. It makes boring learning interesting and helps retain the learning in the learner’s long-term memory.
Using gamification in microlearning can help solve specific real-world problems. Done right, gamification can get your learner to collaborate and cooperate.

The question is this.

How do we make sure gamification works well? Is there anything we need to know about the behavioral aspects of gamification?
Yes, there are some behavioral questions you need to ask, and concepts you should apply to make your learning effective and impactful.

Let’s look at them now.

Three Behavioral Questions to Ask About Your Gamification Asset

Just as each microlearning lesson focuses on one learning objective, each game must solve a real-world problem and have a mission that needs to be successfully completed.
The litmus test for a well-designed gamification asset is in getting these 3 questions right:

  1. Is it actively engaging your learner? The answer can be ‘yes’ only if your learner is having fun while learning.
  2. Is the learning effective? The answer’s ‘yes’ if the content sticks in your learner’s memory for a longer duration.
  3. Is it providing the learner with a personal experience? It’s ‘yes’ if the learner is creating his or her own experiences by completing missions, getting rewards, and gaining recognition by earning points, levels, or badges.

These 3 are the behavioral questions that you need to ask about your gamified microlearning asset.

Let’s go into the 4 concepts now.

Four Behavioral Concepts that can Impact a Gamified Microlearning Lesson

There are 4 concepts that can help you design impactful gamified microlearning assets.

  1. Dual process theory
  2.  Anchoring Effect
  3. Conformity
  4. Punishment vs. Positive reinforcement

Using these 4 concepts in the right way will result in a big jump in your learner’s ‘declarative’ and ‘procedural’ knowledge.

Declarative knowledge has to do with facts and concepts. It can often be verbalized, and focuses on the ‘what’ instead of the ‘how’ or ‘why’.
Procedural knowledge deals with the ‘how’ of performing certain cognitive activities like reasoning, decision making, or problem solving.

Let’s get exploring…

1. Dual Process Theory

According to the Dual Process Theory, information processing is of TWO types: Heuristics and Reasoning.

Heuristics is considered automatic, unconscious, intuitive, quick, easy, and experience-based. Here, decisions are made intuitively, based on immediate reaction, not on working memory.

So, heuristics is a mental shortcut commonly used to simplify problems and avoid cognitive overload. It allows individuals to quickly reach reasonable conclusions or solutions to complex problems.

Here’s an example. While climbing stairs slowly, you hear someone approaching from behind at great speed, wanting to overtake you. Your mind will automatically react, making you slow down, hold the side-bars, and give way to the person who’s in such a tearing hurry.

Reasoning, on the other hand, is controlled and conscious. It is analytical, slow, difficult, deliberate, reflective, and based on rules. Decisions are made through one’s working memory of what’s learned. For example, when a civil engineer is asked to calculate construction related data, she/he will try to recall relevant prior knowledge. With experience and practice, your learner (the civil engineer) begins to react to similar situations automatically.

When planning gamification in your microlearning lessons, you must be clear about what the learning objectives call for to complete the mission or play the game – Heuristics or Reasoning? Then, you can consciously build on them. This results in the learner overcoming higher levels of difficulty to achieve success. The learner’s decisions become more accurate when both heuristics and reasoning are used in gamification scenarios.

2. Anchoring Effect

The ‘Anchoring Effect’ creates cognitive bias. You can influence the learner’s subsequent decisions by setting an anchor in the game. The information provided as the anchor will be used by the learner to evaluate other information. Anchoring also makes tasks easier and prompts the learner to act boldly and fearlessly!
Here’s an example of the anchoring effect.

The learning is about marketing and finance. The game’s mission is to arrive at an optimal price for a daily consumable product. The product belongs to a perfect competition category where the demand, supply, and pricing fluctuate daily. And pricing decisions have to be made fast, based on those fluctuating variables.

In this case, a good anchoring point would be an indication of the product’s price on a certain day, along with its implications on key variables like demand, supply, and profitability. This makes a good anchor for your learner to make decisions while playing the game with changing variables and data.

This kind of anchoring effect helps the learner go from easy to more difficult missions in a product-pricing scenario.

Anchoring makes it easier for learners to take correct decisions. Used properly, the anchoring effect relieves learners from a perceived risk, and prevents them from viewing the game or task as difficult.
Consequently, the learner gains confidence to move-on to the next difficult task, and his or her level of mastery also improves in time.

3. Conformity

Conformity means behaving or conforming to the social pressure of a majority group. Individuals tend to conform to the majority group opinion.

In a gamification scenario, regardless of one’s own preferences, the learner would like to be perceived positively by the group he or she belongs to.

Being accepted as standing on the majority side is a motivator in itself. This sense of conformity must be used effectively in gamification.

You can get the right inclination to learning that goes with the social norms of your work force. Learners who are slow to learn fall in line while seeking conformity.

Emphasizing the importance of a task and conferring greater prestige to a higher level-of-difficulty of the game helps you secure conformity.

Game elements (leaderboards, levels, badges, and points) used in gamification help achieve greater conformity as well as a healthy competitive spirit amongst learners.

The concept of conformity helps improve learning performance by learners sharing information about each other’s achievements and rewards. This motivates other learners to attempt a task or a mission in the gamification scenario.

4. Punishment vs. Positive Reinforcement

It is important to understand that punishment just doesn’t work in a gamification scenario. In fact, it acts as a dampener!

Correcting or containing bad habits or flaws cannot be done by forbidding a task. Positive reinforcement such as awarding badges, points, rewards, and other forms of recognition works better than deterrents in a gamification scenario, and will go a long way in increasing the learner’s mastery over the learning objectives.

A sound understanding and application of these four concepts gets your learner (or player) hooked to your lessons. And learning achievement and behavioral changes will surely follow. Using these concepts will help improve the higher-order thinking skills of even the most reluctant and unwilling learner.

To conclude, the work performance of your learner shoots up remarkably with microlearning enabled by gamification, when it is done right.

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