Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Karl Kapp Book Tour: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction #gamiLI

Kapp_CoverIt’s the Cammy Bean stop on the blog book tour for Karl Kapp’s newest book: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education
Karl Kapp is a professor of instructional technology in Bloomsburg University’s Department of Instructional Technology in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. He’s one of my favorite professors that I've never actually studied with (although he has taught me a ton).  Over the years, Karl and I have had wonderful arguments about gamers and gender and instructional design. He took me on my first tour of Second Life and opened my eyes to the possibilities of virtual worlds. He wasn’t my professor, he just wanted to share. So thanks, Karl, for sharing with all of us yet another thoughtful book about a topic on everyone’s minds these days: gamification and learning.  And now I’ll share a few thoughts of my own…
If you think gamification is just about putting badges into your courses, then this book is for you.
If you're still on the fence about whether games work for learning, then this is certainly the book for you. 
If you need to gain buy-in for games within your organization and need to know what theories to cite to support your arguments, this is the book for you.  
If you need some examples of how games can be used in learning, yep, this is the book for you.
But if you really want to start designing and creating games, go out and play 'em.  
But still, that's not enough. There's a practical element we’re going to need if we’re really going to get this learning game thing right, so I just want to take a moment to focus on what it will take to build a game within an organization.  
In Chapter 9 "Managing the Gamification Design Process", Karl talks about the process for designing a learning game and who you'll need on your team.  At the moment, I suspect this project team list will be too daunting for most internal organizations:  
"The following team members typically are involved with a project for the gamification of learning and instruction. Not all of these individuals will be involved every time. It depends on the size and scope of the project. However, a project manager, instructional game designer, artist, at least one subject-matter expert, and a programmer or two are almost always involved." 
(Karl then goes on to talk about the need for animators, music/sound technician, and other specialized roles.)
Karl says if you don't have an instructional game designer (and these are hard to come by), you should go out and get an instructional designer who likes to play games.  But if you then consider that many organizations, especially smaller ones, are working with "home grown instructional designers" (who are maybe just powerpoint jockeys or really good at Captivate, but not actually instructional designers in the truest sense), then I'm not sure that many organizations will be able to do this in-house -- or at least not do it well.  I'll go out on a limb and say this bodes well for the growth of the outsourced instructional game design companies!
Karl doesn't talk much about budgets or time frames in all of this, but something to bear in mind.  Seems like it takes more time and more money than a lot of organizations have for a lot of their "learning" projects. Karl, what say you? (And he'll probably say something like, "it doesn't have to take more time or more money".)   
Jeannette Brooks of Articulate wrote about the book just yesterday and talked about how Storyline (Articulate’s soon to be released development tool) will put “gamification within easy reach of any e-learning developer.”  What do you think? Will Storyline make this all possible?  I suspect there’s more to good game design than the tool though, right?
So should there be more learning games? Absolutely.  Will more organizations design and build them.  Absolutely.  Will there still be a lot of the same old training solutions coming out of the same old training departments?  Most likely...
So I'll leave you with this cautionary tale from Karl Kapp:
"Too often the learning profession embraces a new concept as the answer to all learning problems and overhypes the concept to the point of backlash. It is important to approach the gamification of content and learning carefully and methodically. If gamification is seen as a panacea and applied to every single learning event, it will quickly become trivialized and non-impactful. Stay focused on using gamification for the right learning outcomes."
(Which is to say, don't be part of the problem. Instead, go out and read Karl’s book and find out why gamification isn’t just badges and points, but much, much more….)
Game on.
Follow the conversation on Karl’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/gamificationLI
And be sure to buy the book:  The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.

And a final note about our modern lives and the need for games…
This really has nothing to do with Karl's book, but more just a pesky rant I've got in me about games and gamification in general.  It seems our modern world has lost so much purpose...we need and want to be entertained because most of the challenge is gone (a very first world problem)...or we need to be numbed to the challenges we do have.  And now we need to dress up our boring jobs with games because otherwise who wants to learn them or even do them...I don't know. Kind of makes me sad…


Karl Kapp said...


First, thanks for being a stop on the Gamification blog book tour. I always find insights and ideas inspiring and you have taught me a ton so I thank you for that. You always provide me with "food for thought".

I think I'll start with your rant, I am not sure its that people need to be entertained or need artificial challenges as much as training has gone in a strange direction.

In the olden days, we had apprenticeships and the learner was highly engaged in what he/she was doing. They watched the master, asked questions, were observed and slowly learned what they needed to do. Much like a child observes a parent and then plays house or school with friends to understand social norms and to learn. Children learn by playing games (until we put them in classrooms and tell them to face forward and be quiet.)

Somewhere education and training decided to become abstract and separated from application. We now have physics courses where theory is studied but no one every throws a ball or drops something from a roof. We have math classes where no one ever uses the results of the formulas to build or test anything. They just do problems to "do problems"...that is a problem.

That same concept has invaded training. We study ethics without being allowed to use case studies from our own company because of legal concerns, we go online to learn about a Standard Operating Procedure without ever touching the equipment we are learning how to operate.

We have distanced learning from action.

I think the simulation and gamification movement is about bringing that back. About reuniting theory and practice about encouraging action and activity in learning.

This is not new, we (designers of instruction) should have been doing this all along, but somewhere, someone bought into the concept that PowerPoint slides with bulleted lists meant training. That multiple choice tests meant learning. That listening to an audio narration resulted in behavior change. That reading a PDF and signing off on it meant you understood what to do.

So gamification is about adding interactivity back into instruction. About doing what we know is right for the learner. Not, in my opinion, about creating challenges because we are numbed to the challenges we currently have.

That's what I think Gamification is about.

Next, I might have given the wrong impression in the book that I think one always needs a team to develop gamification. I don't think that is the case, a designer can take a classroom and create a game by making a scenario or case study interactive with role-playing and different levels. Or even an online course could be enhanced with more continuous feedback or different entry points into the instruction.

There are lots of game elements that can be added to a course that don't require an army.

Third, I really appreciate how you point out that gamification is not for every type of training. That is such an important message and I am so glad you picked up on that, as I said before, you are very insightful.

Thanks for being a wonderful stop on the tour and such a great resource and leader in the field.

Cammy Bean said...

Ahh, Karl -- not sure that it's training that's gone in the wrong direction so much as the entire world! We've got boring data entry jobs and mindless tasks that need to be completed. Here's to more automation, I suppose. But long gone are the days when we ran to catch our food. Now we need to motivates ourselves to run by pretending zombies are after us.

But all my depressive ranting aside, you're right about the sorry loss of the apprenticeship model. It costs too much and there are too many people. (And why do I always, always, always picture a young blacksmith apprentice working in front of a fire?)

Thanks for clarifying your thoughts on what kind of team it will take to build these things. My concern is that people are terrified enough as it is by all of the new directions they have to move in: gaming, mobile, social, etc. It'll be a stretch for a lot of traditional ID departments and either they'll do nothing or they'll do it poorly...OR they'll take the long range approach and realize it's all going to take some time to master these new skills and that we can't boil the ocean in a day.

Sharon Boller said...

Hey Cammie,
We have gotten into learning games quite a bit over the past couple of years. I have to say that I believe a TEAM as opposed to a one-person endeavor is pretty critical...at least for design. The ideas generated by a team are better...and it is tough to play test by yourself.

And...I have to say that learning games are incredibly powerful in many instances, if done well. I don't think they are a sad reflection of people requiring entertainment. Rather I think they are a good way to achieve implement instructional design principles that we know work: redundancy, spaced learning, constant feedback, learning from mistakes.

I love games, and I always have. I don't think they always need to be used, but I think they engage people in a way that "click next to continue" courses never will.

I want to encourage more people to experiment with designing games and not to feel that they need a degree in game design to attempt it. I highly recommend a book called "Challenges for Game Designers" by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. Chapters 1 and 2 alone can help build learning professionals' confidence in their ability to create games.

I hear you that we can't turn EVERYTHING into a game, but I think there is a lot of opportunity in this area. After all, haven't many in our field spent the last several years turning everything into "click next to continue" experiences?

Cammy Bean said...

Hey Sharon,

Thanks for commenting. And don't get me wrong -- I think games are great and a wonderful way to learn. That wasn't the point of my depressive rant at all. But rather, I was talking about how so much our lives have gotten away from instrinsic motivation -- we're no longer forced to fight for our food or literally run for our lives -- instead many of us have lives of dull monotony, forced to do data entry all day. Great to make those dull jobs a game, or to learn them through games. So don't think I disagree with the value of games in learning, I do.