During one of my walks, I passed a playground filled with children. The children were laughing and squealing with joy. For a minute, I was caught up in the world of children at play. I thought of games from my youth such as Tag, Red Rover, Freeze Tag, Red Light Green Light, etc. (Some of you may not know the games I am talking about, but they were great fun!) Watching the children play brought a smile to my face. I loved the freedom displayed and the way the children threw themselves into the game. Games in training can provide adults with the same sense of fun while they are learning.
Games help to hold the attention of the learner, provide motivation, and increase interaction in the learning environment. My colleague, Jim, has done a great job blogging about the types of games that can be used in training. I would like to focus on some characteristics of games that should be considered when we are designing or delivering games for training.
Games, like playing, should be fun and interactive. This interaction must include involvement among the learners themselves and involvement between the learners and the instructor. A little competition adds spice to the interaction and increases the energy in the room. If prizes are awarded, there should be a prize for everyone. Everyone likes to be a winner, even if only for a minute.
Games need to have structure; this includes directions for how the game will be played, how much time the game should take, and how the points will be awarded. Additionally, there needs to be a defined outcome. Will you have the learners identify key steps in a process, define key terms, or determine the best strategy to solve a problem?
Games need to have built-in flexibility. There should be flexibility in the design of the game to allow for the unexpected. This helps the instructor know what to do when someone doesn’t want to play or doesn’t want to play fair. Options should be defined for the times when there are not ideal conditions.
Children can play just for the heck of it, while a game used in training should be relevant to the learning goal. The decision for including a game is not based on “I have a game, let’s build training around it;” rather, the decision should be based on the determination that a game will help reinforce the learning goal.
Games can be a great way to motivate the learners, increase participation, and aid in the retention of the content covered in training. A game can be used as a presentation method to deliver new content or used as an application method to review content. Regardless of the purpose, a game should have all the above characteristics. We want the learners to walk away saying, “That class was fun and I learned so much!”