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6 Tips for Using Games in Training

Posted by Paul Sitter on 10/20/14 4:00 AM
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Adult learners tend to be competitive. Fantasy football is a topic of water cooler and on-line conversations. March madness is popular for a reason. Reality shows like Hollywood Housewives or Survivor, where the personalities are constantly trying to “one up” each other, have wide followings. Regardless of gender, most adults seem to enjoy competition. While there are people who would prefer not to play games, most will enjoy a game as an occasional break and, generally, all will see the value of it if it is content related.


In many job categories, learners tend to be highly competitive. How can you take advantage of this energy in training? One of the newer buzz words in the training industry is gamification. Gamification can be defined as adding game elements to the process of study to motivate students and drive their learning behaviors. While it is gaining popularity in the online world, it is an instructional technique we’ve been taking advantage of for years in instructor-led training.


Here are six tips for using games in training:


1) Compete by team, not individually. That way, there are no individual losers, only losing teams. By doing this, you protect individual self-esteem. Any possible embarrassment of losing is dispersed among the team members.


2) Use during low periods of the day. Low or passive periods of the day can be observed first thing in the morning, right before/after lunch, and at the end of the day. As games add energy, they make these times of the day fly by.


3) Make sure the rules are understood by all. Pick a game that most learners are somewhat familiar with, for example, tick-tac-toe or bingo. That way, you won’t have to start from scratch explaining how the game is played. Review the rules of the game as it will be played in your classroom. If necessary, play a practice round.


4) Allow individual or team study time before the game is played. After all, the purpose of the game is to review or reinforce content. Allowing study time before the game is played will provide opportunity and motivation for the retention of your critical content.


5) Make prizes trivial. If your prizes are significant, maybe something like a dinner for two at a top-rated local restaurant, competition will move from fierce to blood thirsty. Nit-picking and arguing will be at the maximum setting. Keep the prizes fun, but not significant. Things like, first pick when the morning snacks arrive, or more candy than the other table, are examples of prizes that few people will be upset about not winning. The “thrill of victory” is still there without the “agony of defeat.”


6) Keep it short. You will seldom get push back from the group if the game doesn’t take a significant portion of the training day. Fifteen to twenty minutes during a one-day class would not be perceived as excessive. Rather, it would be seen as a reasonable use of time especially when the content reviewed by the game may be otherwise quite dry. Rules, regulations, policies, or references are good subjects to cover by games.


Using games in training is one more instructional technique to keep training fun, engaging, effective, and marketable for our learners! Learn more about adding fun to your training by enroling in Langevin's 25 Creative Ways to Add Excitement to Your Training workshop!

Dealing with Difficult Participants

Paul has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in History. Throughout Paul’s career he’s had the pleasure of training for a variety of industries including sports, military, technical, aviation, and academia. Paul firmly believes with the right training and support, people can be competent performers in most positions. The organizational trainer is the key to providing that performance boost. In his spare time, you might catch sight of Paul on the sidelines of a soccer field, biking through Napa Valley, or spending some quality time with his family.

Tags: instructional techniques, games in training

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