Gamification and e-learning: Unrealised potential?

Written by
Changeboard Team

04 Dec 2015

04 Dec 2015 • by Changeboard Team

It is a well-worn maxim that the internet changes everything.

This is especially relevant to how we understand, create and drive our human capital practices – the way we recruit, how we manage talent and the way we develop our employees. Arguably, one of the areas that has the most potential to be impacted by technology is learning and development.

This can be especially game-changing for the GCC, given that the region currently has one of the youngest population profiles in the world and some of the fastest and deepest penetration of internet, mobile technology and social media as compared to other regions. According to a report by the Arab Social Media, there was a 68% growth in Facebook users in the region in one year alone. Facebook’s audience doubled in Saudi Arabia and grew by 75% in the UAE.

Another recent study, conducted by IPSOS, found that the UAE led the world in terms of the proportion of people using a smartphone at 61%. Other countries such as Egypt at 26%, compare well with countries from other regions, such as Germany at 29%.

To further understand whether these advances have changed or will change learning in our region, L&D and HR professionals from across the GCC were invited to share their views on current and future practices. 


Are you using e-learning?

It is astounding that almost 60% of employers state that they have limited or no e-learning delivery capacity in the GCC, more than 30 years since it was first introduced. Only four of every 10 organisations believe that e-learning delivers / can deliver considerable impact on meeting the L&D outcomes in their organisation.

This finding is in notable contrast to global trends. According to CIPD’s Learning and Talent Development Study in 2013, 74% of companies reported using some level of e-learning with 91% of companies reporting it to be very useful when combined with other methods and nearly three-fourth of respondents saying it is essential for learning. However, a continued concern seems to be completion rates with regards to e-learning, with only 31% of companies reporting that most employees complete their course modules. Clearly, even despite the global interest in e-learning, there is more to be desired in making the content engaging and captivating enough for users to complete their programmes.


The uniqueness of the Middle East

The stark difference in the regional perspective on e-learning compared to the global view clearly proves the case that our region is unique and distinct in terms of its human capital evolution, and a blind reliance on international trends or over-dependence on ‘best practices’ or what’s ‘trending’ is not always the best way forward. We need to continue to invest in conducting local workplace research and having the courage to identify ‘right’ practice versus ‘best’ practice, based on the socio-cultural realities and maturity of the region.

The Future of Learning research has been extremely informative and insightful in establishing that in our region, e-learning is not a substitute for face-to-face or classroom learning suggesting that there would be lower-than-anticipated growth in the rapid adoption of e-learning in the foreseeable future.

When it comes to those employers who do currently use e-learning, 54% organisations confirm that their company offers less than 50 online courses whereas 14% confirm that their company provides 200+ online courses. Further, almost half of the respondents use external providers to accelerate content development – either by using standard content or building custom programmes. 


Moving to user generated content

One of the key opportunities is to encourage more user generated content. Web 2.0 is all about the interactivity between users in a network, rather than a cascade of content flowing down through the organisation from the very top to the very bottom in one direction and one direction only. Wikipedia and YouTube are great examples of this development in how we learn at home. Unless we embrace, not only this technology, but more importantly, this mindset, then we have already missed the bus. 

Of course, we need the right moderation to safeguard ethical standards at work, although arguably this is best provided by the learning communities themselves and not internal audit, HR, the learning function or the management structure more generally. 


Is gamification the future of L&D?

While examining another global buzzword, gamification, the outlook seems even less positive. Only 25% of respondents believe that gamification can deliver considerable impact on meeting the L&D outcomes in their organisation. A third clearly indicated that gamification has never been part of their learning strategy and only 5% have deployed it as a delivery mechanism. However, despite the lower vote of confidence, 23% of organisations claim that some sort of gamification is currently under development.

Globally, a few experts report that the interest in gamification for learning is larger than it’s ever been and continues to grow. However, possibly not as fast as some predicted. In 2012, the Gartner Group made the following prediction about gamification – “by 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organisations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. This prediction did not come true as an article two years later acknowledged a more realistic penetration of gamification into the corporate arena. Citing the Gartner Group again, it estimated that the market penetration of gamification technology was just 5% to 10% in 2014. 

Another issue with gamification continues to be how it is defined and understood. Put simply, gamification can mean different things to different people. According to Karl Kapp, author of the book ‘The Gamification of Learning and Instruction’, while the basic definition of gamification is simple and has widespread agreement – ‘adding game elements to non-game situations or to learning situations’ the agreement stops right there. What are ‘game elements’ or are they actually ‘game mechanics’ or should it be called ‘game-thinking’? Finally, most organisations that are keen to adopt gamification may already be tied to particular LMS systems, which may not have the ability to create the right interfaces and features required.

To conclude, it is expected that gamification will still continue to grow but, at this point, there is still more talk about gamification than actual corporate adoption, both globally and definitely in the GCC. Although companies may choose to go slow with the adoption of gamification in the short term, one must consider this a significant and impactful delivery mechanism in the future. This is definitely a trend one must keep a watchful eye on.