Does Training Have to Be Boring?

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By Holly MacDonald

It seems like a dumb question, doesn’t it?  But, sometimes I get the impression that people think training has to be serious, even boring, or it is perceived as frivolous.

Seriousness does not equal effectiveness.

If I asked you, you’d probably say, “of course training doesn’t have to be boring”, but if I suggested we design a game instead of a lecture, would you hesitate?  What if it was for executive development?  Would that make a difference?  What if it was a Wii or XBox Kinect game or a video game? I think it would.  Maybe not in every organizational culture, but I think the gamers are a much smaller group.

Many people in the elearning field hold up MMORPGs (Massively mulitplayer online role-playing games) as a great example of immersive learning.  Yep, video games.  Why? They are hands-on, feedback is baked right in (you see the results of your actions/choices within the game), there are communities that develop around the games, there is characterization and story.  There is a strong emotional component.  They are addictive, among many other reasons.  (Wouldn’t it be great if learning was addictive?)

But, games of all sorts should be considered as learning tools. Board games, simulations, scavenger hunts, mysteries, alternative reality games, improve games, card games…there are many kinds.

Where they may seem more frivolous are those times when there is no context.  Why did we “play” this game? What is the significance?  What did you learn?  How did you learn that?

If you really want people to learn through games, you need to design them with learning in mind, and find opportunities to add context to the game to reinforce your desired learning outcomes.

Here’s a couple of resources to explore if you are interested in video/digital gaming for learning:

Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

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  1. Hi Holly
    Nice post. I’m a huge proponent of experiential, brain based learning and use ‘games’ all the time in my training. I don’t call them that however, as the term can lead to folks thinking we’re going to do something trivial. I find using the term ‘exercise’ or ‘activity’ much less likely to raise roadblocks.

    Bring on the ‘games’!

  2. Ronald Molag December 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm · · Reply

    Training always should be fun. But fun should never be the main goal of a training in a professional setting. Games can be useful but only if they teach the participants that what you want to teach them. If a training touches areas that are relevant for the trainee in his or her work, fun will be there. But maybe i am generalizing a bit too much, what kind of training we speak about? Knowledge transfer like implementing a new software system or do we speak about behavioral training like in a training in dealing with difficult clients?

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