You’ve probably heard of the term ‘gamification’ - it’s something that lots of business consultants, marketing executives and tutors, are using. But what is it, and what benefits can it bring? Here at Virtual College, we’re always interested in anything that could further improve training for businesses and individuals, which is why we’re going to think about this particular concept. In this article we’re going to look at what gamification means, how it fits in with e-learning, and why this could be a major benefit to the food and drinks industry in particular, where training is of paramount importance.
Gamification has become somewhat of a buzzword in modern business, but it is nonetheless an important concept, and has now been around as an idea for around a decade.
The idea is very simple. It’s all about applying the main elements of a game to other concepts and areas of life. These elements include things like competition between players, the scoring of points, and of course a set of rules that everyone involved has to follow. The intention of all this is that there’s an improvement in engagement, as games are intrinsically fun. And when people are doing something that they’re engaged with, they’re more likely to be successful - whatever success means. This could be anything from financial success to, as we’re going to discuss, improve learning.
Gamification has been used across many areas of life, with varying degrees of success. Let’s take for example certain weight loss clubs, where participants compete against each other to see who can lose the most amount of weight. This isn’t in any way a new concept, but it’s certainly a basic form of gamification. Each participant has to follow the same rules in that they have the same period of challenge, there’s the element of competition, and success can very easily be measured by the amount of weight lost - which is very similar to earning points in many video games.
Gamification can be both fairly simple as with this example, or considerably more complex, as some management and business services consultants are starting to implement. It can be found even in the financial services industry.
Education and gamification have long been linked - most notably because games appeal to children, and this is an excellent way of engaging them with learning. If we think back to our own classroom education, many of us will have experienced games and other fun activities that were designed to help us learn. This of course doesn’t mean that gamification is for children only - it’s highly effective for adults too, because most people enjoy the idea of a game to some extent.
There are many ways that learning has been gamified, and even a quiz can be seen as a basic type of gamification. Everyone must learn the subject matter, they’re all answering the same questions, and whoever gets the most right wins. But the significant benefit is that the drive to be successful in competition and enjoy the game, translates to a stronger desire to learn the subject matter more effectively. And learning the subject matter more effectively will of course lead to better outcomes.
It’s important to note that the use and appreciation of gamification is not universal - some do not agree with the idea of making competition out of learning, and in schools in particular, there may be efforts to gamify activities without making them overly competitive.
Ultimately, managers and other business leaders want to ensure that the training their employees receive is successful. Training is rarely a business benefit if it’s a simple box-checking exercise - it needs to have genuinely improved the knowledge and skills of those involved. Gamification could be an excellent way of doing that.
E-learning lends itself particularly well to gamification because of the natural link between computers, tablets and smartphones, and games. Again, we find that this is not necessarily anything new. Fun and exciting yet educational games have been around since the advent of the personal computer decades ago. But it’s only recently that this concept has really been given a name and researched in detail.
E-learning is particularly attractive because of how interactive it is, and how much of a focus is placed on the learner discovering things for themselves in order to achieve success. You download the program, or access a browser-based learning platform, there are resources to help you, and then it’s up to you to take control of your own learning to a certain degree. This fits in well with gamification, because gaming elements can easily be implemented on such platforms.
Training will be something familiar to most managers and senior leadership within a business. It’s an essential part of compliance, bringing on new employees, and furthering the skills within an organisation. But the food and drink industry is one where it’s probably a little more essential than others.
The fact is that poor training in the food and drink industry can have major impact on the business. One of the core functions of food hygiene training is to ensure that employees are carrying out their jobs effectively. And there can be a lot to worry about in a food production or serving environment. The incorrect storage, preparation or serving of food can be a significant health hazard, which could lead to foodborne illnesses or severe allergic reactions. Without appropriate training, employees cannot know exactly what their responsibilities are, and informal training from a colleague is often insufficient.
One of the biggest reasons that businesses need to be hot on effective training is that it’s often mandated. Local councils and governing bodies will often simply require that training happens, rather than leaving it up to the employer, as with many other industries. In the NHS for example, employees working with food regularly have to retake their training to ensure they have the right knowledge and are working safely. Most businesses aren’t required under law to have a particular food safety qualification for their employees, but they are legally required to ensure their staff are appropriately trained
E-learning in particular is of major benefit because of its speed and effectiveness. Not all training needs to be hands-on and practical - much of it is about learning the knowledge and requirements expected of a particular role. Even a small restaurant can easily service its training needs by having employees sit in the office for a few hours taking their Level 2 food hygiene course. And because these self-contained courses are readily accessible, they’re easy to retake at regular intervals, which is important for keeping skills and knowledge fresh.
There are many, many different ways that businesses can gamify their e-learning for food and drink related courses. Let’s take a look at a couple of ideas here.
The first idea is around the actual process of learning itself. If we go back to the earlier example of children’s educational games, this is something that could translate to a certain degree. As learners study the course material, they could be given challenges, rack up points for correct answers, and ultimately feel as though they’re partaking in a game rather than a course. Think of how engaging it could be if learners were presented with CG images of a food production area and challenged to quickly identify and come up with a remedy to various food hygiene hazards.
Alternatively, rather than the process of learning being gamified, the results could. Competition is a hugely important part of gaming, so there’s a real benefit in allowing learners to compete with one another for success. Many e-learning courses have stages to them, which can easily be turned into the stages of a competition. Who can pass one particular element first? Who can get the overall highest pass rate? If incentives are provided alongside this, then further success can be achieved.
The critical measure for whether this has been successful for the business is whether or not the training outcomes are effective in reducing food hygiene incidents or other relevant workplace metrics. Gamification for learners has to translate to business success - it’s not all fun and games.
To conclude, we think that gamification really could be a major asset to the food and drinks industry when it comes to e-learning. There’s much to be gained from gamifying the learning process, and with this industry requiring considerable regular training, it’s easy to see how the two go hand in hand. It will be interesting to see how courses and initiatives develop as further research is conducted into training success. Visit our food and drink expertise page https://www.virtual-college.co.uk/sectors/food-and-drink for further discussion about how we can all make training more effective in this industry.