Gamification is a term that can wrinkle some brows: what does it mean? Isn’t that something to do with casinos? And what does it have to do with education?
Well, gamification – that is, making certain processes into game-like activities – is actually pervading almost every aspect of technology nowadays. Think online (and offline) education, web design, and even professional recruitment. It's also making massive waves when it comes to CPD.
In this article, we’ll discuss the definition, examples, and application of gamification when it comes to learning, especially in healthcare.
What is ‘gamification’?
To gamify something – or to participate in ‘gamification’ – is to use game-like experiences to make a task or activity more engaging for users.
Websites and apps – such as Ausmed, Duolingo and Forest – use techniques such as quizzes, leadership boards, points systems, rewards and more. These interactive components of websites and apps encourage people to hit milestones, or to go one extra step to ‘complete’ something (think your profile on LinkedIn). This extra bit of engagement can provide more user satisfaction which will in turn subliminally encourage them to keep using the product: when it comes to learning, this is a great benefit to the user.
How does this relate to healthcare education?
Education in healthcare is a different case to many other industries: what you learn when working in healthcare is far more reactionary, far more dependent upon factors such as outbreaks, crises and resource allocation.
However, gamification still works – even when the stakes are higher, as they usually are with healthcare. As shown by Array and Vindico Medical Educatioon in 2015, the use of gamification in CPD – or what they describe as ‘continued medical education (CME)' – directly creates a more enjoyable learning experience for healthcare professionals, and facilitates the transfer of knowledge between individuals in collaborative gaming settings (Nelson et al, 2021).
Not only did this study show an increase in engagement, but it also showed that professionals were achieving more meaningful learning from the gamified activities. Given the ultimate reason for completing professional education is so communities receive the highest level of care, this is hugely important (Nelson et al, 2021).
How can you do this at home?
You don’t have to use an app to reap the rewards of gamification! In fact, it’s relatively easy to organise the gamification of learning for you and your colleagues. Here are three ways you can do it at home, and still get the huge benefits of increasing your engagement, information retention, and overall satisfaction.
Create quizzes for yourself
This is a great way to learn basic information that usually requires ROTE learning techniques. For example, if you’re learning about interpreting ECGs for the first time, building yourself a quiz is a great way to make it more interesting than reading and writing the same thing over and over again.
You can do this using basic cue cards with questions on one side and answers on the back, or you can get a bit fancier (and more environmentally friendly) by using sites like Quizlet.
Start a (friendly!) competition at work
Think of this as a more passive way to create a gamified learning culture at your workplace. You could start a ‘longest daily learning streak’ counter on the notice board or in the tea room, and name a yearly winner! Not only would this give everyone a chance to get involved, but it also leaves people with the choice to learn about whatever they most need to cover: everyone’s learning plans and goals are different, after all.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this sort of competition – especially if built on a points system that rewards quantity over quality of learning – can lead to people rushing through their learning activities and getting less out of each. Don’t worry though! There are ways to circumvent this, such as using a streak idea, as mentioned above.
Themed game nights
This one really takes gamification to the next level! Think pub trivia, but instead of categories like ‘music from the 70s’ or ‘professional sports stars’ you’d be competing over topics like ‘dementia’ and ‘wound care’. A collaborative, fun and engaging environment with colleagues would be a great way to encourage workplace bonding while also remaining professional.
You could even go so far as to have a grand theme each time you have a game night! If you were to have a single topic as a theme, the questions could be more in-depth and really challenge the whole group. And if the theme were to be ‘renal health’, the winner could be gifted a golden kidney trophy. Just a thought…
What else do you need to know?
Gamification is an incredibly deep and complex area of knowledge and research. Here are some great articles to read if you’re interested in the theory:
For more learning theories and techniques, keep an eye on the Learning Theories tab in The Handover.
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Nelson, T. & Robinson, K., 2021. ‘Beyond Engagement: Harnessign Gamification to Achieve More Meaningful Outcomes in Continuing Medical Education.’ Almanac - Insights and Applications for the Healthcare CPD Community. Accessed 6 July 2022 via https://almanac.acehp.org/Podcasts/Podcasts-Article/beyond-engagement-harnessing-gamification-to-achieve-more-meaningful-outcomes-in-continuing-medical-education