How can modern learning platforms applying gamification help evolve the learner experience?
Kaplan UK provides professional education to the accountancy, legal and financial services sector through a range of classroom, blended, online instructor-led and fully online courses. Its training helps prepare learners to sit professional exams with external bodies including ACCA, ICAEW, AAT and CIMA. As a forward-thinking organisation, it recognises that students want to learn when and where they are, and that innovation in learning technologies can help deliver the best learning experience.
On a recent webinar, Stuart Pedley-Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan UK and our own Alan Hiddleston, D2L Enterprise Account Executive discussed how the training organisation has transformed its online learning environment using gamification. Not only has this delivered a better learner experience, Kaplan has also discovered that by observing how students ‘play’ the ‘game’, desirable characteristics such as diligence, determination and drive can be encouraged.
Such an innovative approach, made possible through sophisticated data analytics and tools to engage learners, demonstrate just how far the learning management system (LMS) has come. From early days of providing online course material, sophisticated learning platforms have developed to meet the needs of today’s employees.
These needs include flexibility and adaptability. With traditional 9-to-5, office-based work giving way to the flexible working patterns of employees frequently geographically dispersed and comfortable using a range of online tools, learning is increasingly informal, undertaken across a range of devices and highly personalised to each learner.
Gamification for learner engagement
By tapping into models familiar to digitally savvy learners, the modern LMS can deliver enhanced learning experiences for higher levels of engagement and more successful outcomes. The gaming model, being very familiar to many LMS users, provides a range of tools and techniques that can help engage users and keep them progressing through their programme of study.
Stuart explains that Kaplan wanted its learning to become more evidence-based and personalised. It began applying gamification through the use of points, badges and leader boards. Tapping into the opportunity to improve learning outcomes by rewarding positive behaviour, it took the approach of not just recognising academic achievement, but also actions that contribute to progress.
“In the exam world, league tables are seen as a bit of a hero and villains thing where the academically bright sit at the top and the academically not so bright sit at the bottom,” explains Stuart. “We wanted to explore the league table by rewarding behaviours that would in principle lead to better learning and then to better results.”
It’s a fascinating approach that brings together aspects of technology-enabled learning for higher levels of engagement, gamification as the application of game-design elements and principles, and behavioural insight that, through data, gets underneath how learners approach study and the character traits that this reveals.
“The footprint that’s left behind – maybe that is something that employers would find useful and say, ‘we don’t know what’s around the corner for us next year, and we don’t know the challenges we’re going to face. How about having somebody who can solve problems and tries hard and is diligent?’,” says Stuart.
Stuart and the Kaplan learning team are now turning their attention to how small changes or, as they are known, ‘nudges’ can make big differences to learner outcomes, including looking at student communications and how tweaks to such interactions can maximise their efficacy. This could involve looking at the time of day that emails are sent out, the length of the email, and the wording that’s used. Predictive analytics and monitoring enable administrators to build a more complete picture of the online learner and support appropriate interventions to keep learners on track.