Increasing recall and retention in learning gamification

When we look at the reasons for implementing gamification in learning, the most frequently quoted reasons are to increase recall and retention of the necessary knowledge about a topic.

In order to benefit best from gamification, we need to ask if a learner has enough background or base knowledge to understand how something works. If a learner doesn’t have the basics, then direct instruction may be the best option to start with. If the learner has base knowledge building in experiences and scenarios can be beneficial.

If for example, we are learning to drive for the first time, knowing the basic things that power a car is an essential basic. Learning by doing can teach you further once you have mastered that a key in the ignition and giving some gas will power the motor,  releasing the break will help the car move forward providing you have the gears in the right place to help it to stay running and to allow for different speeds.

If we link gamification to this process, then the initial learning of knowledge benefits from simple feedback to encourage further learning. Once we enter the doing phase the feedback will be received through the car in practice. Most of us don’t start driving on a busy road, but rather in an empty car park or deserted street. We then level up our scenarios to more challenging situations. The feedback loop and encouragement to see yourself progressing are really the most you need in the early stages of learning. Levelling up with an instructor or supervisor at your side is the next step.

The actual driving test is a milestone in itself and passing it another leading to certification. True mastery, however, will come well after we pass the initial test by going on more diverse journeys, maybe driving on the wrong side of the road. Your passengers will become your feedback loops and if you drive some of the feedback enabled cars, you will earn points for being careful and fuel efficient.

Dropping someone into a drive a car without basic knowledge situation will not work for the majority of people. Adding gamification here may cause an excess of inputs or cognitive overload. At a basic level, the gamification should be simple and as you develop your skill the feedback and challenges can step up, it is really on the road to mastery where most added value appears in learning related gamification. It is then the individual seeking out feedback to keep improving their skills.

Increased recall and retention of knowledge comes from practising a lot, but only after we have mastered the basics. When we design gamification and games, our initial introduction to a game needs to be simple and easy to understand, once you level up the more complex gamification and also knowledge application becomes relevant. Confidence is gained over time by finetuning and applying a skill in different situations with increasing or varying levels of difficulty. Knowing that you are doing well and improving is where gamification can add value.

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