Learning quests in MinecraftEDU

At BETT this year, one of the biggest exhibitors with a vast amount of floor space was Microsoft. They had grouped together the various tools they have under their wings either directly or through acquisition. Teachers have for years been well ahead of the curve with using games for teaching and I often go to BETT to have a flavour of what will be coming our way in the corporate learning sector also. Some of the big themes in education seemed to be robots to help with a variety of subjects from coding to math, science and language learning. One presentation that stood out for me was from the Minecraft EDU team at Microsoft.

Bett 2018I am a big advocate of learning through the means of quests. Minecraft EDU was showcasing how their version works to learn to code both through block linking and equally through using actual Javascript. Their newest release includes a chemistry teaching version. Just imagine the chemistry table that is traditionally on a wall as a tool to create boosters or fun dynamics in the game of Minecraft. By mixing a number of chemical substances students can create a purple sparkler for their character that can be used in the game. Equally combining gasses can create balloons, which you could then tie down. For the example, the presenter had created flying cows, which was quite amusing.

From the teaching perspective, setting students on a quest to build a purple sparkler is much more appealing than having to explain which chemicals together will create purple sparks the old school way. From a students’ perspective it definitely more intrinsically motivating to be playing and as an added bonus learn about Chemistry.

In literature, schools had worked together across the globe to create a version of Verona, thanks to Shakespeare. Others have created replica’s of the pyramids in Egypt to learn about these structures. As a fun way of using the creations, you have the ability to export the object to anywhere and you could use it in an augmented reality way to have pictures in funny places or as a 3D teaching model.

From a gamification perspective, the learning quest to find an object to boost your gameplay is a great example of content-based gamification.


Leaderboards in learning…

On a regular basis I get asked the question about introducing leaderboards in a learning environment. Leaderboards for top rated content, most viewed, most popular, etc. are very useful and I am definitely an advocate of those. When it comes to learner or learning activity related league tables, my advice is typically to steer well clear unless you have a highly competitive environment.

In any given statistical analysis of a classroom, half will be below the median of the bell curve. If this sounds a bit too statistical, I apologise, it was the one and only subject ever in my third level education where I scored 100%. Equally, in statistics this doesn’t mean the majority in the bell curve haven’t learned, but rather that they may learn differently, the conditions were not ideal or the tools used were not suited. Statistics would like to also measure variations, from conditions to the norms set, to the actual measurable. But, mostly in learning we see measures treating everyone as equal, which is the first fundamental flaw, which most trainers and teachers will agree with. Just remember the great teacher you loved learning from and the dry and boring one, which you found a chore. Not the same conditions, but the same measurement.

Secondly, the mere introduction of a league table introduces the concept that one person is better than another. For the top 3 to top 10, it can be motivational, however most other people, including some of those in the above list, you create a perception or feeling they are not good enough or not as good as a colleague or fellow learner. In an absolute leaderboard, where everyone is listed by name and number on the table this effect is the strongest. Relative leaderboards where you see only the 5 people ahead of your or below you may not be as cruel, yet still instills the same feelings.

If any banter happens about rankings, this only perpetuates the feelings. I still remember scoring an A on a physics test, which turned out to be the only one counting for the school report and when the results came out one of my classmates shouted out “Coppens scored an A and all the rest of us failed!” Now I was in the nicknamed “brainiac class” most of them took Latin and Mathematics, I had chosen Latin and languages and both Physics and Chemistry were my struggle subjects. So the fact I scored top of the class was unusual. I knew it was down to me having to pay attention to get by and the rest of the group having a crazy time in the lesson, where the teacher threw a hissy fit and slapped a test on the class based on what he had just said. I knew I couldn’t afford not to pay attention in that class, because the hope of me getting it by myself was slim and both my parents would confess to not be geniuses in the same topic. I knew it was pot luck, yet the shout out I found embarrassing and left me feeling guilty instead of proud of an achievement. This is the thing as soon as you have banter about results, more feelings and perceptions may enter the mix, which is unavoidable.

Aside from the psychological effect that a leaderboard creates, it also often drives behaviour to be on top of the table. A lot of the leaderboards I see in learning gamification, measure quantity of consumption and completion, but no measure of quality typically speaking. One of the main reasons for this is that those items are the easy things to measure, whether someone truly understands knowledge and implements it is a bit harder. By measuring the transactional side only, by default you create a consumption driven habit rather than a quality habit. Some argue that at least it would get activity started, my question always is whether that is truly the behaviour you want to create. What is it you want to achieve, look at the habits of the successful people in that area and then break down how those would work out into measurable steps.

So if leaderboards are not the way forward, then what should you do instead? In my view, it would be to provide an indication of what good looks like, what are the base requirements and what constitutes excellence. In learning this may mean, regular practise combined with improvement of skill in the topic, being able to tackle more and more complex situations. An anonymous benchmark of how you are performing against the company average and what to aim for are useful for individuals. We can then adapt our ways to achieve success to suit our learning style.

In my view, learning should be about enabling the learner to achieve their goals. Giving them control over what they want to achieve and be measured on is a starting point. As an organisation you may have additional goals, which is why communicating what good and excellent looks like is critical. Individuals can then go about achieving it and benchmark themselves against it. If one of your other core goals in an organisation is collaboration, introducing competition in one area, may have a direct impact on team work. I know not everyone in the gamification world agrees with me on this topic, but I do know most in the learning space understand where I come from and from my experience tend to agree.

Learning repetition leads to mastery

In an era where we want everything on demand and most things can be delivered that way, repetition is often considered as a boring unnecessary thing to do. However in the field of learning, repetition is what creates mastery of any skill. Think of it this way, the first time you got on a bike, cycling was a skill you had to learn. When you succeeded at cycling a few meters first time, you didn’t stop. In fact for most of us the freedom and excitement of being able to go further faster to go play with friends kept us cycling for more than one instance.

In talking to trainers and teachers, I often hear the complaint that children and young adults don’t see the value in repeating something more than once. The reality is those same children and young adults will persist at playing games which often require them to repeat the same motion or game mechanics over and over again in order to level up. They have a purpose, a reason for continuing. In school we are often told you need mathematics, language, sciences etc and it is force-fed into the curriculum. Granted as a child you don’t always know what you don’t know and what would be useful, hence the existence of a curriculum. Since technology and time has evolved significantly I do worry about the curriculum no longer being fit for purpose, but that is a totally different conversation. If mathematics was thought with a link to the young persons reality, for example by learning trigonometry about sine, cosine and tangents can help you in game design to establish angles or in architecture to design bridges for example. Then I would argue that all of a sudden my interest in wanting to understand this material would be a lot higher than the concepts presented on their own, which is how I was taught.

So the purpose of knowledge or learning I think should always be an essential part of good learning design. Answer the question ‘why’ very early on, so it gives the context adults need to make sense of new information and children need to become curious or interested in.

When the purpose truly has me captured, then repetition will be less tedious and maybe even more rewarding. Just like with our earlier cycling example, those first few meters were hard work, but then the more you practised the easier it became. As a learner, I always needed my time to absorb materials and I liked to practise when I was good at something, not so much when I really struggled with the basics. Mathematics was a subject I didn’t particularly shine in, but I made a lot of effort into mastering it and succeeded to a reasonable level. Two weekends ago I had the major insight of why trigonometry played a role by attending a game developer session at one of the biggest casual games studios, King.

Most casual games are repetition driven, you move up in levels by repeating similar actions all the time. Think Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Tetris, etc.

When faced with repetition in learning however it causes friction. Even as early as 1885, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus studied how we retain and forget information. He said that over time most of the information we learn is filtered out. However, repetition and spaced intervals and different modalities and contexts in which the same information is presented will increase retention. Individual ability to retain information can also be influenced by the mnemonic retention ability, learning material, the way in which it is presented and physiological factors such as sleep and stress levels for example.

Spaced learning, where material is re-presented either in a different manner from say text to video, or text to flash card will increase retention. To level up again gap tests, quizzes, puzzles will again increase the level of retention. It is important to always give the learner feedback on what was right and wrong, because you don’t want them to retain what they did wrong. How far apart  should the spaced learning be, in fact the first repetition should be on the day that you learn it, then a day later, 3 days, 5 days, 7 and longer. The harder your brain has to work to get it right, the better the retention rate.

The challenge with repetition in learning is that people often think that using markers and re-reading is enough. Whilst you will familiarise yourself with the materials, it doesn’t actually help you retain the facts. Layering new ways of accessing the material however will assist in longer retention. The key is like in a game, to make it fun to repeat learning. Here potentially a beat your best or beat your peers may help. Can you retain them all? as a play on the game Pokemon Go.

Gamification design in the area of spaced learning definitely has a place and will be able to assist learners to get better over time. As a kid I used write out my class notes in different colours when I came home and then to prepare for exams I used make summaries of the key items, also lined up all my teddy bears and taught them and in later years our cat, who was a patient sleepy learner. Although he may have been just happy to be in my room on the bed or on top of the heater. I knew then that this worked for me. As the amount of material increased in university the methods had to become quicker, I often still read up or researched other ways of learning the same information. I looked up quizzes, past exams, etc. So I know first hand that the fun repetition works.


Learning to code in a fun way

In one of my previous blogs I am sure I mentioned I am on a mission to learn to code and I am dipping my toes into a variety of languages. Yesterday I bumped into an iPad based course for Apple’s Swift coding. I thought whilst it was on iPad, it would be a good second screen activity after work. Well I got so engrossed that the first screen became my iPad.

Effectively the whole learning experience promises to teach anyone from 13 to 103 to code for apps in swift. You are invited to download playgrounds and then select the level you are at and start playing. Check it out on this link: https://www.apple.com/swift/playgrounds/

Immediately you are given a few basic concepts with hooks back to things you already know. From a learning perspectives this enables you think that you may actually understand these concepts. Then after a few basics it asks you to take a coding challenge and there are a few to choose from. I took “Hour of code” to find out what I could achieve in an hour. Much to my pleasant surprise I was able to complete each step of the challenge with relative ease.

The screen was on one side split with instruction and on the other side you saw Byte and animated character in a virtual world collecting gems on your written commands. There was just enough instruction to teach me the basics, so I could try for myself. Then on the play side, it tells you that it is normal to not have it fully correct first time and you can try as often as you need to, to get Byte to move the right way. The feedback of whether your code worked was effectively if the game played out the way you were asked to design it. I had a few iterations and then worked it out.

It did require a bit of thinking through at times, yet it was enjoyable to see your progress. This morning I happened to show my partner and I was surprised how easily I remembered the steps and how I could now flawlessly pass through the levels. So obviously my iterations with feedback and also embedded the learning. Last night I did wonder if the information would then stick and it did, much to my delight. So guess what break time will be about for the rest of this week?

How is this gamification? Well first of all it is structured as a challenge or quest, the feedback is in the running of your code game. Each level builds on the previous, so you do realise a sense of progression and achievement when you work your way through.

Let me know your examples of great learning.


Struggle as a learning method

In most online learning courses, struggle is not built in by intent. Yet in real life, the biggest lessons have come through periods or moments of struggle. Struggling to get to the next level in a game, makes the player consider different strategies or brings into consciousness where they are going wrong or right.

Remember the last time you faced a struggle, where you felt at one point or other that you may not make it through in your usual easy fashion. How did you work your way out in the end?

We always have options, we either learn how to deal with the situation, we find help from others that have gone before or we choose a completely different path. Either way it teaches us something rightly or wrongly. Experiences have taught us most of our skills. We may even learn about our emotional responses to struggle itself, which can range from resourcefulness to creativity to frustration and anger to freezing and indecision. Again the emotional response usually adds a dimension to the struggle and when we learn to recognise the response we can take corrective action if the said response isn’t actually helpful in this situation.

In my earlier business I had a coach, who every time I got stuck on something asked me to write out a list of 20 ways of overcoming the struggle. He said include all the illegal, unethical stuff, just brain dump options without filter. By going through a struggle in this mindset, you keep options open and typically a legal and ethical option does come to light. His advice was then action 1 of the suggestions, which you are willing to live by. In games we can often see players take to rather drastic measures to overcome struggles all within the constraints of the rules of the game.

I do find it fascinating however that when we look at designing learning experiences, that a natural level of struggle is not built in by intent in the majority of programs. As a former corporate trainer, I used to have challenges built into my programs. They didn’t always give me the best popular marks on a the happy sheet (technical term for training evaluation form at the end of a live class), but I did receive feedback that I made people think and reflect on their own behaviour in relation to a subject matter. In online learning we have the same opportunity, yet especially in the corporate sector we see it as disruptive or potentially losing people because it is too hard. The irony is, you probably lose them because it’s too easy and boring instead.

Struggle is how problem solving behaviours are triggered. In most organisations and for most roles that is a valuable skill. So in my view it is a duty of the learning design teams to build in struggle as a learning method to have your people hone their problem solving skills. Most of use choose to play games in our spare time or in our thinking time, meaning we voluntarily opt in to taking challenges and overcoming obstacles. The game type doesn’t matter, because all kinds of games involve some element of challenge. Challenges you overcome in a game, may not have the same life changing consequences as you may experience with real life problems, but they hone a similar skill.

In gamification design, I find it important to build in challenge in order to trigger the resourcefulness for individuals and if appropriate to create a relevant reward environment. Something you need to work harder for and struggle for, you will appreciate a lot more after you have overcome it. I distinctly remember finishing my firs marathon, whereas I can only vaguely remember my first 5k race.

In a recent learning related gamification project, a player was struggling to overcome a specific learning level. I could see the determination of getting through it increase as he re-took the module. He did after 3 individual tries start to consult others and together they made it. The module was short enough for re-takes to take place quickly. The relief when he then managed to unlock the next step was great.

How will you be integrating struggle as a learning method into your gamification designs?

The future of gamification in learning

Gamification or at least the term is being used by a lot of e-learning providers and learning management systems, to create the illusion that they have indeed created something that has game mechanics in it. In a recent experience with a technology provider, their idea of game mechanics was counter opposite to what we would recommend, the main difference was that we had done user analysis and interviews with people in the role the training was for. We had shared it with the provider but they never read it nor could they deduct from that what actually works.

We still see a lot of the superficial style gamification happening where people throw a bunch of random game mechanics without prior investigation into what is fitting in the culture, for the role and for the individuals targeted with the learning. Early buyers of this style of gamification are now turning to gamification designers like us because they have realised superficial and gimmicky doesn’t work. We know that some mechanics are an absolutely waste of time in some circumstances and highly appropriate in others. How we find out what to put in or not is through behaviour analysis, analytics, interviews and focused design workshops.

Now that the first wave of bad gamification is starting to realise it doesn’t work, a few of them will stop offering it as an option and run after the next big buzzword … big data maybe or machine learning or augmented or virtual reality. In any case those people will keep chasing the next bright shiny object and look to make a quick buck through it until they realise it isn’t their core competency and they have to start from 0 or re-invent themselves.

Those of us that do it thoroughly and well, will gain further fall-out business and will continue to grow our client base. I believe we have reached and even gone slightly beyond the tipping point in Europe where gamification has found a dedicated space in employee and learner engagement. The corporate professionals looking for solutions have also become wiser and are learning from those of them that have gone before. Word of failure just like all negatives travel a hell of a lot faster especially in the small world of L&D.

In my view the next wave of innovation will keep coming from edtech, unlike multinational corporations schools and teachers are often at the early cold-face of new users. They see trends and behaviours before the corporate sector sees them. The growth of smart devices from phones, watches to all sorts of robots will provide our next wave of interesting applications. Real world training by a specialist robot, because you are curious about a certain function, role or how something works. That instruction being added to your school report or development map in the cloud, which in a very smart way recommends further items based on previous choices and preferences you may have given it.

The days of classroom based learning are numbered. Even blended learning (classroom + online learning) will receive a stretch and the whole idea of the flipped classroom where the learner drives what he wants to do is a source of change. Traditional education was initiated to create workers for factories, that reality has dramatically changed. Digitisation makes work and learn anywhere whenever and wherever the individual wants a reality. Gamification has a role to play in the tracking and nudging forward towards skills mastery if the individual wants that choice or option. It can also open the gates to further discovery and positive reinforcement of effort put into mastery of new skills.

The superficial game mechanics will be lost in favour of more personalised and stylised messaging based on preferences, choices and consequences. The whole idea of learning with only positive feedback is an illusion that I hope will go away fast, because ultimately most of us learn more from the feedback that something was wrong, hurt or didn’t have the effect we wanted. It is how as children we explore the world and as adults we try to avoid experiencing the world.  The power of gamification will be in the feedback loops and paths to mastery reinforcement.

What do you believe will be the next step in gamified learning?


If you like posts like these, you may love our Technologies Update specifically for HR & L&D professionals

In focus: competition in learning

The amount of times I am asked about introducing competition in learning, is quite staggering. It seems that gamification of learning is by default associated with introducing competition, especially through the shape of leaderboards with learners on them. When I get asked about introducing a leaderboard or competition in a learning environment, my first question is always why? What are you trying to achieve with it?

Most people talking about competition in learning have not thought through the real objectives they have with the competition. People with an educational background will nearly all say that competition brings along more negatives than positives. For me personally it brings out a very strong reaction, against competition. Personally the only leaderboard one should see in learning related gamification is for content, not for people.

Imagine an average learner who is a slower learner in some subjects in school, faced with a learning competition around retention of information in one of the subjects they struggle with. The mere introduction of competition enhances their levels of anxiety of being seen to be stupid on a league table. It also reduces their learning effectiveness. An open relaxed mind can take on more information than a stressed anxious one, which is already trying to defend itself. Now imagine the same dynamic in the workplace, an otherwise smart individual who is well respected by peers, at the bottom of a leaderboard on the learning platform for all to see. Think of the impact for that individual on their own self-esteem and secondly the added perception this now creates with their peers and colleagues.

In most corporate education settings, the learning management system will provide a leaderboard based on completion of courses. If you want to create a company culture where ‘ticking boxes’ is considered learning, then by all means stick with this approach. However completion of an online course tells you nothing. In fact I would argue that most adults only learn what they need in the moment, ideally even as and when they need it and after that lose interest in the additional materials. I know I have started courses and only took the module that was of interest to me and then left the rest, it meant my needs were satisfied and I increased my skills or competencies where I felt I needed it most.

I am a total believer that there is always more to learn, with rapid innovation and increased demands on both time and ability this trend will not change in the near future. Great gamification gives learners the option to create their own path to mastery, set preferences and measure against those and become better as an individual. Beating your personal best being a healthy measure and getting the results you were aiming for as the next.

Competition against colleagues by default encourages holding on to information in order to beat the next person, winners or league leaders gaining and lower ranked individuals often taking a personal self-esteem drop and facing a potential negative perception by colleagues. By making it then even compulsory to take part or including it in the performance managements system that only top 10 ranked individuals will do, adds even more to the current workday pressures.

Competition is useful if the best or those up for a challenge can voluntarily opt in to a short term knowledge based test. If a company culture is completely set up by ranks and levels, then also here an element of competition may come natural to the recruited staff. I am thinking about defence forces for example. In most other context team challenges where people have to collaborate to achieve and win, are more valuable than individual competition. Benchmark indicators are useful to see how you as an individual fare in comparison with peers.

If you are working with a learning management system that includes leaderboards, then insure that those are set first and foremost to measure content ratings. You may include metrics such as relevance, quality, star ratings, etc. The next way to use leaderboards would be in a relative sense, as a benchmark to give an individual user perspective. Other than that make it optional to display your learning activities publicly or not.

Learning as an activity is most of the time meant to increase our confidence and abilities. Competition is putting those abilities to the acid test of “am I good enough”. In my view this is often forgotten in shallow gamification design. I would question my clients about their reason for adding the competitive factors to ensure it doesn’t take away from the learning experience and achieves the desired results.

In focus: Gamification in learning

Gamification has become a bit of a buzzword and also in some cases a must have strategy for learning and development teams. Obviously I am delighted about that and may have contributed a little in sharing my knowledge and excitement about gamification in learning, mainly because for all of my career I have been using game mechanics both online but primarily off-line to achieve learning moments for clients.

First and foremost you still need a good understanding about how people learn and when learning happens. In the case of a child exploration is their first learning modality and most exploration is done through play and through mirroring what adults around them do or other children. In the case of adults we are learning for different reasons, most of us have the necessary skills to function adequately. Yet at different moments we will see the need for more information, more skills and more insights.

Typically as an adult we need to get to the point of awareness that you are in need of more, before openness to learning really occurs. Once awareness hits however, we want an instant solution that we can work with. In todays world we typically turn to Google Search or a colleague to show us how to do something. We also layer our learning on top of things we already know and understand. When we realise the information we seek may require taking a course puts us in front of a decision point which is usually based on time needed, effort required, personal motivation and budget required. Marketing people understand that it is important to help potential buyers through this decision making process. What I see most often in internal learning and development teams, is that the marketing step is overlooked, yet for the learner an essential part of the buying decision making process in todays world.

If a learning management repository was as searchable as google or even better included in a google search instigated from inside the company walls to include internal information first, the adult learner looking for answers to his learning need may have found the relevant resource. For most the internal search is the last on the list. Part of the reasoning is mistrust of internal resources, or often simply not enough content (mainly due to not having enough of a team to create or curate content for all the knowledge needed in an organisation). It is typically only when someone has spoken to a manager about wanting to do a course on a specific topic that they get pointed back in the direction of internal sources first.












So the companies that claim that gamification will solve all learning problems, are over-promising. The first hurdle in my view is that L&D teams need to think like marketeers to publicise courses first. One of the things I do with my clients when we map the learner journey is to look at how will you attract people in and what will make them come back. Most employees are mainly concerned with doing the best job they can, perform to key performance objectives and when they are stuck they want a quick fix. Organisations with a strong learning culture build learning into all business processes from debriefing after projects, sales, etc as well as having learning time and learning objectives as part of the critical performance make up of employees.

You can gamify the marketing process of learning all the same, from scarcity of places for a live courses and opening enrolment for a short space of time each quarter to competitions, etc.

For adult learners, one saying often comes to mind “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” (quote origins are debated to be from Zen or Buddha and others). I think it points at an important distinction we need to make in corporate learning, namely that adults although they are always learning unconsciously, they will typically only search for learning actively when they have an internal need to improve something or answer a very specific question.

So the second thing I will do with clients around learning is to find out why people learn in their organisation. User research in effect. It gives us insights into the company culture, attitude to learning and learning personalities in a company. The motivations will become clear through this process and this is when gamification design can add value to learning.

The challenge I see with learning systems providers who have jumped on the gamification band wagon, is that many of them only focus on the superficial side of sprinkling game dust over existing learning. Now in my opinion, sprinkling icing on a cake doesn’t ensure you have a great cake, it may look fabulous, but if the recipe is flawed the taste will still be poor. It is the same with gamification.

Great gamification design delves into the motivations and culture of the people that make up a company. Business is done by people, people have motivations and they are influenced by other people. Systems can be enablers, but only that. What stuns most of my clients in the corporate sector is that gamification designs we work on also include a large component of user experience and communication planning.

Basically what I would love you to take away from this post is to ask the questions that matter from your suppliers, namely “How will you ensure the gamification is right for my people?” assuming you are making the decision in a learning and development capacity.


Gamification stuff we love: Traintool

In learning and development the move to online solutions is still increasing. The main reason for doing this seems to be scalability and cost reduction. Getting people into a classroom is often more expensive and than providing an online training. Having worked as a trainer and L&D manager, cost is always an issue and more than just monetary, fewer and fewer organisations allow time for their employees to undertake training due to business pressures. Obviously as someone with a clear interest in training, I have always found time even during busy periods and will when I go on training completely blank out other interruptions. But I also know I am not the majority in this.

At the recent Online Educa in Berlin, I came across Traintool, who provide a really solid alternative to role play based training in the field of soft skills. I actually believe this one may allow people to gain more from the experience online than the classroom training equivalent, where role playing is always greeted with the necessary reluctance from participants. What Traintool makes possible is to record yourself responding to specific scenario’s in business.

The examples I saw were around giving feedback in a situation where empathy was required. Basically the online scenario is watched and you respond to it b recording a video of your response. Once you are satisfied with your response (you have 3 chances to get it right), it then goes for peer review and trainer review. It is this all essential feedback loop that makes it one of those subtle gamification examples that are highly effective. You could envisage adding in the voting up of feedback as well to encourage good quality to rise to the top. I feel this kind of tool may be more effective than the face to face version, because you have time to reflect on your own actions and it is less pressurised when you are not on the spot in front of a room, which doesn’t suit everyone. The feedback I read from real cases is that people actually received actionable suggestions on their own performance.

The way I see it being used is either a full replacement of the classroom setting or a follow-up personalised coaching tool after classroom based courses.

For me this is definitely a tool to keep an eye on, it may be light on the gamification but big on impact and that in my view is how it needs to be.


Gamification stuff we love: McDonalds Till game


Gamification stuff we love: McDonalds Till game

For the introduction of their new till system, Mc Donalds wanted to make sure the customers wouldn’t suffer with increased waiting times, they also wanted keep mistakes to a minimum and service as high as possible. their solution was to introduce a training game which provided the safe environment for staff to learn without the pressure of immediately impacting the customer.

The staff was set the challenge to take part in a training game designed to target skill and knowledge – using a simulation of the new till system so that learner’s ability to take orders could be tested and using questions to assess knowledge on how to deliver the best customer experience. Learners deal with customer orders, going between customer conversation and till entry, whilst being timed, to display their knowledge of the till system and keep their customers happy.

The training till panel included game elements such as lifelines and bonuses to encourage knowledge acquisition. Some of the types of achievements to be obtained included:

  • Perfection: Get the order 100% correct
  • 3 on the bounce: Get 3 correct orders in a row
  • Beat the clock: Finish the game with time to spare
  • Happy camper: Keeping the customer satisfaction meter high
  • Time to spare: Complete the order before the timer runs out

85% of crew members believed the till training game helped them understand the new system and will help with their future performance. In terms of business objectives it delivered big success rates, increased participation in training and better retention of knowledge.

Since the implementation of the till game, McDonald’s have measured:

  • A reduction of 7.9 seconds for each till service
  • An increase in their average cheque by 15p (totalling an increased average of £18,000 per restaurant). That’s £23.7 million in the UK alone.

Where have you experienced increased knowledge retention with the assistance of gamification in learning?