Studies show that learners comprehend and retain more through stories. And storytelling, when used in training design, allows us to connect to the learner on an emotional level and helps to create interest in the learning topic.
Since training should be more than just about delivering facts. When developing high-quality, effective gamified training programs, we should weave stories into the instructional design and delivery – framing the quest (or learning adventure) in a spellbinding story.
For example, I was hired to gamify a 6-hour Payroll Law class. I was told, “Do your thing… make it fun and interactive. We want them to hire us, so they should understand how complex payroll law really is, and at the same time they should walk away from the day with a basic knowledge of the many components of the law.”
My first thought was, “Kill me now… what you’re asking for is simply not possible!” But a collaborative partner, a glass of wine, and a block of cheese later, the creative ideas were flowing and we wrote the infamous Snow White and Payroll Law Course.
The course, originally designed by an HR Attorney, was written in a very traditional fashion, starting with several course objectives such as, “The learner will understand how to ensure you’re withholding, reporting, and paying the right taxes.”
Then the course provided a list of terminologies participants had to learn, plus an alphabet soup of local, state and federal acronyms that went something like this:
If you’re a CPP you understand that the FLSA was passed to protect your FTE’s but FMLA exists so you can care for family. And don’t even get me started on the EFT or EIC. After six hours of listening to this alphabet soup all I was left thinking was -- OMG and WTF!I decided to mix it up a little and add gamification to the instruction. (Of course, the lawyer who designed the course was not happy or excited about this at all!)
The class opened with me holding an apple in my hand and saying the following, “What does an apple have to do with payroll administration?” Of course I was met with uncertain looks.
I then said, “What if I told you this was a poison apple? What could the poison apple represent? Could it be not knowing the facts, violating the laws, getting caught, and even being forced to submit to a Department of Labor or IRS audit? That’s why we’re here today – so you don’t ever have to take a bite of the poison apple.”
Each of the characters were developed to be included in the problems, calculations, and assessments:
Grumpy Gus: No matter what anyone says, Grumpy is against it. He’s a know-it-all naysayer with the personality of an old boot. But, why do think he’s Grumpy? Could it be because he has an ex-wife, and hasn’t paid child support, and now his wages are being garnished? It’s no wonder he’s Grumpy!
Dopey Dan: Well, he’s the boss’s son. We’re not sure what he does. His job description has him classified as an Executive Exempt – but you’re not sure he qualifies.
Throughout the day, there were individual and team activities, competitions, quizzes and “test your knowledge” checkpoints. All were based on the storyline and included many elements of just plain fun, like trying to apply the IRS guidelines to determine if the Woodsman was an independent contractor or an employee of the Queen.
The last challenge of the day was a recap of the key points via a case study. When the participants were able to make recommendations that were in line with payroll guidelines, they received gems to glue onto a paper crown.
Seems rather childish? The entire “C” team of the organization battled to get the correct recommendations and earn the most jewels. It was fascinating and rewarding to watch how simply adding challenges, interaction, a storyline, feedback, competition, and collaboration to an otherwise dry, dull, and boring tropic created an engaged and enthusiastic room of learners.
The good news is… you can do the same. And you don’t have to start with a blank page. There are a ton of story writing tools, but one of the fastest is to access public domain stories. These are written works in the public domain whose intellectual property rights have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Stories like these can be a foundation to help create a storyline for your gamified training program.
- The Call of the Wild – Jack London
- Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austin
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
- Dracula – Bram Stoker
- Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Lyman Frank Baum
- Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
I’d love to hear about the storylines that you’ve used when developing training programs. Please share them with us in the comments below.
More Gamification Articles:
- What Can We Learn from The Walking Dead for Corporate Training?
- The 4 Questions to Ask Before Implementing Gamification
- Gamification Simplified
About the Author: Monica Cornetti
Founder and CEO, Sententia www.SententiaGames.com www.monicacornetti.com
A gamification speaker and designer, Monica Cornetti is rated as a #1 Gamification Guru in the World by UK-Based Leaderboarded. She is the author of the book Totally Awesome Training Activity Guide: Put Gamification to Work for You, writes The Gamification Report blog, and hosts the weekly Gamification Talk Radio program.