Study: More effective, engaging training

On average, employees using game-based training tools have:

  • 14% higher skill-based knowledge levels,
  • 11% higher factual knowledge levels, and
  • 9% higher retention levels

than employees who did not use training games, according to a 2010 literature review and study conducted by the University of Colorado, Denver (and these figures include some poorly designed training games which bring the average down in our opinion).

This is the largest review of research into the effectiveness of training games conducted to date. It included a meta-analysis of 65 studies and data from 6,476 trainees.

Why are games effective for training?

  • They are more engaging – meaning fewer distractions and more attention paid.
  • By labeling something a ‘game’ the context alters – making staff more relaxed and open to experimentation.
  • Games allow for more ‘divergent pathways’ – there does not have to be ‘one right way’. Instead multiple ways to succeed and fail are possible, just like real life. This increases understanding over rote learning of the right answer.
  • Games allow dangerous or inaccessible locations and tasks to be accessed safely ‘virtually.’ For example, NZ Steel provide interactive 3D models of a loading bay to new truck drivers so they can become familiar with a dangerous environment before they set foot onsite, and have seen a significant reduction in health and safety incidents.
  • Workers can play the game as often as they like and, since games are intrinsically motivating, workers often do play them again in their own time.
  • Games can easily be blended with face-to-face, seminar and group training. The literature review identified that embedding games in a training programme is effective best practice.
  • Games can be social, can work in group situations or use leaderboards and competition between departments or branches.
  • Reference information, such as manuals, policies, websites, intranets can easily be integrated.

Importantly, the research also found that games where the skills you want to teach are also the skills needed to win the game are most effective. These games feature a high level of integration between the game design and the training content. Eg, creating a game were you load a truck safely vs a quiz which contains merely questions about loading.

Source: Sitzmaan, T. (2010). “A meta-analytic examination of the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games.” Personnel Psychology.