When Gartner predicted a few years ago that 80% of all gamification applications would fail, many people were understandably disillusioned. Today, the hype has faded, and the promise of gamified learning technologies to revolutionize corporate training seems unfulfilled. Companies have learned that sinking huge resources into new technologies doesn’t necessarily translate to improved business outcomes.
While the failure to align game design with key business goals is often identified as the culprit for ineffective gamified training solutions, a root cause is actually the failure to integrate what we know about how the brain learns into the design of those solutions. The emergence of a new category of technology called human transformation technology (HTT) is helping to remedy this gap.
What Is Human Transformation Technology, and How Does It Improve Learning Design?
HTT integrates validated insights from neuropsychology (a discipline focusing on the brain and its influence on behavior) into learning product design in order to drive sustained learning and behavior change outcomes. Rather than viewing technology as a faster, cheaper, more fun way to disseminate content and assess knowledge, HTT uses research into how the human brain processes, stores and recalls information, as well as what drives individual motivation, to transform learning into a more personalized and empowering experience.
Gone are the days of blanket implementation of badges and leaderboards. We now know that the most effective learning solutions apply the same general principles of brain plasticity (the brain’s capacity to alter itself as learning occurs) to create nuanced user experiences that support the retention of new knowledge and desired behaviors. For instance, they all recognize that:
Our brains respond to rewards differently depending on the environment and motivational mechanisms at play. While it is true that leveling and badges can prompt and reinforce desired behaviors, an array of factors can drastically impact a learner’s neural response to a gamified experience. For example, an effective rewards system for an intra-group competition likely differs from that of an inter-group one. Unlike past, failed gamification efforts, which typically applied one-size-fits-all “badgification,” an HTT approach determines the right distribution of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards based on specific goals, settings, types of interactions and individual motivations.
Short, repetitive sessions, spaced out over time, help the brain retain knowledge longer. As a result, presenting information in bite-sized modules, which learners then revisit at increasing time intervals (also known as spaced repetition) works far better than cramming that same information into once-off e-learning courses or seminars.
A sense of autonomy enhances interest and spontaneous engagement. Giving users the ability to shape their own experience, such as being able to determine the direction and pace of their own learning, makes them more likely to explore and master a subject over time. In certain cases, introducing external rewards actually reduces the desire to learn.
Meaningful social connections with others activate reward regions in the brain. Providing opportunities for learners to cooperate, contribute to a group, compete or build their reputations within a wider social network can motivate positive social behaviors.
Immersive games that facilitate flow state contribute significantly to learning skills. When used well, the interactive technologies associated with game-based learning can lead to an experience of flow (the psychological state of complete absorption in an activity). Research has shown the positive impact flow has on cognitive function and players’ attitudes toward learning.
In a world of information excess, the key obstacle to learning isn’t gaining access to knowledge; it’s harnessing the motivation, focus and skills to master and retain it. That’s why an understanding of neuropsychology must play a key role in the design of training solutions.
Successful Learning Solutions Put the Brain at the Center
Being aware of the fundamental ways our brains respond to technology helps shifts the discussion from, “How do I build a corporate training solution?” to, “How do I build a corporate training solution that delivers content in ways that are consistent with what we know about how humans acquire, understand and apply information?”
This shift is the major advantage that HTT offers. It reshapes the way we design and interact with the learning technologies at our disposal — including mobile, artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality — so that their impact on a learner’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors is in line with business and learning goals.
The field of neuropsychology is always expanding, and we don’t know all there is to know about brain/behavior relationships. However, we do know enough to design training solutions in more evidence-based, human-oriented ways. It is no longer enough to simply create digital replicas of conventional learning resources or inject new technology into our training. As learning designers, we need to transform, too.