I do not like taking online, PowerPoint-style, “click-and-continue” courses. Nobody does. They are boring and one-dimensional. As the father of four children, I am constantly exposed to their lack of enthusiasm for these same mundane courses when they have to complete mandatory training, such as Web-based driving education or drug and alcohol awareness programs. It makes me wonder, “Are these programs having any effect?”
My kids expect engaging, exciting programs when online, and so do I. Admit it, when you sit down at your computer and log in to that human resource mandatory training related to wellness or sexual harassment, your brain goes numb. Just reading about taking the computer-based training makes you think “ugh,” not because of the content, but because of the delivery. Because these courses are so boring, they are ineffective. I often wonder if they have any positive impact at all on behavior.
One obvious alternative is in-person classroom training, but this is not a viable option for many organizations because of the costs and logistics involved.
Luckily, there is a better alternative — serious gaming. The explosion of social media and online 3-D virtual world platforms can facilitate meaningful, real-time interaction about issues related to a whole host of topics. These systems empower organizations to create engaging, immersive and scalable educational applications that are easily accessible and appealing to all audiences by leveraging such vehicles as collaboration tools, live media streaming and special interest groups.
In other words, delivering educational content in a serious gaming environment offers a more engaging method of instruction and, therefore, increases retention. And, like their boring click-and-continue counterparts, these virtual applications can reach audiences anywhere, anytime, regardless of geography or time zone.
This concept is not theoretical. It is in use today by many organizations, including those not typically known for their early adoption of new technologies. For example, this past October, the U.S. Army launched an updated version of its Army OneSource online world. In this virtual community, soldiers and family members can create their own 3-D digital persona, or avatar. Utilizing their avatar, learners navigate through the virtual world to interact and communicate with others via instant messaging. They can attend in-world classrooms where multiple learner avatars can interact with a facilitator avatar, collaborate with other learners and view facilitator presentations in a real-time environment.
One prime example of a successful, serious game is the Army Gold Financial Readiness Training for first-term soldiers that covers topics such as bank accounts, loans, credit scores and predatory lending. By passing quizzes, individuals are able to increase their avatar’s take-home pay and credit score, as well as purchase a variety of customizable game items, including avatar clothing, vehicles, game gifts for their friends and family or even a virtual home. This serious game presents educational material, previously presented as a lecture-style class, in a fun and interesting way that encourages users to keep playing and to keep learning.
These systems can deal with social issues that are too important to leave to ineffective methods. Whether it is training soldiers about finances, college freshmen about the dangers of alcohol abuse or employees about inappropriate behavior in the workplace, the message is the same. Implementing serious gaming training programs is an opportunity to increase retention of information that can have a positive impact on people’s lifelong well-being.
Nascenzi is the CEO of DefenseWeb Technologies, a provider of innovative software solutions that help people achieve lifelong well-being. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.