Gamifying eLearning to engage your learners

Peter Jones explains how face to face training has been transformed at Stroke Association, using a variety of techniques to make eLearning active and engaging. This has included designing imaginative games to transform dry topics.

In the past we’ve mainly focused on face-to-face training at the Stroke Association. With 800 staff and a very geographically widespread organisation, the L&D team had already recognised the potential value of digital training even before Covid hit. The charity had 19 offices and various other hubs everywhere from Southampton to Edinburgh, Wales to Northern Ireland too. So geographically, face to face training presented a challenge – not just logistically, but also in terms of expense and time as well. So we knew the potential value of digital, online training. It was a case of convincing other people.

What were the barriers learning online? 
It was a combination really of people being fearful of the technology and also I guess a preconceived idea that face-to-face training somehow had more value. But once Covid hit all bets were off. It was a case of having to change. Rather than slow and steady, as we’d planned, we did it all at once.

This article is based on an interview with Peter Jones from Stroke Association, with Learning Now TV. The interview was carried out by Michelle Parry-Slater, and is one of several spotlights on charities, supported by the Charity Learning Consortium. 

How did you get stakeholders on board?
In the past we’ve spent a lot of effort making face to face courses more active, more facilitated, rather than just passive. And I think people had this idea that if they went online, it would just be listening to somebody with a PowerPoint. So we looked at making online training as close as we possibly could to the face to face experience, replicating what we’ve done to make it as active and engaging as we possibly could.

What did you do to make online learning active and engaging?
The first thing, bizarrely, was re-naming it – so replacing the word webinar with online training made a big difference. Then it was very simple things, like using the chat function that was available, so that people could ask questions as we went along and interact rather than just sitting there. 

We started off using Skype, and the chat function helped us to encourage feedback questions from people, which helped involve them, so they felt like they were part of something. 

We’ve since progressed to using other platforms, and using breakout rooms has been absolutely amazing. They enable people to replicate the discussions they would have had in a training room, so people in pairs or small groups can discuss things and then come back and feed back. Sometimes they’ll be working on different things in small groups too. Whiteboards are a good tool too – it’s really useful to be able to put virtual post-it notes up, for example. We’ve done coaching training using breakout rooms, and it’s surprising, as you might think that could only be done face-to-face, but that has worked brilliantly online.

You’ve also been using some gamification – how has that been received?
So gamification can take many forms. We’re using hangman and simple quizzes and all sorts of other things we originally developed for eLearning, to help make it more engaging and interactive. One example is from a fraud module that we developed in-house. We had a policy on it, which was quite dull material but very important to get across. So we developed the idea of having a game, a bit like a beetle drive – where you want to be the first to draw a beetle. In a beetle drive you roll a dice against your opponent, if you throw a six you draw the body and so on. We adapted that to the six elements of the fraud policy and added the dice element so people are playing against the computer. Instead of drawing a beetle though, you get a jigsaw piece – and you want to be the first to get all the pieces of the jigsaw. 

What has been the response to this type of gamified online learning?
There have been a few people that think it sounds silly or childish, but it’s always before they do it. So when they hear about it, it sounds like it’s something for children maybe, so you have a preconceived idea. But once people are involved in the doing, particularly with quizzes, they really throw themselves into it – to the point where people now refer to the fraud module as the jigsaw module. In the future we’d like to develop this even more – our next idea is using space invaders! Watch this space.

Find out more about previous LNTV charity spotlight interviews with Michelle Parry-Slater and the following charities by clicking on the links below:

About Peter Jones

Peter Jones is the Learning and Talent Development Business Partner – Digital at  Stroke Association. The charity supports stroke survivors – of which there are 1.2m across the UK – helping them rebuild their lives.

Peter was interview by Michelle Parry-Slater of the CIPD for a regular charity spotlight feature on Learning Now TV, which is sponsored by the Charity Learning Consortium. 

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