Gamification LD
ATD Blog

5 Ways to Gamify Learning Without Breaking the Bank

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

With the average attention span clocked in at less than nine seconds, instructional designers have to step up their learning game to grab and keep someone's attention. Enter gamification. 

Gamification is an active way of learning and motivating learners in the classroom or online, and they can break up the monotony of sit, listen, and learn. While there is a multitude of great gamification software options on the market, they can be pricey. This raises the question: How can we make learning and development fun and engaging through gamification without breaking the bank? 

For starters, look around to see what games adults are playing with their kids and their friends, and then consider injecting them into the learning world. The key for this strategy to be successful is to ask yourself: “How can I tie the selected game to a learning objective?” Remember: The classroom energy should promote both competition and fun during learning assessments. 

To help get you started, here are five cost-effective gamification ideas for your classroom.

#1: Heads Up

We use Heads Up, a game in which you hold an iPhone/iPad to your head while those on your team have you guess the word on the app. Meanwhile, a timer counts down. Heads Up records each session, so you can share them later. For example, we share moments from a game on the company’s Slack channel and Facebook page to generate training enthusiasm. For $0.99, you can build your own deck in Heads Up and customize the options to align with your topics.

#2. Jeopardy

For onboarding, we leverage a Jeopardy-like game (made in-house using PowerPoint) to recap the prior day’s learning and check for understanding. We keep score across the new hire week, and the person with the highest score at the end of training wins a prize, as well as a personalized shout out on the recap email to our CEO. Additionally, Jeopardy can be an efficient way to accomplish a classroom-wide test review.


#3. Mind Mapping

We use mind mapping to tie together various complex topics. This is a compelling way to ensure trainees are absorbing and able to apply multiple concepts. You can use flip charts, sticky notes, dry erase boards and markers, or notebooks for a cost-friendly design. Dividing the group into teams and timing them can add a fun element of competition. Learners typically enjoy the ability to be creative with how they execute this type of game.

#4. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts can be a creative way to ensure learners know how to use a document properly, are able to answer questions about a specific topic, and bring to life otherwise boring and tedious content. The best way to do this is to provide them with the document and design a “bingo” board for them to complete and answer questions. If you have time and a little extra budget, require a “coverall,” hand out prizes, and have the winning teams share out 2-3 key things they learned.

#5: Jenga

Playing “Knowledge Check Jenga” is another way to evaluate comprehensive understanding. We strategically design Jenga blocks and instruct sales reps to complete the task listed on the Jenga blocks before moving forward. If it fits your company culture, you can even weave in some lighthearted blocks to keep it entertaining. We love anything having to do with taking pictures, eating kitchen snacks, or rapping about cyber security.


Want to learn more? Join me at ATD 2017 International Conference & Exposition for the session: Bringing Boring Concepts to Life for Millennials Through Gamification and Microlearning.

About the Author

Kati Ryan is senior director of learning and development for Distil Networks, a cybersecurity company blocking malicious bots from harming a company’s website and brand. She has built and led award-winning training teams and programs for the past six years, previously running sales and product training at G/O Digital, where she oversaw a team of trainers responsible for the career development of thousands of employees. She also led the classroom training division for LivingSocial, shifting into the position from a sales role upon discovering her passion for helping businesses build comprehensive learning and development curriculums from the ground up. Kati is a professionally trained and engaging public speaker and subject matter expert. She has spoken on several industry roundtables, including B2B Learn Summit; contributed content to publications such as Building the Sales Machine Blog and #GirlBoss; and been quoted in Fast Company on effective team-building practices.

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