Wednesday, 1 July 2009

When Do Learning Games Make Business Sense?

T+D Blog - Serious Gaming in the Workplace asks the question:

Is serious gaming being taken seriously in your workplace?

It is time to change the perception of "gaming" among CEOs and other corporate executives. It is a valuable learning tool that is taking too long to become a mainstream part of everyday learning.

However, I've been wondering for long time about when the added costs of building games really pays off.  Last year in Training Method Trends I showed some data from the eLearning Guild that had games and simulations decreasing as a modality.  My guess is that right now with pressure on training budgets, there's significant pressure on spending on games.



The Upside Learning (disclosure) white paper Do You Need Games In Your eLearning Mix? (see also their great blog post - Top 100 Learning Game Resources) of course comes out and tells us that different kinds of games make sense based on different learning needs and that there's a place for them.

I concur that there's pretty significant backing that game-based learning results in better learning transfer rates

But transfer does not equal ROI.  I've done some initial search for back-up that the added cost of developing learning games is worth the cost, and I've really not come up with much of anything.  There are some great anecdotal examples, but the real question is up-front:

When is it worth the added cost to turn a learning experience into a game?  And how do we know that going in?

The justification is often a bit hard.  There's an emotional response among some buyers that games equals waste.  But even beyond overcoming that challenge, I see it as a bit hard to go from additional transfer angle.  Couldn't we get transfer using another approach at a lower total cost?  Are we trying to justify in additional seat time that learners would spend if it wasn't a game?  Is it true that seat time is less for the same transfer for games?

This relates to the question of the Business of Learning.  I'm not sure that by creating games you really are going to be able to sell enough additional product or create enough added value that it justifies the additional expenditure.

What's the business rationale for spending on games?

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