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I made a WPF app which contains and shows lots of training resources. The thing is, people aren't very motivated to just open something and start reading/learning.

Does anyone have experience with this kind of application of some sort of gamification? Something like Stackoverflow, points and badges, but only internally used and with some sort of reward after a certain amount of received (learning)points.

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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com Dec 14 '11 at 18:39

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

    
Monetary rewards combined with in app tracking is another way to get people to use the app more. –  Barfieldmv Dec 16 '11 at 13:10

4 Answers 4

Gamification is most successful when it reveals a game that already exists in the system. Is there a game already in your training programme? For example, StackOverflow surfaces the game that is present in all forums of earning kudos.

You mention that your audience isn't motivated to start learning, does gamification address that or is the problem bigger? Is the audience aware of the benefits of the training?

If you do decide to gamify your application, you need to carefully consider the mechanics you choose. Is a leaderboard appropriate or would it be off putting for beginners? Can the system be 'gamed'? Does the gamification take focus away from the learning experience?

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I believe gamification is an excellent idea, particularly for younger workers. Particularly if the training is being done at home outside of normal hours it is perfectly appropriate to give people some incentive for spending their time learning stuff important to the company.

Why stop at stars? Give them incentives similar to what Coke and Pepsi do with bottle caps. Get enough points and you can trade them in for cheesy stuff like a hat or t-shirt with the company logo on it. Score the highest score of anyone in the company this month and you get to be "employee of the month" and have the choice parking space for the next month. You get the idea.

Gamification is proven to work. Make your learning app as much fun as Farmville or Angry Birds and you will have the best trained workforce ever!

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I agree, I still believe gamification of a training system could work. Especially for young workers. But unfortunately that's not the case. Maybe I should make something like that after hours and sell it :-D –  Arne W Dec 20 '11 at 9:35

Before you decide to solve the problem with gamification, it's prudent to identify what the cause is of people not going in and consuming the information you're providing. Perhaps it's not easy to use - maybe the navigation is confusing? Do a usability test to find out whether that's a concern. Secondly, perhaps the material just isn't very interesting. Find a way to test that. Once you've established that the information is easy to understand and easy to read, then you can move to the next step of applying game mechanics to reward people for making an effort.

Often, just listing completion percentages and showing which steps still remain helps break things down for people so they can take things piece by piece and still retain an overview of how much "work" is left. I recommend trying that approach first before moving into extrinsic rewards territory with any kind of gamification system.

Take a look at LinkedIn's highly regarded implementation of profile completeness tracking for an example of what I mean.

Once you've figured out how far in the process people are getting, you can start helping them cross some bridges with some rewards. Identifying which rewards you want to hand out is something you'll need to do together with your internal team as I don't know what the subject matter is or what motivates your users - and what motivates them is a key question when you start applying extrensic rewards, because you risk introducing a system which people will then only use if the reward is valuable to them rather than doing so because it's advantageous in other ways (like making their jobs easier).

So my answer is just a way to start. I suggest you do that, start, and then come back once you have some more specific questions and issues you're facing. Good luck!

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Hi, thanks for the input. First off, the usability does not seem like an issue to me, navigation is as straightforward as it can be. The problem is the simple fact that learning subjects like these is not in their jobdescription. I think the biggest motivation will come from the fact that their job is made easier with the help of training like these. However, I am not in charge of writing the material, so that's not up to me. –  Arne W Dec 20 '11 at 9:21
    
Although I must say, I do like the LinkedIn-approach you suggested. I think it could give a sense of accomplishment and at same time feel professional. As @sdg suggested, a star or badge might very well come off condescending. I think this has a lot to do with age. If we were talking about 500 young people between 18 and 24, a leader board and badges could work. But that's not the case. Right now there already initiatives in place with material rewards, such as a free dinner, a polo-shirt, etc and there are still quite a few people who couldn't care less. –  Arne W Dec 20 '11 at 9:29
    
Part of Engagement (or Gamefication) is showing Visible Progress toward a Goal. That's the "Leader Board". The Goal should be something they CARE about. So if you can show them how their peers have used the new knowledge to improve (via the Leader Board) you show Progress and also foster some (hopefully healthy) competition. –  Clay Nichols May 9 '12 at 21:23
    
BTW, I would do some simple Hallway Usability testing to make sure of your assumptions that the only real problem is that reading is not in their job description. –  Clay Nichols May 9 '12 at 21:24

You could do it. As an employee I believe I would find it somewhere between cheezy and annoying/aggravating. Gamification for sites like the stackexchange family primarily works (in my mind) because of the voluntary nature of the interaction. Adding it to a mandatory process would tend to feel outright manipulative.

If you are referring to mandatory training, like health-and-safety, then just good old managerial top-down dictates should suffice. If all employees need first-aid training, for example, you sign them up, and if it is part of their employment contract, you fire them if they do not fulfill that requirement.

You seem to be talking about the sharpen-your-saw type of training. Training that would allow them to do their job better, perhaps, if they took it? From that perspective, if the training itself is not enough of a reward, how is getting a little virtual gold star going to make it more palatable and not condesending?

If I believe I know everything I have to, in order to get my job done, then little prizes are not going to change my mind. What is the real benefit to me for taking this training? Do I get more pay? A promotion? If I make more widgets per shift, who benefits?

Once people make the mental link to their own interests, the need for gamification would go away.

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