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Fun & Games: Keep Training Lively

February 7, 2012
By Michael Hackett, LogiGear

fun_learningTraining has to be fun. Simple as that. To inspire changed behaviors and adoption of new practices, training has to be interesting, motivating, stimulating and challenging. Training also has to be engaging enough to maintain interest, as trainers today are forced to compete with handheld mobile devices, interruptions from texting, email distractions, and people who think they can multi-task.

Many trainers cringe at the term edutainment, the necessity of education to be entertaining. But the fact is: if class time is boring – regardless of how important – your efforts will fail. Regardless of the content, to boost interest and retention, training has to be interactive.

Today, there is great innovation going on in classroom practices – and not only from online delivery. In class, I use as many games, exercises and examples as I can to engage and challenge students. It takes longer than a lecture, but it’s much more effective.

What is clear about training adults is that lectures alone do not work. The content is easy to create and most efficient in terms of delivery time. But, in my experience, the retention rates are just too low! It’s essential that there be learning activities – and the more the better.

There must be learning activities to:

  • Verify the content delivered was received
  • Get feedback and replay to gauge the level of understanding
  • Challenge adults with having them immediately apply the information – a key achievement for adult learners.
  • Make the training more diverse and interesting to keep attention and increase retention
  • Entertain, make training more interesting and fun

This does not have to be complex, time-consuming or a big event. At a minimum it can be an instructor-led walk-through of a testing example. It could be relating a past project experience. Although an instructor-led walk-through will have less interaction, telling effective stories can expand thinking and application. It could also be a testing simulation applying a newly learned process from start to finish. Knowledge needs more than one method of delivery for retention and application.

It has become increasingly popular in recent years to have corporate classes designed as simulations. Within this format, the classes are conducted with numerous activities and learning games, which have proven to be the key method to learning and applying job skills.

A Scrum Master Class Full of Games

Let’s talk about learning activities from an extreme. A few years ago I became a certified scrum master. I took a training class where the majority of the classroom hours, content and key learning topics were delivered using games.

Everyone in the room was highly motivated; no one was there because their manager made them attend – we were eating up the information, which was very well received. From these classes, I took away five important ideas about games in training:

1- I learned a lot! There was great participation. Games were fun and effective. In fact, I am using some of the same games now in my Testing in Agile class. [http://www.logigear.com/services/qa-training/testing-in-agile-development.html]

2- People were happy. A few participants did miss some learning points or the real essence of the activity. The games were time boxed and there was casual pressure to finish the tasks on-time (a key aspect of SCRUM). Some people were so focused on the task at hand and in finishing on-time that they missed the [key] learning point. So, “happy” does not mean all people learn.

3- Even with highly motivated people, the instructor had his hands very full answering individual questions, clarifying game rules, keeping his eyes on the clock and organizing things. Game activities often make instructing more difficult.

4- Just a few learning activities were played for the sake of playing a game where, with highly motivated participants, certain topics would have been more efficiently delivered as lecture and perhaps a discussion.

5- There were situations where not every participant was highly motivated, for example, at the end of the training day. Some people got distracted and it was clear attention wandered. In these cases, the retention and application of information was more problematic.

See more at: http://www.logigear.com/magazine/issue/cover-story/fun-games-keep-training-lively/