Comparing Gamification to mLevel is like Apples and Oranges

Over the last 18 months, gamification has seen a tremendous increase in usage and adoption by enterprises large and small, to address virtually any and all employee-related challenges. Many of these customers believe that they need gamification in their organizations, without truly understanding what it is and what it can accomplish. Particularly as it relates to learning and development, most gamification solutions are nothing more than a “fun” way of ensuring compliance with learning initiatives. While useful to some degree, this doesn’t lead to better learning and retention and, in fact, may be detrimental to long-term employee development and engagement. mLevel, on the other hand, is purposefully designed to increase learning and retention through the use of fast and fun gameplay.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the application of game-like mechanics to inherently non-game contexts. The most common examples of gamification are scoring systems, leader boards, badges and awards used to reward specific behaviors. Examples in the enterprise focus largely on compliance and/or measurement:

  • Keep score of the number of activities entered in the CRM system and display a leader board to drive competition around activity entry
  • Award badges when an employee completes a series of e-learning courses in the learning management system

The roots of gamification lie in businesses attempting to drive loyalty among consumers through rewards programs like airline frequent flyer and hotel frequent guest programs. These companies integrated some basic game concepts into their programs, such as status, progress to next level, and awards for achieving levels and status. However, gamification really exploded among Web 2.0 companies and mobile app developers who, in order to drive “engagement” with users – particularly with free sites and apps – incorporated additional game mechanics, primarily through awarding badges, to motivate users to come back frequently to collect more of them. An example is Foursquare who gained a tremendous amount of popularity using this approach, as did many other businesses. As a result, several companies were formed to provide gamification platforms and services to help other businesses implement gamification solutions.

While many of the gamification vendors remain focused on consumer-facing applications, others have shifted to focus more on enterprise customers and driving employee engagement. They have been re-branded as engagement and behavior engines, focusing on measurement and motivation, recognition and rewards, and “guiding and amplifying high-value behavior.” [] The problem is that these high-value behaviors are likely to be short-lived. A recent article on the subject states that research has shown that gamification is a “quick fix” and “not a long-term solution. Slapping a points system or a leader board onto a product may be enough to get people to try something out initially, but usually fails to encourage long-term engagement.” []

Gartner recently estimated that by 2014, 80% of Gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design. And, back in the consumer space, Foursquare has announced that they are phasing out gamification in an effort to move away from the perception that Foursquare is only about points and badges, as user feedback has shown a “waning interest” in their game mechanics.

In the learning space, gamification may be sufficient short-term motivator to complete a training course, but its effect on actual learning is limited at best. It’s also worthwhile to note that gamification is not the same thing as games, a distinction that many fail to make.

What is mLevel?

mLevel is designed from the ground up to be a learning platform that integrates content with real gameplay to promote long-term learning and retention. Immersed within a rich game theme , learners answer questions about  topics to affect their game performance – simultaneously learning and reinforcing new content while being assessed on the current state of their knowledge. Learners play mLevel until they have completed the mission and mastered the relevant content.

The output translates into improved performance on the job; enabling enterprises to understand what employees know and don’t know. mLevel allows organizations to proactively address gaps in skills and knowledge so they can respond more quickly to the needs of the business.

Companies across many different industries use mLevel to educate and communicate to their employees about:

  • New product launches, covering features and selling points
  • Competitors, customers, and markets
  • Organizational changes
  • Application and process training
  • Leadership and management training

Why mLevel works

Brain science has shown that people learn better and retain new information when they have focused attention, experience the content in short-but-frequent bursts called spaced repetition, and when coupled with an emotional response. With any of these present the brain makes stronger synaptic connections, which is the basis for retention and recall. What’s interesting is that virtually every game (actual game, not just points and badges) someone might play – from board games to card games to video games to sports – include these three qualities in abundance. Game players are focused during their game play, and almost certainly experiencing some sort of emotional response, such as anxiety or excitement, disappointment or joy, and the stress that comes from playing, winning, and losing games. Games are meant to be played over and over again – you play a couple of times today, then again in a few days, than again sometime next week, etc. All the while you are learning; how to play the game, how to get better, how to win and figuring out ways to improve your performance, etc. The beauty of games is you can go back at virtually any time, even after not having played for months or years, and basically pick up where you left off. The learning and retention is that powerful!

It is also important to recognize the role of employee engagement in learning objectives. If employees are not sufficiently engaged, they won’t learn. mLevel incorporates a variety of elements into the platform to appeal to and motivate all types of learners, from competition to exploration to social to mastery. Whether learning about a new product or a new organizational change, mLevel delivers a fast and fun gaming experience. And, our customers are seeing results, with many achieving over 80% engagement and thousands of game plays across their learner communities. This level of activity has lead to effective learning and retention of new information, as well as being able to identify key knowledge gaps within their organizations.

Assessing Employee Knowledge with mLevel

One of the great struggles of organizations today is being able to understand what their employees know and don’t know. The lack of this understanding hinders their ability to proactively use this information to address key knowledge gaps in the organization. The data simply isn’t available, certainly not through gamification platforms, and only in limited levels of detail with traditional learning management systems. With mLevel, detailed knowledge assessment data is constantly captured, assembled, and immediately available through a reporting dashboard. Beyond knowing which questions employees are answering incorrectly, mLevel explains what those questions are about, what about them was answered incorrectly in what situations, and even what incorrect answers are most commonly chosen.

These deep analytics are possible because of mLevel’s unique approach to content and game play The platform is designed to free instructional designers from the tedious task of writing test questions and allow them to become coaches or teachers. These professionals can now focus on defining and structuring the content to be learned as part of the learning objective in a meaningful way. mLevel then automatically generates questions for it’s  enabling the enterprise to track each players answers and experiences

Do you need Game Based Learning or Gamification?

  1. Are you looking to directly promote learning and retention or activity?
  2. Do you need to engage and motivate learners beyond scoring systems or rewards?
  3. Are you looking to power the organization and improve performance with analytics or just drive behavior?

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Empowering learners Together

We’re excited to announce that we are now a part of the Axonify family. To all of those who have supported the MLevel journey, we thank you!  Here’s to the next chapter and to furthering data-driven learning.