When studying in middle-school, I remember a specific incident involving our class teacher. She taught us Mathematics and Science and was a dedicated and friendly teacher who was focused on helping students. The Quarterly Examinations were over and the report cards were being handed out. A significant number of students had fared poorly in Maths and Science and being the class teacher as well she was worried. After handing out the report cards, she made an announcement that in the Half-Yearly exams, students who scored above 90 marks in Maths and Science would get a gold star sticker and those who managed to score between 75 and 90 marks would get silver stars.
I don’t know what happened; but all of us students of Class 6A, were excited. The concept of gold and silver stars sounded extremely cool. Every student made an extra effort to study better and when the half-yearly report cards were issued every student in our class had managed to score more than 75 marks in both Maths and Science. Our class teacher kept her promise, all students got the promised star-stickers as per their marks and we got to stick the stickers in our school diary. A promise of a sticker elicited an overall better academic performance in a school classroom. Now the same concept is being applied with digital badges in corporate eLearning. This blog post, will examine the same in detail and see how digital badges and other tools and techniques can be used to make corporate eLearning more engaging and effective.
The Trouble with Corporate eLearning
One of the primary challenges that HR and L&D Managers in top companies’ face is to get their employees to sign-up for and complete eLearning courses. In most cases, employees grudgingly take up courses to ensure that they meet the prescribed number of learning hours for the year. Only a small percentage of employees genuinely take up courses, complete them on time and apply the learning that they acquire in their daily work activities.
How does one tackle this this issue of keeping learners engaged and making them complete the course? The answers lie in:
- Digital Badges
- Social Learning
Badges are now issued as digital tokens and icons that can be displayed on one’s CV, LinkedIn profile, personal blog/web-page. This is a quick and easy way to impress prospective employers and also indicates that the learner is serious about completing the course and pick up new skills. As per the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure, a learner fulfills the issuer-specific criteria to earn the badge by attending classes, passing an exam or review, or completing other activities. A grantor verifies that the specifications have been met and awards the badge, maintaining a record of it with attendant metadata. This metadata includes the issuer’s name, the recipient’s e-mail address, a link to the criteria, and a short description of the badge. It may also specify other details, such as the issue date, the expiration date, or a link to the evidence that supports the granting of the badge. The earner pushes the badge into a “backpack,” a portfolio-style server account, where badges from other grantors are also stored. Digital badges can be customized for individual levels of completion of a course as well as for completing all the levels of a course. Organizations with a strong intranet or staff-portal can allow employees to feature their digital badges on their employee pages as well. Companies that have experimented with digital badges for their internal training programs support its use.
Psychological studies have proven that game-based learning improves retention of learning concepts and learners enjoy game-based learning rather than traditional video/presentation-based learning modules. Games not only improve the interactivity and engagement levels within a course but also function as stress-busters. Well-designed game-based learning modules have always performed better than traditional non-game-based-learning modules. The key is to ensure that the game serves its purpose and reinforces the learning outcome rather than just being a cosmetic addition in the framework of the course-structure.
In a research-study commissioned in the USA; it was proven that creating a ‘challenge feature’ in the learning material improved the retention of learning and also prompted employees to complete their designated learning courses quicker. When a co-worker challenges you to complete an assignment or a learning level in a prescribed course, you are all the more motivated to complete the course with a better score. Like it or not, this is the core premise of social learning, to make learning accessible to all, to learn on the go; and flaunt your scores or digital badges to everyone! Social learning is definitely going to be the way forward. With Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn, which is turning into more of a Facebook of sorts with a suite of learning videos and training content; a lot of learning is going to shift to your smartphone as well. Making your course content and learning platform ‘social network-friendly’ will really help you improve the engagement-levels of your employees.
If you are yet to integrate digital badges into your corporate eLearning, then now is the right time to get started. Do share your thoughts on digital badges, social learning and gamification in the ‘Comments’ section.