Motivate Adult Learners with Game-based Learning


It’s a usual day at work, and you are waiting for the trainer to come in and begin his boring, dreary training session. As he moves through his slides, you look quickly at your watch, wishing time would pass by faster, just so you can go home sooner.

To your surprise, he suddenly dims the classroom light, and puts up a slide that reads “Begin the game” with a website link projected on-screen. Your colleagues (who had not dozed off yet) start to take out their laptops and devices, and begin loading the website link stated on the projector screen. There was a sudden buzz, and you realise the trainer is introducing a learning game for the class to “play”.

With a tinge of curiosity, you do the same by accessing the same website link, and put on your earphones. In 5 minutes, everyone was drawn into the learning game – excited, engaged, and motivated. Half an hour later, the class was chattering away about who had completed the mission and how they had done it so quickly with the highest scores.

Without realising it, all of them had learnt through a game-based scenario the application of certain concepts, where high scorers were learners who had picked up a deeper understanding of the underlying concepts infused into the game design. This is e-Learning – specifically, game-based learning.

What then is the difference between classroom training and interactive, game-based learning?

Let us take a quick walk through 5 advantages of using game-based learning.

1.       Higher engagement level

With high-definition visuals, audio effects and interactive programming, game-based learning captivates learners’ attention and keeps them engaged with a sensory learning experience. Did you know that 83% of learning occurs visually? Games are highly visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic, catering to the majority of learners – where they can learn by seeing, learn by hearing, and learn by doing. In addition, games can tap on emotional engagement through controversial game situations, familiar memories, and real-life experiences.

2.       Learning through mistakes

Games provide learners the freedom to fail, start over, fail, and try again until they succeed. Henry Roediger started a learning experiment by dividing his students into 2 groups – group A and B. Group A studied natural sciences paper for 4 sessions, while Group B studied the same paper for one session and was tested on it three times. A week later, students from Group B performed 50% better than Group A, although they had studied the paper less. This experiment clearly shows that learners who practise and learn hands-on generally have higher learning outcomes.

Game Over

3.       Providing the real-life context

Ever learnt something and wondered why you need to learn it, or how it is relevant at your workplace? Through virtual reality games, a real-life setting can be simulated for learners to immerse in realistic situations and pick up relevant skills or knowledge within the actual context.

4.       Extrinsic motivation 

Game-based learning often includes game enhancements such as reward points, badges, leaderboard, level-ups and more. These are extrinsic motivators that encourage the players (aka learners) to achieve a certain game task or target – which ultimately determines the accomplishment of learning objectives.

5.       Intrinsic motivation

Yet, it isn’t one-off results or task accomplishments that will last, but the intrinsic motivation from growth that will keep your learners going in the long run. When your learner achieves a game target or mission, this essentially means that he or she has understood a concept or know-how to be able to climb up to that target or mission level.

You know the feeling when you have worked real hard for an exam, and finally ace the paper? It ascertains you on your individual growth in the area of study. Games work this way too. It ascertains the player that he or she learnt something right and this spurs him or her to keep learning. To quote the CEO of Three Learning, Mr. Tan Wee Shen, “the highest intrinsic motivation that you can give to a learner is when the learner realises he or she is learning and gaining through knowledge.”