Learning games are a great way to enhance the learning experience in a training environment. Here are a few things you need to know to ensure those activities are as effective as possible:
Know your audience.
If I am training a group of utility billing clerks, I would probably be more comfortable with a game that is “fun” more so than “competitive” due to the fact that their training environment should be a stress-free zone; antithetical to stressors that are faced in the work environment. If I am working with a group of senior engineers, I might lean more towards a game that is constructive as a means of playing to their strengths. I would never use a game with any audience that purposefully sets a participant up for ridicule.
Timing is very critical.
If a learning game goes too long, learners can quickly grow weary and move on in their minds, even if their bodies continue to participate. A wise facilitator will test a learning game with a focus group before using it in a live training session. He or she will seek feedback that is specific. Is the game too long? Is it too short? Does it reinforce learning or will participants miss the point?
Make sure the game fits the learning objectives.
Having a game for the sake of including one seems haphazard. Even if it is for an ice-breaker or a means of calling a group back together after lunch, etc., the learning game should, on some level, relate to the content at hand. The key is using a learning game as the proper tool for proper application. I would not hammer a nail with a screwdriver. Similarly, if a learning game complements learning outcomes — use it. If not, choose another tool.
Do not always use the word “game” in a training context.
The term can minimize significance, invoke competition fears, become more about winning than learning, etc. Sometimes, I will refer to it as a learning activity, or experiment. Again, this totally depends on the audience, objectives and context.