Ibrahim Jabary, who was named “Innovator of the Year” in 2016 and 2017 by Elearning! Media Group, is the CEO of Gamelearn, which specializes in game-based learning for corporate training. We had a chance to pick Ibrahim’s brain about the concepts behind game-based learning, and to hear his thoughts on what role this method will play in shaping the corporate leaders of the future.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you become interested in the idea of using video games as a company training tool?
I had been working in the field of learning and development for more than 10 years. But there was a moment when I realized that in order to grow, achieve an economy of scale, and be truly global, we needed to move to e-learning. When researching what was on offer, we discovered that traditional e-learning had two very serious and widespread problems:
- It did not provide the opportunity to learn through experience and feedback, which is something everyone had come to expect from traditional training.
- It was not very engaging, and therefore, only 25% of students who began an online course managed to complete it.
The solution we came up with was the following:
- Use simulators to ensure experiential learning and to be able to provide personalized feedback to students.
- Use video games to gamify training and thus increase completion rates.
And the results proved us right. We are able to get students to learn without the need for classroom sessions, and we have achieved a completion rate of 94%. Scientific studies also confirm our theory. Time and time again, the findings are conclusive: video games facilitate the memorization and retention of knowledge, increase employee engagement, and obtain higher completion rates. It is actually very simple: when we play, we learn better.
What are some of the biggest challenges that companies face today when training millennials who have recently graduated from a college or university?
Millennials have changed the rules in many fields, and training is one of them. This generation wants more freedom to choose; they are a mobile generation, they want engaging courses, and they appreciate flexibility, transparency, and feedback. We have to adapt our LMS to the new demands of millennials, which include making it more social and more useful.
Many of these trends apply not only to millennials, but also to the whole workforce. Human resources departments have to understand that there are millions of courses out there that employees can access (through Google and MOCCs), so you have to focus on finding the best content for them. Times have changed, and so should corporate training.
When employees rely heavily on video games for their training, does that prevent them from experiencing the sense of camaraderie or collaboration that they would while undergoing conventional team-based training?
Not really. Many games can very easily become social games. For example, if there are rankings among colleagues, you can check how you are doing compared with other employees. This simple fact very often becomes a social experience in which workers get to know each other, compete, and talk during and after the games. In our game on customer service, we also allow users to give presents to other players and send messages to their colleagues. All this means is that it is possible to use video games and at the same time develop a sense of collaboration and camaraderie in your organization.
How does using video games to help train employees reduce corporate training costs without sacrificing the quality of an onboarding program?
On the one hand, game-based learning has all the advantages of e-learning. You can apply economies of scale and you have the ability to train thousands of employees at the same time all over the world. You don’t need to pay for flight tickets, hotel rooms, meals, travel time, and opportunity costs; everyone can play wherever they are and whenever they want, which is very valuable for multinational companies with workers on five continents.
On the other hand, thanks to advanced simulators and gamification techniques, video games have been scientifically proven to obtain higher completion rates, more engagement and better knowledge retention than traditional training. Our results demonstrate that not only is the quality of the training not compromised, but in many cases it is actually improved. Some 97% of our students recommend the courses and believe that what they learned was useful and can be applied to their job.
If a corporate executive were to say to you, “I don’t think computer training programs can succeed in teaching the important ‘soft skills’ that are needed in the real world,” how might you respond?
I would tell him that in the last few years, more than 1,000 corporations all over the world have managed to do this with spectacular results. I would explain that in many professions, it is now commonplace to use simulators to train real skills such as piloting a plane, driving a vehicle, surgery, police operations, military interventions, responses to emergencies, and much more. We have proved that the same principle applies to soft skills such as negotiation, productivity, leadership, and customer service.
And, of course, I would invite this corporate executive to play one of our video games. I think he would very soon realize that video games can simulate real-world situations in great detail, and that they offer very useful and practical training. Furthermore, video games create a safe and cost-free environment. Players can practice all the acquired skills over and over without any risk to the company. So video games can not only “teach soft skills,” but they also allow employees to “practice” them.
How can a company assess the individual talents or potential of their employees based on how they perform during their video game training?
We are a training company and would therefore never use video games to assess a student. A large part of games’ ability to teach lies in the fact that they can get us to behave in a natural way, relax, and allow ourselves to be guided. If we use games to measure or assess people, we will lose this key factor. But just because we don’t do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We are of the opinion that very soon, we will see video games being used as a tool to appraise and recruit staff at all levels.
How should a company go about convincing middle-aged or older employees to embrace the idea of using video games for corporate training?
There is this idea that video games are a teenager business, but that is not the case anymore. In countries like the US or the UK, the average age of a typical video game player is 35 years. From our experience, we can say that some of our biggest fans are employees over the age of 60. We all like to play, no matter what our age.
Furthermore, the main objective of a serious game is to teach, not to have fun. When employees start a game-based learning program, they realize that the video game is only a tool and that they are learning from the very beginning. Game-based learning has proven to be an extremely useful method for both millennials and older people.
What do you foresee for the future of video game-based corporate training?
The way I see it, game-based corporate training has just started. When we released our first serious game in 2009, game-based learning basically didn´t exist. We had to do a lot of explaining because learning and development professionals hadn’t even heard of it. But right now, the scene has changed dramatically: the question is not if you should use game-based learning, but how.
Nowadays, game-based learning is the trend with the highest growth in corporate training. With more and more companies betting on video games, we will be able to develop better and more sophisticated products. I am convinced that in the not-too-distant future, education will be turned on its head through the use of gamification and game-based learning. I believe that at all levels, from schools and universities through to companies and business schools, the vast majority of training will contain gamification and simulation components.