Level Up Your IDEA Data Trainings With Gamification!

There are many ways to influence IDEA data quality. Among them is helping states, locals, and other stakeholders understand the importance of collecting, reporting, and using high-quality data and how to improve data quality. Learning about and improving data quality can be, let’s face it, kind of intense work. With the goal of combining fun and learning, we, at IDC, went looking for new ways to engage participants during IDEA data trainings. Most of us like to participate in learning that is enjoyable, right? What would be the worst thing that could happen if we took a non-traditional approach to trainings, with the aim of making them entertaining and engaging for diverse audiences? People would come together and have some fun and learn something new—nothing wrong with that! 

Enter gamification! Gamification is the application of gaming concepts to make an activity more engaging for participants. In a broader sense, gamification can refer to any activity, from icebreaker activities to what we think of as more traditional, complete, game-like efforts such as quiz type game shows, that can stimulate audience interest and sustain active participation.

There are many benefits of applying gamification principles to training and other learning activities. Gamification allows us to break free of traditional lectures and passive presentation methods. For example, inserting poll questions into a training or having participants answer quiz questions allows them to process the content they are learning in a different way besides simply listening to someone speak. Gamification also provides alternate ways to illustrate connections between concepts. For example, virtual scavenger hunts (where people look for various items of interest on a website) allow participants to interact with the content and discover for themselves how concepts are connected.

Right now you are probably asking, “How do I get started?” So glad you asked! Here are some tips to ensure your foray into gamification is successful.

  • Have clear objectives—Before you start incorporating games into your activities, make sure you know what you want to accomplish and in what order. Having clear objectives will inform your decisions about what games or activities might work best without losing sight of your training or presentation goal.
  • Tell a story or stick to a theme—Learning about complicated data reporting rules or regulations can be difficult; sticking to a consistent theme to increase interest in the topic, such as joining “super-agents” on the lookout for meaning can help participants connect topics together logically.
  • Focus on free or low-cost games and activities—Many game-based activities are free or low-cost. For example, you can add quizzes into your PowerPoint training or presentation for no cost. You can replicate a well-created quiz in other trainings or presentations simply by changing the content.

Be creative, be brave! Gamification may require doing things you have never tried or are not used to doing. However, taking a leap of faith combined with a well-planned training or presentation can be just the thing for ensuring a successful and memorable learning experience where participants walk away with new knowledge and skills and feel their time was well spent. Don’t be afraid to try something new and level-up your IDEA data trainings! As entrepreneur and author Raph Koster said, “That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning” (Koster).

Reach out to your IDC State Liaison for more information about making gamification part of your IDEA data trainings or check out what we had to say on Using Gamification to Build an Engaging IDEA Data Training during our IDC 2021 Interactive Institute.

–Your IDC “Gamification Super Agents” Fred Edora and Sarah Walters
Koster, R. (2005). A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Scottsdale, AZ: Paraglyph Press.