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Immersive learning – exciting times…

There is no doubt that the future of technology driven learning is immersive. As Sophocles said ‘one must learn by doing the thing; for though you know it, you have no certainty, until you try’. That was circa 450BC but still rings true today!

For training to change behaviour, the learner must be ‘in the zone’ and practising the things they need to do better.

‘The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…The best moments usually occur if a person’s mind is stretched to its limits in  a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile’

(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 1990)

Combining storytelling (the oldest form of learning) with gaming intensifies immersion and will fully engage learners. A ‘serious game’ (a game with a purpose) does this and is a fantastic way to encourage employee focus and motivation. It’s worth noting, however, that serious games are very different to adding gamification techniques to e-learning courses which is a lot less effective.

In order to create an immersive virtual world, there needs to be three A’s – authenticity, autonomy and acknowledgment (Caroline Freeman 2016).

A Game to Train Food Safety is a serious game that meet these objectives:

  • Authenticity – not necessarily realism but the learner needs to be able to recognise and connect with the learning environment. A serious game that reflects elements of a learner’s workplace and what their job might entail is ideal.Our game takes the player through each stage of a catering operation: food delivery, storage, preparation, cooking and service. The backgrounds and game mechanics reflect the environments where these stages would take place.
  • Autonomy – making decisions which influence an outcome is really important. Creating challenges that replicate the decisions they need to make in the workplace empowers and motivates.Our game puts the player in the position of a supervisor on their first day at work. They must direct chefs and servers to follow the correct procedures to keep foods safe. If they meet the manager’s strict rules (by successfully completing all stages of the game) they get taken on.
  • Acknowledgement – providing plenty of positive and negative feedback is essential to keep learners focussed on the challenge. Julie Dirksin (2010) stated that the average e-learning course gives you feedback every 5-10 minutes and the average game every 7-10 seconds.Successful completion of challenges throughout our game accumulate points that flash up on the screen. Telling the manager when something serious has happened, leads not only to points but to special praise. Bad decisions lead to loss of points and if they are really serious, the customers leave the restaurant and the player re-starts that stage.

It is sometimes hard to explain how effective serious games are. There is still a belief that games are for children and food safety is a serious business with costly consequences. Others can see the benefits but feel tied into a contract that provides them with unlimited e-learning courses that ticks their compliance boxes.

Hopefully this article has better explained the psychology behind how people learn and what is needed if training is to influence behaviour. It’s important to remember that it is not what food handlers know but how they behave that will prevent food poisoning and protect a company’s reputation.

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