Engagement in Learning – Part 1

Benefits of Game-based Learning and Profiling

Since 2013 spending on organizational leadership training in the US has consistently exceeded $2 billion annually. According to a Training Industry, Inc. study, companies that significantly invest in leadership training initiatives are two to three times more likely to include experiential learning as part of a blended learning solution. The genre business game and engagement go hand in hand.

Virtual environments are the most effective for delivering continuing professional education.

Whether you’re a training professional, a business consultant, an executive coach, a corporate decision-maker in HR, or a learning development specialist, odds are you’re always shopping for the most effective learning solution that is both engaging and provides an objective assessment of skills. This is where game-based learning and profiling through leadership simulation games can add value because their leadership development program combines a highly engaging video game learning experience with psychometric online game-based assessment.

Game-based learning

Game-based learning is delightful and, as a result, very engaging, and when it involves real-life simulations, it is also experiential and, therefore, very effective. Experiential learning is considered one of the most active forms of learning and provides the highest results in terms of retention of information, according to the learning pyramid. While passive forms of learning allow us to remember up to 50 percent of what we’ve read, heard, or seen, active learning that involves doing and simulating real life will enable us to retain as much as 90 percent of the information we acquired through the experience.

A well-known formula used by training professionals, the 70:20:10 model, postulated that effective learning and development take place 70 percent on the job, 20 percent from others, and 10 percent from formal education. But research done by the Conference Board and DDI (Development Dimensions Int’l, Inc.) showed that most leadership development programs have a breakdown of 52 percent on-the-job, 27 percent from others, and 21 percent from formal education. Organizations struggle to provide cost-effective and impactful formal learning, and critical barriers make formal learning relevant and applicable. 

Traditional leadership development formats rarely create an environment conducive to experiential learning, as designing test-fail-and-learn opportunities in the real world is often challenging. When experimenting and innovating, businesses will likely tell us that they “do not experiment on living souls.” This is where computer simulation can be an effective tool for training professionals. 

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing.” It makes learning an experience that moves beyond the classroom and strives to bring a more involved way of learning. Experiential learning is a powerful way to help people identify changes required to their skills, attitudes, and behaviors, then implement those changes for better performance.

Simulations are about learning through experience, experimenting with solutions, and testing one’s skills in a simulated reality where the consequences of learning can’t impact business outcomes. Simulations are the most concentrated forms of game-based learning available today and consistently report the highest levels of engagement.

Why is Engagement Important

Engagement is a significant marker predictive of a lasting, impactful, and joyful learning experience. High levels of engagement lead to better retention, greater focus, and a more positive learning experience. To be wholly engaged is to experience a state of mind where action and awareness merge. It is no coincidence that when we become one with what we do, it leads to optimal performance, cognitive and physical.

What is engagement? A simple definition of engagement might be an organization’s ability to engage the audience and create a long-term commitment. It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation.

The mental state of true engagement was first studied in depth by a Hungarian psychologist Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He discovered, in his years of research into creativity and productivity and interviews with people who were deemed successful in a wide range of professions and many of whom were Nobel Prize winners, that the secret to their optimal performance was their ability to enter the state of true engagement, also known as flow, frequently and deliberately. They would describe feeling a sense of competence and control, a loss of self-consciousness, and such intense absorption in the task at hand that they would lose track of time. Many of the most accomplished and creative people are at their peak would experience what they described as:

“…a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment; between stimulus and response; or between past, present, and future.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990

The benefits of being deeply engaged are many for individuals and organizations alike. Some of the characteristics found in many fully engaged leaders, employees, and students are amplified performance, greater creativity, more access to intuition, and an ever-increasing ability to engage in deep learning. Game-based learning, fun and fast-paced, is known to be most fascinating and engaging.  

Engagement as a Benefit of Game-based Learning

Video games are perfectly designed to produce engagement and Flow. Games are also very effective teaching and learning tools. Online simulation games lead the way in serious gaming with their high level of sophistication, particularly in developing leadership skills, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

Business simulation games combine games-based learning with experiential real-life simulations and are the most effective form of learning, second only to actual teaching. They represent a condensed experience of reality where progressively complex workplace assignments teach problem-solving, much like on-the-job learning but in less time and without consequences.


The interactive and dynamic narrative pulls players into the story and keeps them engaged. They become increasingly present the more they can identify with the characters they’re playing in the game. Interactive movies are the most immersive serious gaming genre because their puzzle-like nature requires active engagement. Engagement helps players to identify fully with the tasks of the business simulation. Interactive movies often simulate real-world events or processes designed to solve a problem.

Simulation is both an approach and a tool that makes controlled experiments possible. A good simulation requires a model that reflects reality but in a simplified way. Simulation games offer experiential learning in a safe space. Unlimited opportunities for unrestricted experimentation in a choose-your-own-adventure environment bring on a degree of engagement that is closely matched to the level of perceived control. Combining the freedom to experiment without consequences, the sense of control over the outcomes, clear rules for the player, and the immediacy of feedback create a reality. Hence, consuming one’s consciousness becomes inseparable from the activity.

To be continued…

Engagement in Learning – for Part 2, click here

Related Posts
online leadership trainingengagement and flow