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Training games

Thursday, 8 Sep 2005 ( #225 ) - ABBOTSFORD, Canada
Safety First
Kent O'Sullivan is a Certified Master Instructor Trainer with The Columbia Compliance Group. Columbia Compliance Group is a safety consulting firm that specialises in offering professional mobile equipment safety training programs & publications throughout North America.

A broad range of activities falls into the category of "training games". Most use a format based on familiar, popular games, such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Trivial Pursuit, and Concentration. They test knowledge of particular topic areas and can be structured and used for team building.  Games can be developed in-house, outsourced to training software providers, or located online. Many organisations opt to outsource design, development, and implementation of games because self-developed training games can require large amounts of time and incur considerable costs.

Games are used to supplement traditional lecture-based or online delivery of information. In most cases, game-based learning is not designed to do an entire training or teaching job alone. The role of games is primarily to reinforce the understanding of presented material and to add variety in training. Games support a variety of learning styles, reinforce learning through their ability to offer immediate feedback to learners, and are a mechanism for instructional coaching and mentoring. Organisations use games in training to:
  • Help trainers maintain participants' interest and involvement,
  • Reinforce key concepts,
  • Support different learning styles,
  • Provide immediate feedback to participants and trainers, and
  • Make training more enjoyable and fun.
Kent O'Sullivan
A good starting point for venturing into training games is creating and using PowerPoint-based games. PowerPoint files can be uploaded to a server and played using an Internet Explorer browser (new versions come with the PowerPoint Player plug-in included). Once uploaded to a server, a trainer can access the games and use them during live training sessions. Trainers skilled in creating PowerPoint presentations may want to create games from scratch. Keep in mind, however, the time and cost associated with developing games in-house.

Tips for effective use of training games
If you are toying with the idea of incorporating training games into your sessions, keep these tips in mind to ensure they meet your objectives:
  • Games should reinforce the main ideas of training, rather than wasting time on trivial points that are not essential.
  • Games should provide opportunities for everyone in  a session to participate, rather than involving only a handful of people while the rest of  the trainees sit and watch.
  • If games are prepackaged or accessible online, screen them first to ensure they are relevant to your workplace and compatible with your main message.
  • Schedule games strategically to help re-energise and re-engage the group, for example, right after lunch or another long break.
Training programs must be adapted to the unique requirements of individual workplaces, incorporating information on all available elements and technology of the working environment. There are no guarantees and no magic bullets.  However, as decades of research studies indicate, games and simulations are an effective adjunct to training materials and go a long way towards ensuring effective, efficient ongoing training.
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