G-Learning – A Gamified Online Networking Platform for SAP Employees
Article on Gamification mentioning SAP “How Gamification revolutionises the Workplace” – Corporate Leaders
New education trends appeared in the last 2 years on the market with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), interactive learning instead of static e-learnings and the use of gamification to engage participants, bringing gamified learning platforms to learners. At SAP, being always one of the innovative companies, these learning methods were compared to older learning methods, and innovative teams evolved finding niches on gamification outside and inside the company, combining the advantages of gamification, socializing and online platforms together in one concept called G-learning.
For an employee at SAP, there are numerous means to acquire knowledge, either while registering to a formal classroom training or e-learning, either while harvesting the information of our internal communities or even trying YouTube™ or similar channels to get all missing pieces of knowledge together. According to the skills of the participant and his or her prior knowledge on the topic or also due to time constraints, attending a 5-days-full time classroom training, like in former days, may not be suitable any longer. On the other hand, just accessing a specific knowledge like short videos may be inefficient if the participant is just grabbing a subset of a course and she/he is not aware of all the knowledge dependencies. We had the ambition to find ways to engage participants in a learning format that included intensive learning in groups but being still independent to time and location.
Fetching online knowledge nowadays seems to be the preferred and most used channel. People like the autonomy of choosing what and when they want to learn, except for particular cases where classroom training is the only available choice. Especially in the context of software development, there is a need to immediately spot a fine grained knowledge and, at the same time, to have access to related knowledge and/or associated courses. The flip side of an online format is the difficulty in bringing participants together and keeping them engaged into a longer period of time. This is where G-learning comes into play, giving participants the opportunity to learn when- and wherever they want, but engaging them with gamification elements in a social environment and adding a framework where they have the opportunity to take own decisions but still follow suggestions to reach their goals.
G-learning was firstly developed as a gamified team online training for developers who had the need to acquire skills to develop on mobile devices. All knowledge levels had to be covered in one course, meaning that a beginner would not give up because of the high standard, and the advanced mobile developer did not either getting bored. On top, we had to find a way to engage all different kind of users which we know from Gamification and are visible in all other learning structures, which are: the socializers, the achievers, but also the explorers and the killers. Keeping them altogether engaged in an 8 weeks course, which is needed for this huge amount of content, was a challenge.
Looking from the offered content perspective, we needed different categories, like short consumable pieces of videos, exercises and high level quizzes, documentation to be sure that participants get all the possible knowledge. On top, it is always well appreciated if experts are available and also rate on what participants do. Especially we had to take into account that the young generation is not used to one way learning any longer. They are used to team-work and to experience what was just learned. There is a need to take this into account when we develop successful learning methods for the future generation. In G-learning we found a method that participants, besides of offering gamified layouts and contents to them, which is described in the next pages, are being rated by their peers and a professional jury on what they develop together after the learning period. This rating phase is part of the G-learning course, too. With this method, we make sure that participants not only consume but try as many times and fail as many times as needed until they are confident of what they learnt and stay successful in a team. The trial and failure possibilities we grant with gamification, like leaderboards displaying only successes, rating of peers and jury, allows that nobody feels as a coward but only as a hero. Which in the end leads to a proudness among the participants. They feel what they are now able to do on their own. One of the principles in G-learning is therefore combine head with heart to achieve best results in learning.
In the following pages, gamification methods and elements in G-learning are being explained
The overall storyline of the training is based on a metaphor of an around-the-world journey, where participants are encouraged to virtually visit SAP locations where the education content is spread.
Clicking into markers participants are being driven to the training content. The color enables to see which are the completed learning modules (in green), which are pending (blinking) and not accessed yet (black). With this visual help, a participant fills his knowledge map and gets recommendations on which knowledge is missing.
Progression, as one of the intrinsic motivators, is shown in different ways, depending on the user’s behavior on the platform. First of all, individual progression is shown in colored lines indicating which user is flying where. Big bubbles show that whole teams are working well together and doing learning units together. Teams are rewarded with double points per individual. The own trip is marked by different means of transportation (in this case a paraglide) to show its own current location. Depending on how many units were done, the paraglide will turn into a plane and finally into a rocket. There are also other means of levels showing the kind of traveler I am. Depending on the own progression in content, I will start as a backpacker, having then a caravan and after that
visiting a hotel to finally become a VIP.
G-learning forces high interactivity while providing a real-time feedback to a user. Successes are being shared among participants and are being encouraged. Examples are the feeds of an explorer finding hidden entertainment.
While many gamification projects focus on individual competition, G-learning mostly focuses on team success. Participants register as individual to G-learning to learn intensively what is being offered. Before G-learning officially starts, participants are included into teams of 2-4 people according to location or time zones. Teams are being rewarded in different terms. Double points, weekly team message success points, team presentation of final work, etc. A live dashboard then provides the visualization of each team journey. Our experiences show that though we also allow lonely travelling on request, those users give up much earlier than they would with a team. Until now, almost every lonely traveler gave up and had other more important priorities than learning. G-learning shows that about 80% of teams stay until the end of the 8-weeks period, while in normal MOOCS the participant rate at the end of a training is normally by 10%. Also, with this new kind of learning we could offer our content to more than 80 locations at SAP, whereas classroom trainings concentrated on the “big” locations only. New networking experiences arose and gave all employees the feeling that they are part of this big company.
The motivation among team members in competition to other teams is immense, especially when the team lead takes his/her role seriously. At the beginning of G-learning teams are asked to nominate a team lead who takes care of discussions in the teams on planned cities they want to start to visit together and he/she is also the one who communicates the team name, the application name and the application content they are going to build in a team after 6 weeks of learning. In a group, the individual strengths count double if they work well. As an example: if more than 50% of the team reaches one of the cities before another team does, the whole team gets double points. A single player in this case can also be week because, as long as more than 50% of the team is well prepared they have good chances to win the whole game/training. Which means, on the individual aspect, a participant still gets points and can obtain special badges for his contribution. For instance, a special badge can be granted for completed content „you rock it“ or the explorer badge for the hidden fun . All individual and team progresses are displayed in the dashboard to show their level of expertise and commitment to the learning and the platform.
Besides of offering well prepared content, we concentrate of engaging the participants with the provisioning of additional points for solving city quizzes (cultural aspect) to get to know better where SAP is spread all over the world. On top, fortune cookies, new weekly cities appearing, and the already described hidden entertainment are engaging elements.
G-learning content is made of self-contained interactive modules. A variety of content types are available for participants, like videos, exercises, content quizzes and city quizzes. After clicking on the “learn” button, the participant can access recorded lectures as well as slide decks. The exercises can be accessed via “try this out” button. A quiz on the lecture content is available under the “check” button. A quiz dedicated to the SAP location is available below “ready to fly”. One of our training for mobile developers counts a total of 200 units (videos, exercises, quizzes and city quizzes), without counting the intensive application building period after 6 weeks, which makes it clear that this can only be reached via teamwork.
To avoid point hunting, especially in the first week we included a hurdle before participants can even access the world map. We “onbaord” them altogehter in a welcome call and they need to spend the first days with installation, understanding pre-requisites, understanding the rules of the game and the winning structure.
When they are through, they will reach a a final hurdle before accessing the world map. Teams will get only team seats in their virtual plane if they organized properly in a team and understood everything which was mandatory in the get ready page. With this methodology we make sure that we onboard everybody and all participants feel that they are an important part of the whole learning challenge.
Besides of motivating teams with appealing layout we offer different views to the learner, which he can change by just clicking on the view buttons. He will see either all progression of individuals and teams:
Or he might want to choose to see only the own or own team progression or a plain map with available cities with respective content.
G-learning has got different advantages for the user. While everybody is integrated in a team and motivated by it and also by the gamification elements, it helps the user to have a time-based assignment with deadlines that may prevent to procrastinate. The learner in G-learning has got a fixed time frame while during this time frame he is completely free to choose or not the suggestions we give him. A learner will therefore follow the own learning path and define his own schedule based on availability in the job. He is free to decide on a 7/24 level, as G-learning is an online platform. We on our side give the recommendation to learn one hour a day. Also a linear path can be accessed following the suggestions, but to have more fun and get cities which were not accessed by other teams and hunt points he will probably only follow the recommendation of the skill levels, also displayed in different colors. With this, he feels his autonomy. Especially for MOOCS the lack of time flexibility and the lack of self-defined objectives causes de-commitment. Content orchestration becomes proportionally important with respect to the amount of learning units. If micro-learning concept answers the need of instant access to the fine-grained knowledge, orchestration brings the full picture and supports the participant into getting all the necessary pieces.
The G-Learning Platform
The initial version of “G-learning” was a full custom development project, as neither internal nor external solutions were able to support our requirements or could not be used in a corporate network.
While currently G-learning is a pure educational gamification program, we did a big new step in 2015 and developed G-learning further. Concentrating on the architecture of the whole G-learning platform we reached a level that G-learning could not only be seen as project for educational programs but for any content which requires motivation and team engagement. G-learning will soon be used by either training owners or managers without any further development skills. In order to reach that goal, the platform is based on standard products such as the SAP Workforce Performance Builder for learning content management and the HCP gamification service for the introduction of advanced game mechanics.
Coming to the experiences we gained with G-learning we can state that gamification can be applied at multiple levels: At the platform: irrespectively of the course or the content, getting experience (points) over multiple courses, being social, and mentoring are some gamification elements at this level. Secondly, at the course context: usually, gamification applied in the context of a given course is presented by means of a storyline around the topic to be learned, while G-learning in a future stage could also be replaced by any other storyline, or It could be a project to build in several steps or a scenario that uses the knowledge to move forward. At the content level: this type of gamification is more about improving the interactivity participants have during learning or practicing and tightly connected to the knowledge acquired.
While we experienced huge success with the latest running G-learning courses, we identified the lack of time as a major constraint for participants and, in particular, for software development related roles, instant access to fine grained knowledge is essential. There is a strong need for combining scheduled and self-paced courses concept, allowing a participant to enter a pre-defined course but then, building his own learning agenda. The next hurdle is that a team works well as individuals are being sometimes stopped in their learning progress whenever the nominated team lead does not act as such or if the team lead is the only motivating part of the whole team. Gamification in future g-learnings should also be used to extend the knowledge with crowdsourcing and social interaction opportunities. These last 2 will be the main next steps we will concentrate on.
The G-learning Architecture
G-Learning is a solution that empowers training authors to create gamified learning experiences. In order to achieve this, it heavily relies on existing SAP-technologies, such as the Workforce Performance Builder (WPB) and HCP Gamification Service. The WPB is a mature tool for authoring and rolling out sophisticated employee trainings. The HCP Gamification Service is a highly flexible gamification platform for the implementation of arbitrary complex gamification designs.
The authoring happens in a WYSIWYG-editor (What You See Is What You Get) called WPB Producer which allows authors to create interactive training material. We extended this tool with features for adding gamification elements to trainings.
After finishing the training material, the author publishes the content to the WPB Manager, a central server which acts as central learning management system.
The G-Learning application realizes a single channel for the gamified training user experience. It embeds the learning material from the WPB Manager and takes care of communicating user behavior events to the HCP Gamification Service. Furthermore, it is responsible for creating the gamified world map and visualizing gamification feedback.
The HCP Gamification Service is the place where gamification mechanics and rules are defined. It consumes user behavior events from G-Learning users and maintains the state of their gamification profiles. An analytics feature allows learning-course owners to monitor general gamification metrics as well as learning-specific key performance Indicators.
- Video: What is G-Learning at SAP? (YouTube)
- Video: G-Learning – Gamified Training for Developers at SAP (YouTube)
- Paper: G-Learning – Gamification im Kontext von betrieblichem eLearning (in German)
- SAP HCP gamification service (HCP Capabilities)
- SAP Workforce Performance Builder