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Game-Based Learning Applications For Safety and Health Training
I have been an environmental, health and safety professional for 19 years and have been training for almost as long. As any health and safety trainer will tell you, communicating information about state or federal regulatory standards is not particularly fun. The challenge for trainers in our profession is to find ways to engage our trainees and keep them interested. If the audience is interested, they will participate and remember the material. If the memory and experience are strong enough, behavior change will occur. It is ultimately what we are after that uses our knowledge to engage our mind and body; keep themselves and others safe at work.
Games have the power to engage learners, which leads to these results. It is no secret that a properly designed and implemented game can be an effective educational tool. The concept of gamified learning has been around for about 10 years and is gaining more and more attention. Many white papers describe increasing retention rates using a well-thought-out game. In fact, a recently formed organization called the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI) is a collaboration of college institutions looking at how video games can be incorporated into formal learning for high school kids. The work of G4LI should provide research results that also apply to adults. After all, what are adults but children with big bodies? Video games aside, it has broader implications for the effectiveness of games in general. For example, I still remember some of the questions I asked in the Trivial Pursuit games I played about 25 years ago. That’s the power of play – information sticks with you as a result of a fun and sometimes intense activity.
There are several key elements to consider when choosing, creating and using a game for learning purposes. They include:
o Use of teams or individual participants: – team participation provides an opportunity to collaborate knowledge and “skill sets” to solve problems. This promotes teamwork and does not alienate or isolate anyone for lack of knowledge. Teams also limit anyone from “hiding in the back of the room” – they report to their team. Remember to divide the group into well-matched teams – you don’t want one-sided victories. However, the advantage of one-on-one ‘game quizzes’ – administered through the use of a classroom manual ‘clicker’ or online through a learning management system (LMS) – is that they allow individual performance to be tracked and recorded. .
o Your questions are easy, difficult or impossible: – the quality and level of difficulty of the content to be covered should be carefully chosen. Participants are checked if the questions are too easy or too difficult. It’s a good practice to make sure you know a little about those who are participating in the training and prepare the game accordingly. Are the participants new to their knowledge or veterans of the profession? A game that allows content to progress from easy to difficult usually works well and offers “a little something for everyone”.
o Tailoring your content: — game content should reflect and support learning objectives and learning materials. Having the flexibility to customize game content and other aspects of game play is useful. Video games offer this flexibility and add some of the real “look and feel” of show-style games (ie Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, or Jeopardy).
o Game-play Dynamics and you, the host: – the host is responsible for preparing and managing game activities. This aspect is often overlooked and can make or break the gaming experience. A host who doesn’t have enough energy and doesn’t want to support participation will result in a less than enjoyable time. The host is responsible for pacing the game, being the “judge” in the discussion, and ensuring that learning principles are reinforced (ie, extensive discussion of the topics and reflection on the end of the learning).
o Game-Appeal:– choose a game that meets (and appeals to) the needs of different learning styles and uses as many senses as possible. A “one size fits all” approach is not a good idea. A game that requires physical activity (writing, raising hands, calling, etc.) is a must. Offer “fantasy prizes” to winners (and losers). Rewards don’t have to be fancy – they can be vendor safety gifts, candy bars with a “think safe” label, or something funny from the dollar store.
o Goal/goal of the game: — have a clear goal and purpose for using the game. Using a game before the session allows the instructor to test the knowledge base of his students. Using a game in the middle of a multi-day event can help break boredom and encourage participation. Using a game at the end allows for evaluation – how well did the students understand the material (and how effective was the trainer in communicating the information)? In most cases, games are not used to introduce a topic. Although the sky is the limit, use your imagination!
Game programs for health and safety training
Whether you prefer the bells and whistles of PC gaming or something a little more low-key, games should be tailored to your needs. Below are two examples of low-tech options used in safety for educational purposes. A more advanced technological option is described in the case study.
The need for accurate information transfer is critical to all aspects of field health and safety. This could include a spotter talking to the crane operator – describing where to raise and lower the 10-tonne object – or a supervisor describing the daily tasks and what safety precautions should be taken by the workers. . The following exercise is a great low-tech option for teams of two and focuses on interpersonal communication skills. The exercise requires the use of Lego(TM).
With a common barrier between two participants, one describes the “structure” that has been built, the other cannot see it. The goal is to create a mirror image that is identical in shape, color and space. This is not an easy task if one does not listen and communicate properly. Words and expressions – but not hand signals – can only be used.
The ability to recognize an unsafe condition and take appropriate action to correct that condition is the foundation of sound safety thinking. This recognition is the result of knowing the safety standards and applying this knowledge to “train the eye”.
A series of photos are prepared (real or doctored) in which there are many risks. The goal is to identify all risks. The pictures are reviewed and the participants write their answers on the sheet. Then participants share papers and rate each other’s work. The twists on this activity include a team competition to provide extra points for those who may break the regulation standard.
Play-based learning – Health and safety learning research
One of the most versatile features of games is that they can be used almost anywhere – from a formal classroom to a construction trailer. Shell Oil is a large multinational company that explores and produces oil and gas in remote areas around the world. These activities are inherently dangerous with physical, mechanical and chemical hazards around every corner. The safety needs of Shell’s employees and the contractors they employ are critical to their success. Therefore, safety training is a fundamental element in many stages of their activity and is necessary for the new orientation of employees, periodically as a refresher and when changing corporate policies and procedures. To increase the effectiveness of training and achieve the desired safety outcomes, Shell decided to incorporate game activities into its safety training program.
“We were looking for a way to better engage everyone involved in our safety training,” says Shelley Cook, safety specialist at Shell Exploration & Production Co., Miker, CO. “After some research, we chose to use the HSLS gaming platform, which allows us to integrate OSHA’s regulatory content with our own policies and procedures.” The ability to adapt the game to address specific learning objectives is critical to achieving desired outcomes. For Shell, that includes developing content related to their Change Management policy – transition control to ensure continuity and error-free (safe) compatibility. “We wanted to combine Change Management, Shell’s site specific safety policy and chemical safety into one game activity…a very unique challenge,” says Cook.
In most cases, it is difficult to link the play activities where information is being considered to reinforce it with measurable safety outcomes (ie, fewer injuries). Safety performance is the product of all aspects of a corporate safety program, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. However, it is clear that a well-made and managed game will lead to more content retention. The ability to review information in a fun way while incorporating group activities is almost always a crowd pleaser. “We got exactly what we wanted, attracting people who normally stay behind and don’t participate in our activities,” Cook said. “With this success, we continue to develop and improve our gaming activities to meet our educational goals for our employees and contractors,” added Cook.
The future of educational games
Moving into the future, I predict that game-based learning will continue to grow and adopt a variety of applications. For example, “serious games” are video game programs used for learning. These virtual world computer simulation games allow employees to interact with their work environment—preparing them for what to expect in the real world. Such tools are now used in retail sales and allow employees to experience and manage customer resistance, store pickers, emergency situations and other critical management activities. There is a lot of optimism about using video games for learning. These tools can certainly have a powerful physiological effect on heart rate and breathing, perspiration, etc.
A well-designed and implemented game provides an effective means of communicating information and is entertaining at the same time. No matter how complex the content-gaming is a seriously engaging way to get your trainees involved with any content. After all, the more important the information—and all safety training—the more important it is that learners remember the content. Whether you’re presenting material to newbies in the workplace or refreshing veterans, regulatory information games are a fun, effective, and memorable addition to your training. Having coached for nearly 20 years, I have found that playful learning activities do wonders to break up the monotony of classroom instruction and even give learners something to look forward to.
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