Image by Flickr user pennstatenews. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Image by Flickr user pennstatenews. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

The next time you’re sat opposite that businessperson on the train engrossed in their BlackBerry or iPhone, don’t assume they’re frantically trying to get to Inbox Zero. It’s just as likely they’re trying to get to the next level of Angry Birds.

Or so GlobalEnglish might have us believe.

Owned by Pearson, of course, GlobalEnglish specialises in “cloud-based solutions for the development and support of Business English in global companies”. And they’ve just announced “Faster Time to Competency and Increased Workplace Performance by Incorporating Gamification Techniques and Behavioral Science Principles Into Its Product Suite” (their words, not mine). Gamification isn’t just for the kids now, you know!

I’m being glib, and I really shouldn’t be.

Demonstrating measurable performance improvements has always been the holy grail in Business English provision, encouraged by the fact that most in-company training is commissioned by HR departments, who often don’t realise how inherently unmeasurable the language acquisition process actually is. But just as important is speed and efficiency. Companies want to see results fast (which again kind of goes against how the whole language learning thing works, but anyway …). GlobalEnglish’s new path to quick results is called RPM (Rewards, Progress and Measurement), which incorporates “behavioral science and gamification techniques to drive engagement and motivation, and spur measurable performance gains in the workplace”.

We’ve not had the chance to test the new system out yet, but it’s fascinating to see the spread of gamification into the corporate training sector. The big question, aside from whether the RPM system does in fact result in better performance, is how the training procurement departments will react to it. The behavioral science angle is an easy sell — companies have been buying into that for years. But what about the gamification side of things? Might it make the whole process sound frivolous? Or too much fun? Language learning isn’t supposed to be fun, is it? Especially when your company is paying for it …

At ELT Jam, we’ll be watching how this one develops with keen interest. We’d also be interested in hearing from anyone who’s written content with this kind of gamification in mind.

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