IPMA International Project Management Association
17 September 2018 / 12:00

Rebooting PM Education: Is Gamification the way to go?

Project management (PM) education is becoming an essential, if not the necessary, component of both undergraduate and post-graduate curricula at universities across the globe. In fact, PM principles and fundamentals are even being taught at the secondary and higher school levels (e.g. at some schools in USA and Australia; https://pmknowhow.wordpress.com/useful-links/). This shows the growing realization that PM is a skill to learn and carries value, from both professional and personal use standpoint.

Given its wide-ranging utility, the question is whether the current ways and means of teaching PM are aligned to the needs of people at different tiers of educational ladder who are seeking to learn or made to learn PM? It won’t come as a surprise that different people will have differing views (… and perhaps rightly so) about how PM should be taught or how learners want to learn PM. But certainly, the evolving teaching pedagogies necessitate a thorough reflection on how we approach teaching PM at the schools and universities.

Among the changing teaching pedagogical approaches, using gamification for teaching is being seen as an innovative way to re-engage learners and provide practical knowledge while building theoretical and conceptual foundation. Game based learning is not entirely a new concept, but historically it has not been used in PM as widely as it should have been particularly given the practical nature of PM education.

By definition, “educational games are games that are designed to help people to learn about certain subjects, expand concepts, reinforce development, understand a historical event or culture, or assist them in learning a skill as they play” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_game).

Gamification is being used for a variety of business purposes. According to one report, gamification industry is expanding fast and will be valued at $11.1 billion by 2020, with organizations using it for customer loyalty management, employees engagement and business growth (https://lab.getapp.com/top-gamification-trends-that-will-impact-small-businesses-in-2018/).

Corresponding to these trends, the use of gamification in education is increasing as well. It is suggested that the revenue from game-based learning will reach $7.3 billion by 2021 and that 80% of learners think that their learning will be more effective if it were more game-oriented (https://elogiclearning.com/15-elearning-trends-and-statistics-to-know-for-2017/).

The above trends raise the question: Does PM education need a reboot to become more fitting to the dynamics of learners’ needs and changing market environment?

In a hindsight and given all the changes that are happening, a more likely answer is ‘yes.’ A number of universities and schools are persuading their teaching staff to make use of games in teaching to enhance learning outcomes. However, to make it happen a lot needs to be done. To build further thought, we discuss below some of the challenges and requirements to use gamification in PM.

Requirements for using gamifications in PM education

  1. Write games for PM education

To help teachers use the games for PM education, it is pivotal that games covering various project management aspects involving planning, execution and control are written. Currently, there are few games available either as a reflectory paper published in a journal or some experience sharing and instruction on educator web pages. Yet, that is not enough.

New games with full set of instructions for both students and teachers need to be written. It will help teachers, particularly those who are new to the concept, to learn and implement games in their teaching. When the games with full set of instructions are available, it will be easy for teachers to extend games further based on their teaching and industry experience (if any).

  1. Develop inventory of apps compatible with use on portable and non-portable devices

Given that gamification in PM teaching is still an evolving concept, so having inventory of apps that can be used on portable or non-portable devices will help teachers identify and select any apps that can be used for providing PM education.

Apparently, there are a number of e-learning apps available in market. But it is not clear which ones can be effectively used for PM education as well the functional usefulness of those app for PM education. Once we have an evolving inventory of apps, it will be much easier to collect reviews on the benefits and drawbacks of the available apps which will help in further developments and creation of new apps to help students’ learning outcome.

  1. Train the teachers and trainers

Training of teachers and trainers is necessary to overcome various challenges towards adoption of gamification for PM education. When the teachers know how to use games for teaching, they will be much more inclined to adopt and be able to share their experiences ultimately contributing to further developments in use of games for PM education.

  1. Identify benchmark institutions to capture best practices for implementation and continuous improvements in use of gamification in PM education

Identifying institutions that have been using games will help in building best practices. The identified institutes will serve as benchmarks for seeking guidelines, establishing standards and continuously improving in pursuit of using games in PM education.

  1. Build use cases / Success stories

Documenting the success stories is critical to establishing an environment that encourages the successful adoption and use of games in PM teaching. The Use cases will help new or potential adopters understand the benefits and pitfalls to use games in PM education.

Challenges to implementation of gamifications in PM education

  1. Lack of awareness

Lack of awareness of whether games can be used and how to use games in PM education is one of the significant challenges. Universities and schools need to develop thought and take steps to enhance awareness. Building a conducive and supportive environment will help soften lack of awareness challenges.

  1. Lack of institutional support

Providing institutional support will encourage teachers to build knowledge and develop strategies on how to integrate games in their teaching. Providing training and resources to teachers to use games in PM education is critical to an effective support mechanism.

  1. Lack of interest to use innovative teaching pedagogies

Quest to maintain status quo and resist change have often been cited as some of the key obstacles in organizational change management endeavors. Shift to game-based education is a significant change which requires change in behaviors and work routines.

Organizations wanting to change to game-based teaching pedagogies is expected to initially face a lack of interest and lack of active use of game-based teaching pedagogy in PM. With a positive support and encouragement from top management, it is hoped that teachers will see the benefits and adopt gamification in PM education.

Concluding thoughts:

PM education being a pursuit to indulge in learning about how to do things practically necessitates use of innovative and dynamic teaching pedagogy. Use of games in PM education seems to be one possible solution to effectively engage learners in the learning process. While several challenges exist (some of them are mentioned above), yet they are not unsurmountable.  Overall, it seems that number of positives are greater than the number of roadblocks, and future is bright for the use of gamification in PM education.

Authored by:

Professor Jiwat Ram

© 2018 Jiwat Ram, All Rights Reserved.

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Author of this post

Jiwat is a Professor in Project Management. He has considerable experience of working internationally in diverse cultures and business environments such as Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Australia, among others. Over his career, he has provided leadership in establishing, designing, and delivering Executive education / Master’s, Training, and Research programs.

Jiwat is currently serving on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Project Management.

Jiwat actively contributes to project management community by speaking at various events and writing on emerging issues. His work has been published in top scientific journals and Four of his published papers have remained in Top25 most downloaded papers. Additionally, two of his papers have been ranked as the Most Cited article published since 2012, one in the International Journal of Production Economics and the other in Journal of Engineering and Technology Management. More recently, he has published a number of articles on some of the issues confronting project management in various industry based outlets.