15 January 2018

What is gamification? Testing it with Body Worn Video training

Why do we play games? Are there elements of game play that could be transferred to learning? The College of Policing and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are exploring how to use gamification to make learning more engaging and effective.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the concept of applying game elements to engage and motivate people to achieve their goal. Game elements can involve the use of techniques such as mysteries, challenges, scaffolds  (hints and clues) and quizzes. Research[1] on gamification suggests these type of techniques can increase motivation, engagement in learning tasks, and enjoyment of learning activities. In relation to training, gamification may incentivise learning, motivating the learner to engage and interact more with the material, with the ultimate aim of embedding the learning more deeply.

Why is the College gamifying training?

To support officers and staff to be fully equipped to do their jobs they need to have access to the most effective methods of learning. Drawing on the emerging evidence on gamification, the College and the MPS wanted to test whether these approaches could improve learning and knowledge retention in a policing context, leading to effective service delivery to the public.

The College, in collaboration with the MPS, used funding from the Home Office Innovation Fund to create and evaluate a new gamified e-learning package to support officers to use Body Worn Video (BWV) cameras effectively.

BWV learning was chosen as a topic to test gamification because an evaluation of the impact of BWV in 2015, led by the College, Mayor's Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) and MPS, had identified some concerns that officers were not complying with processes required to make best use of the digital evidence generated from the BWV devices and that this may affect the impact BWV could make.

The MPS, therefore decided to use a new approach to training to support the roll out of BWV to all officers (approximately 22,000) across the MPS. To test the new approach, the College ran a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) in six boroughs and quasi-experimental evaluation in four, on the effect of the gamification of BWV e-learning on its use by police response and neighbourhood officers and sergeants (approximately 3,000 officers were included in the sample). The main outcome measures will test whether gamification of e-learning has an effect on: officer knowledge, officer behaviour and criminal justice outcomes when compared with more traditional e-learning approaches.

How was the training gamified?

The College of Policing and the MPS chose to trial BWV training using a mystery technique; learners followed a story that required them to find missing information which would help them solve a murder case, by demonstrating their knowledge in relation to BWV use.  Below are screenshots from the mystery created by the College of Policing in collaboration with the MPS.

The screenshot below illustrates using challenge in gamification – where the learner is given a challenge that may have consequences if failed and/or a reward if successful.

The mystery technique was also tested in an immersive game, to understand if whether the style of game made a difference to outcomes. The screenshots below show the immersive game version of the BWV training using the mystery technique. 

What is a 'cluster' randomised controlled trial (RCT)?

An RCT is a type of evaluation that tests whether or not a particular intervention, in this case gamified e-learning, has an impact on outcomes. RCTs are often regarded as one of the most robust evaluation designs, allowing strong causal claims to be made about the effectiveness of an intervention.

A 'cluster' RCT involves selecting a number of people to take part in the study and randomly assigning them at a group level, instead of at the individual officer level. In this trial, the response teams were the 'cluster' and assigned to be in either the 'treatment group', which received the gamified e-learning, or the 'control group' who received standard e-learning. Our infographic shows how officers were assigned in our trial. 

The use of random assignment is important. It means the two groups should be similar to one another except, of course, in terms of receiving the intervention. After the intervention has been delivered to the treatment group, the two groups are compared to see whether the intervention has had any effect, in this case in terms of officers' knowledge, behaviour and criminal justice outcomes. Randomisation, therefore, allows any differences to be directly attributed to the intervention.

Next steps

The research will be published in Spring 2018 and the findings will be used to inform future e-learning across the police service.

[1] Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., and Sarsa, H. (2014). Does Gamification Work? – A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on gamification. In proceedings of the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, USA, January 6-9, 2014.



​"Police, Camera, Evidence: London's cluster and randomised controlled trial of Body Worn Video" has been awarded a Best Practice certificate in the Supra-Local and Local Level category at the European Public Sector Awards 2017

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