The Learning Games

The Learning Games

Our previous post explored the implementation gap between having access to simulation technology, and its effective, structured integration into current surgical training curricula. Consistent skill practice at regular intervals is vital for surgeons to maintain technical skill proficiency, with even a two-week lapse resulting in a measurable decline. The question remains on how to reliably boost resident engagement in simulation-based learning.

Gamification is known as the application of game-design principles to non-game contexts. It includes elements like game narrative which underly the delivery of gamified curriculum, and performance tracking measures displayed on leader boards. Additional reward incentives like achievement badges further boost regular practice.

While these seem like simple and somewhat obvious solutions to the problem of simulation-based learning engagement, clever use of gamification principles can have profound impacts. A Boston-based study measured a 32-fold increase in use duration, and 17-fold increase of session frequency after announcing a tournament to participating residents across universities and hospitals.

Image: Achievement Unlocked by Nicholas Horne


Improvements around learning attitudes, attention, engagement and motivation were noted throughout the tournament, as well as higher achievements in technical skill acquisition by top-ranking learners on leader boards. Even the range of practiced exercises exploded by a factor of 58. These impressive results suggest that incorporating gamification elements into simulation-training, even if on a much smaller scale, may significantly improve the efficacy and enjoyment of the learning experience.

Of course, an additional benefit to maximising usage of the simulation trainers is the correlating reduced cost per hour. After announcing the game tournament to residents, estimated cost per hour of simulator use was reduced by a staggering amount – from $864 to just $74. While this study used additional prize incentives, there is promise similar engagement levels can be achieved with absence of monetary prizes.

Gamification is just one evidence-based solution to the problem of engagement in simulation training, but the fact that its benefits reach beyond the gambit of learning and into further optimizing the overall cost-effectiveness of simulation technology makes it an attractive strategy indeed. If you would like to explore more in the realm of simulation technology and how it can benefit your training experience, please visit