Why Fun in Learning Works Better Than Dull Learning

Learner being happy after winning a badge while learning on her mobileThe idea of fun in learning or fun in education can be a hard one to grasp. Yet, at heart, we all know that learning is fun. Or, at least, it should and can be.

Do you remember the last time you sat down just to learn something new or improve your skills at work? Though the idea of self-development is exciting, the process can be dull.

After all, there’s a lot of hard, boring work to do before you can reap the rewards. As such, staying motivated can be a challenge.

Winston Churchill once said that “Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught”. Unfortunately, this is how most of us see learning and development.

That’s because the approach to traditional training hasn’t evolved since Churchill was yawning at the back of a classroom. 

And even though technology has advanced since then, the thought of accessing an online learning platform probably doesn’t fill you with a sense of joy either.

But shouldn’t we be excited to unleash superpowers we never knew we had? Shouldn’t we wake up each morning wondering what new lessons the day might bring?

If that’s the case, why is corporate training so, well, corporate? This raises the question of how we can make learning fun for adults. As it happens, that’s our speciality. And in this article, we’ll share all our secrets!

Ready? Let’s go!

The Science of Fun in Learning

When learning is fun, you can see a positive influence on both your learners and the organisation. After all, fun has a positive effect on motivation levels, determining what we learn and how much we retain information.

Learning isn’t a one-off event. It requires repetition and dedication. If the experience is fun, learners will stay curious and keep coming back for more.

As such, your training programme needs to be fun! We even argue that your training programme won’t be effective if it isn’t fun and engaging. In fact, that’s not just a sneaking suspicion — it’s a cold, hard, scientific fact.

  • A study in The Journal of Experimental Education found that students scored higher in their final assessment when the lecturer used humour in their lectures.
  • In her book, neurologist Judy Willis showed how fun experiences increase levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen. These hormones are all important for successful learning. 
  • In a study for the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Michael Tews found that employees are more likely to try new things if their work environment is fun.
  • Dr Laura Kubansky has undertaken research that demonstrates how fun is good for your health.
  • Many influential researchers, like Dulay & Burt (1977) and Krashen (1982), have found evidence that people learn better when they’re feeling strong positive emotions.

These are just five quick examples from the abundance of research into the impact of making an enjoyable learning experience. It’s clear to see the influence that fun can have on learning effectiveness, memory retention and in promoting self-led learning.

As such, science helps us to argue that learning should be, and can be, fun! So, it’s time to take the hint and make your training programmes more exciting.

Next, let’s explore why fun is important in learning!

Why Is Fun In Learning Important?

Life without laughter, entertainment and fun would be grey and downright dull. And we can all agree that life’s too short for boring! As such, it only makes sense to ensure your organisation has room for excitement.

Fun at work can take many forms. So, let’s explore some of the ways a little fun can make a big difference.

1. Skyrocket Your Learners’ Productivity

Learner supercharging their skills and increasing productivity

It’s probably not a surprise that a fun working environment makes us happier at work. And this can have a big influence on your organisation!

The good news? Happy employees are 12% more productive! The great news? It’s not just happiness that increases positivity. Research shows that simply having a good laugh makes us more productive and boosts accuracy.

As such, next time you have a challenging work project, tight deadlines, or back-to-back calls ahead of you, an impromptu #joke-off could be just the motivation you need!

Make sure your organisational culture leaves room for fun and creativity. If this is communicated on an organisational level, your learners know that this kind of excitement is, in fact, encouraged.

2. Less Empty Seats

No, we’re not talking about Musical Chairs Monday (but while we’re at it, that sounds like an awesome idea!). Instead, we are talking about the fact that fun in the workplace leads to lower staff turnover and less time off sick.

In fact, research suggests that 62% of people who engage in fun activities at work then go on to take no sick days in the following three months. On the other hand, this drops down to just 38% of people if they do not take part.

As such, organise fun activities at work and make sure your company culture is relaxed and supportive. This helps you to reduce costs related to hiring processes or hiring a temporary workforce.

3. Raise Resilience

Whether you’re facing a business crisis, a bad day at the office or just a bad hair day – resilience is essential in times of adversity. That’s where laughter and fun can help! After all, it’s good for our health and wellbeing.

In fact, a hearty chuckle can lower stress and boost immunity. And did you know that our muscles relax for up to 45 minutes following a good giggle? 

Encouraging a positive office culture that advocates fun and laughter helps protect staff against the stresses and strains of day-to-day working life. This, in turn, helps you to create a more resilient workforce.

4. Increase Creativity

A hand designing training

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s true – without a little fun in the office, people become dull and uninspired.

This means that their creativity suffers. In contrast, 55% of staff who’ve taken part in a fun activity in the last 6 months feel more creative. As such, creativity is essential for organisational success.

After all, a workplace where people feel free to laugh helps them to share their ideas freely. This, of course, results in a culture where ideas bounce back and forth effectively. It’s clear a little fun can make all the difference when it comes to business innovation.

5. Cater To All Learners

Fun means different things to different people. Someone’s micro scooter may be another person’s Harley Davidson. Likewise, some people’s snowboarding dream getaway might be another person’s vertigo nightmare.

Most people like to have fun but some like it more than others. Indeed, 79% of millennials think fun at work is important, compared to only 55% of older generations.

This makes sense as the corporate world has changed vastly in recent years, from rigid cubicles to more relaxed environments.

On top of that, fun looks different depending on your learners’ role within the company. For example, only 14% of business owners see dress-down days as fun compared to 29% of graduates. The research also shows that business owners are less likely to value fun at work than employees.

As such, you need to determine what fun looks like for your employees and learners. So, next time you’re planning your company’s wellbeing strategy, staff conference or social, ask people what they want.

This is the only way to make the fun meaningful and inclusive! It helps you to ensure everyone’s ideas of a good time are represented and celebrated equally. This fosters a working environment of inclusion, diversity, Epic Meaning, and, of course, bucket loads of fun!

6. Make Fun a Habit

We can’t simply look around a grey office and think, ‘It’s miserable in here – we need to spice things up. Let’s organise a team away day, party, dance-off or some other one-off event.’

Those activities will probably boost morale temporarily, but how long will this serotonin high last? In fact, for fun to translate into happiness and success, it needs to become a habit.

As such, you should seek to make fun a part of your company culture. And, of course, make it part of your learning culture to keep your staff happy, engaged and motivated!

Barriers to Having Fun While Learning

Now we know the science and benefits of having fun at work and while learning. So, why are there still organisations that struggle to make their learning culture exciting?

Let’s have a look at the typical barriers to having fun while learning.

  1. Many individuals still associate education with the traditional view of sitting in a classroom and following an instructor-led session. After all, it’s what most of us have grown up with. This approach doesn’t leave as much room for fun and creativity, so it may feel difficult to know where to start.
  2. Educators who are not used to incorporating fun into their training programmes may fear losing control if they do so. After all, if not done right, fun in the classroom can lead to distracted and unfocused learners. This fear can be challenging to overcome as many instructors feel pressure to maintain control of their classroom.
  3. Incorporating fun into learning experiences requires creativity and innovation. This can be challenging for educators who have limited resources or knowledge to design engaging and entertaining training programmes.
  4. Finding a balance between different learning styles and preferences can be challenging. After all, some learners prefer a more structured approach to learning, while others want a more relaxed and fun learning environment.
  5. Most learning professionals don’t come from a technology background. As a result, they don’t necessarily know the extent of what’s possible in terms of engagement tools and features.
  6. Most educational systems still measure success primarily through standardised testing and achievements. As a result, some instructors may feel pressure to prioritise performance over fun and enjoyment. Luckily, today’s modern technology helps to design training programmes that deliver both!

How to Make Learning More Fun

While these barriers may seem insurmountable, there is a lot that can be done! In fact, learning technology can help you to create an engaging and informative experience brimming with fun.

1. Gamification

What could be more fun than a good game? Gamification means the application of gaming mechanics to non-game environments.

As such, it allows you to bring all the fun of Minecraft, Animal Crossing and Mario Kart straight to a learning platform, like a learning management system (LMS). In fact, the push for digital transformation is behind the recent popularity of gamification.

Game mechanics, like Experience Points, Levels, and Badges will keep your learners engaged and motivated. As a result, they will be excited to explore content and continue their learning journey.

And why not add a healthy dose of competition with a Leaderboard feature? It doesn’t just have to be about learning. Why not take an idea from us at Growth Engineering and encourage people to share their favourite weekend selfie – the best one wins!

On top of gamifying your digital learning platform, you can create game-based training content. In fact, this is easier than ever before with today’s modern authoring tools.

2. Social Learning

Humans are social animals by nature. As such, social learning is another great way to boost the fun element in your training programme. In fact, social learning comes with vast benefits.

By promoting increased learner participation, your learners get a sense of authority. Similarly, they get to form better relationships and improve communication with their peers.

Consequently, you can see better results by creating an effective social and knowledge-sharing culture where your learners get increased opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge.

To do so, you need to enable communication and social collaboration features in your learning and development tools. For instance, consider introducing discussion forums to your LMS, where learners can celebrate successes, share ideas and cheer each other on.

3. Mobile Learning

Whether they’re based at the company’s head office or in a remote wilderness, mobile learning enables your learners to stay connected to the fun wherever they are. 

As such, mobile learning means that no one has to miss out on the latest training unit, social post or company competition. In fact, this increased accessibility is one of our favourite reasons to implement a mobile approach as a part of your training programme.

Mobiles are a familiar part of our everyday lives. We use them to stay connected, stream music or videos, play games, or participate in hobbies and activities. This means that we don’t shy away from using mobiles for fun!

This, of course, helps you to implement a mobile-first or mobile-optimised training programme for your learners to adopt into their daily lives. It also enables you to spread the fun quickly and easily without having to wait to see your learners in the office or classroom.

4. Microlearning

One sure way to kill the fun is to have your learners listen to a 5-hour seminar or explore 64-page text-heavy documents. As such, make sure to break up your training!

You can do so by implementing microlearning. This approach breaks your training content into small, bite-sized chunks that only take minutes to complete. 

As a result, training fits better into their schedules. For example, your learners can complete a training unit during their morning commute or while waiting for a meeting to start, rather than playing mobile games to fill up the time.

Furthermore, you can also gamify your microlearning content, to help make it that much more engaging. Candy Crush and Clash of Clans will soon be a thing of the past!

5. AI and Immersive Technology

AI-based learning platform

Two of today’s biggest trends, artificial intelligence and immersive technology, also happen to be an excellent way to make sure your learners have fun during their learning experiences.

Immersive technology has the capability to integrate the real and virtual worlds. It typically covers virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). Artificial intelligence (AI), on the other hand, simulates human intelligence with machines.

Today, these tools can be used to create fun and stimulating training sessions. For example, through VR you can create real-world-like simulations where learners get a safe environment to practise their skills.

Similarly, they get to learn by doing, even on difficult topics that are usually more challenging to teach. These experiences are not only extremely useful but also engaging.

Practical Examples of Fun in Learning

If an academic study doesn’t do it for you, how about some real-world examples that showcase the effect of fun on human behaviour?

1. Volkswagen – Gamified Staircase

As part of their ‘Fun Theory’ campaign, Volkswagen turned a staircase into a giant fully-functioning piano keyboard. The result? 66% more people chose the stairs over the escalator. 

This just goes to show that fun can change the way people behave in a situation that would otherwise be a boring chore. In fact, changing behaviour becomes much easier if you make the process enjoyable!

2. HubSpot – Rooftop Meetings

HubSpot’s previous CEO, Brian Halligan, had a small rooftop terrace where the team gathered for beers after work. Why? Brian believed that these meetings were, in fact, the reason behind the company’s success. 

After all, these after-work sessions enabled the HubSpot team to come together. Ultimately, this helped to make work a more sociable and fun place to be.

3. Gigantic Ball Pit Downtown

To test if senior business executives still cared about having fun, Mark Gagnon installed a giant ball pit in a business area. He then asked passersby if they were too busy to have fun.

What he found was that inside each business person in a suit there’s a carefree fun-lover desperate to get out! This, in turn, tells us that fun is also suitable for corporate learning environments.

4. LinkedIn – Walk & Talk

LinkedIn introduced walk & talks where team members can take a stroll to catch up or have meetings. It’s a great way to introduce some exercise into the workday, and it releases fun-inducing endorphins

These neurotransmitters help us to reduce stress, improve health and make people happier. This ensures your learners and employees are in the ultimate mindset to smash their goals!

5. L’Oréal Travel Retail – My Beauty Club

In 2020, Covid-19 brought the travel retail industry to a standstill. As a result, L’Oréal Travel Retail started to train their Beauty Advisors online using their My Beauty Club platform. 

Growth Engineering Learning App was used as a framework for L’Oréal Travel Retail’s digital solution. It uses gamification, microlearning and social learning to create high-performance learning cultures.

These elements boosted engagement to the next level and supercharged learning throughout the company. As a result, L’Oréal could enjoy improved productivity and business impact.

If you would like to know more about how we achieved L’Oréal Travel Retail’s success, contact us today!

Final Words

Fun, pleasure, excitement — call it what you will, the essential ingredient in any training endeavour is engagement. If you don’t spend the time to make the learning experience a compelling and enjoyable one, how can you expect your learners to spend any of their time on it?

Unlocking engagement in your learning platform isn’t some dark art known only to mystics and seers. It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think!

After nearly twenty years of perfecting the recipe, we’ve decided to share it in the form of a handy tip sheet. 150 Nifty Learner Engagement Tips will help you to unleash the power of engagement in your organisation and engage your students.

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