How technology, especially gamification, continues to reshape how we learn on the job.

The toy koala factory is in big trouble. It faces a $10 million loss and needs someone with the right kind of financial expertise to turn its fortunes around. How much more hardship can this factory bear?

Accountants from around the world had the chance to save these little koalas from extinction in a virtual reality (VR) experience at the World Congress of Accountants event in Sydney last November. Delegates in the Exhibition Hall at Sydney's International Convention Centre took turns donning VR goggles in a challenge to revive the fictitious toy koala company. More than 150 accountants exercised their financial skills within the first four hours of operation, with the top performers' results appearing on a large scoreboard.

Melbourne-based VR studio Liminal 360 created the three-minute gamification experience for CPA Australia’s exhibition space at the conference. The VR simulation represents another step towards the future of professional training and development – technology and real-life problems merging to help participants put into practice what they learn in the classroom or on the office floor.

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Delegates said the VR experience was worthwhile because it related to what they do in their day jobs. CPA Australia is planning to use feedback such as this to test its suitability for future learning programs.

Increasingly, businesses are using technology as part of employee training programs, especially for their induction processes, compliance, professional development and behavioural change modules. For those doing ongoing training, it helps staff remain motivated, retain knowledge, and improve or learn new skills.

Tech-assisted training means learning isn’t limited to business hours. Employees or contractors can call up training materials – videos or specific online programs – at any time on their mobile devices.

Some companies and organisations are taking this idea further by embracing the “micro learning” model, where employees or members attempt short online courses, attend free sessions, such as webinars, or utilise available resources to learn new skills when they need them.

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The further development of artificial intelligence, which provides insights based on collecting and analysing vast amounts of data, will make it easier and faster for businesses to build customised learning programs to make them even more “real”.

Increasingly, too, technology-led training techniques will use gamification elements to encourage friendly competition and a sense of achievement while maximising learner engagement. In its Gamification 2020 report, research company Gartner expected personal development to be one of five areas significantly affected by the growth of gamification.

Professor Karl M. Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, says businesses and organisations considering using gamification as part of their learning and development strategy need to ensure it’s not just adding meaningless, superficial game elements to existing training programs.

“Employees need to have a structure and a framework to participate in the gamification effort,” Kapp writes. “Clearly describe the challenge before them, provide transparency into how they can be successful and provide an explanation of gamification. These steps can lead to better learning, retention and ultimately increased bottom-line results.”

Johanna Platt CPA is Chief Financial Officer for investment management company Vanguard Australia and someone with a large capacity for knowledge. The CPA Australia member not only has a chemical engineering degree from the University of Sydney and an MBA from Melbourne Business School, she has more than 20 years’ experience in various sectors, from financial to consumer goods, logistics and retail.

Platt says such broad experiences have given her the chance to develop professional attributes to further her career. Her engineering background, for instance, helped with her problem-solving and analytical-thinking capabilities. “My MBA and CPA were formal building blocks,” Platt says. “In the background, it's been on-the-job knowledge, coaching, mentoring and the soft-skills leadership and self-awareness training you often benefit from at different corporates.”

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Johanna Platt CPA is Chief Financial Officer for investment management company Vanguard Australia.

As well as a portfolio of online learning tools, Vanguard has staff programs that focus on building leadership and business acumen. These combine pre-work theory, classroom discussion and coaching, as well as group work. For Platt, who joined Vanguard in July 2017, this involved working on projects in real-time via video conference with colleagues in the United States.

“We certainly see benefits in leadership program scenarios, when you're working with colleagues to solve a problem under pressure and you're taking the lead,” she says. “How do your colleagues or team take direction from you, and how well do you manage through an intensive problem?

“The combination of theory, classroom discussion and group work consolidates learning. You put things into practice quickly. Working in teams and collaborating really brings that to life.”

Platt sees the potential of businesses developing training programs that use gamification. “Particularly for our investment management business,” she says. “It's a great tool for simulating and testing ideas and getting feedback quickly.

“Being able to collaborate and learn with local and global colleagues is the future of how we create value.”

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Where technology meets training

Learning is no longer about opening a textbook and memorising the content. The CPA Program is carefully designed to be innovative and interactive, combining the latest in technology with accounting expertise.

Rather than simply providing your team with a technical focus, the CPA Program will equip them with an understanding of dynamic issues facing organisations today.

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