In recent years, the words gamification and gameful learning have been showing up across the industry. This has caused some to chase after turning their learning activities into games, others to make it game-like, and still others to throw up there hands and walk the other way.
Challenge Creates Learning Opportunities
There are a few elements that are key to keep in mind when developing learning. First, people learn when they are presented with a challenge. The challenge brings purpose to their learning and people want to do something purposeful. These challenges are sometimes artificial such as a test, or sometimes real-world, like learning new processes for a new job or a new skill that someone has chosen to pursue.
All kinds of resources and strategies can help learners meet these challenges. The greater the motivation the person has for accepting the challenge, the less the particular learning tools and strategies have. The motivation provides the purposefulness. If the learner has little desire or motivation to learn this new skill then the learning activity needs to provide greater engagement and purposefulness.
Game Design Characteristics that Promote Learning
Games provide many characteristics that promote opportunities for learning. Here are a few that I am focusing on adding to my learning activity design:
- Scaffolded challenges leading up to a “game goal”
- Exploratory environment and choice
- Constant feedback and the freedom to fail without negative consequences
Applying Challenges, Exploration and Feedback
Let me walk you through a few characteristics of a recent eLearning activity I have created. My goal is for my learner to be able to successfully order material a customer needs and deliver it to the customer. This involves several possible strategies available to the employee and these strategies are broken up into different modules but already you can see the framework of a over arching goal with smaller goals leading up to it.
Let’s look at one particular module that guides the learner through allocating that material to a purchase order. Depending on the type of customer, the learner can follow two paths. Each one presents a scenario that is similar to a situation they might face on a day to day basis. initially the module is a demonstration that gives them opportunities to make choices. This lets them explore with out actually doing the tedious work of entering information.
At different points in the scenario, the learner collects information and makes choices. based on these choices, the learner is provided feedback as to whether that is the best choice and when a different choice is better. The learner can make a choice that is wrong for this scenario but before being guided back to the best choice, they learn when the choice they have made works best.
The learner is also presented with Tell Me More boxes as they complete the main scenario. These boxes let them learn more information about special circumstances if they want to learn more. This adds additional content for those who need it while not cluttering up the basic procedure for those who are new to it or only use the basic process. Because the Table of Contents allows the user to easily move to different parts of the module, the user can always explore these at a later time.
Now the learning module does not look like a game. It would be a poor game at best and the point wasn’t to make it look or feel like a game. The key was to incorporate some of the same characteristics that are successful in game design to the eLearning module.
Haw are you using game design characteristics in your training activities?