Gaming in eLearning

Written by Kim Oates on July 2012

One of the common misconceptions about elearning is that it’s boring.  Many see it as some type of trivial online course that includes a PowerPoint presentation and ends with a quiz. Any training manager will tell you, a bored learner is an unproductive learner. If learners aren’t engaged in the course, they’re not going to retain the information.

Thankfully, elearning has come a long way from static slideshows with a lack of interactivity. A diverse online training program keeps your training program dynamic and exciting, enticing learners to continue coming back to your University. For example, a diverse online training program can include:

  • Online courses for showcasing information that needs to be kept up-to-date, such as product demos or CEUs.
  • Webcasts to get out time-sensitive information, like a new product launch.
  • Games, which can help learners develop skills and get real-world training in a virtual scenario.<--break->

Games are engaging
Games are one of the most powerful, yet trickiest tools in elearning. We’ve seen that a learner is more apt to become engaged with the material when they put the content to use. For example, a designer can create a scenario for a gamer to navigate through, such as virtually installing a complicated product or navigating through hazardous working conditions. This allows the learner to play an active role in the learning process by implementing their knowledge through activity, instead of lecture. Ultimately, a properly designed game gets students learning curriculum without it feeling like a technical training course.

Sounds pretty perfect, right?

Cathy Moore helped develop a fantastic game, Connect with Haji Kamal, as part of a larger curriculum for the military. In it the learner is a US Army sergeant in Afghanistan who is helping a young lieutenant overcome cultural differences and make a good impression on a Pashtun leader. The game was delivered as homework for an upcoming in-class discussion. The learner makes the decisions that affect the direction of the game and in the end, either wins or loses.

Failure is an option
Losing, or failing, is an important aspect of learning that games do especially well. As Karl M. Kapp pointed out in his article Games, Gamification, and the Quest for Learner Engagement, “In most instructional environments, failure is not a valid option. Learners are objectively scored, and they either get it right the first time or fail and do not pass. Few people enjoy failing in traditional learning environments, and most will do everything they can to avoid failing.” With gaming, it is easy to demonstrate what happens when you fail, and easy for the learner to start over or go back and try again. You can allow for multiple lives, second chances, or other avenues to success (like in the military culture game referenced above) that allow learners to explore different choices and outcomes.

It’s important to make the learning experience as realistic as possible, and failing or making a wrong decision is real-life. Allowing for that in the training gives more credibility to the course and the overall training program. We’ve all experienced training that represented the absolute ideal, and I’m sure you rolled your eyes just like I did because you knew it never works like that.

Plan for gaming
The main thing to keep in mind with games is that it isn’t easy to keep content fresh. Games take a significant amount of time and financing to design, develop and produce. After all, developers need to create engaging and useful content that is both fun and educational. A long delay between game releases results in dated training materials and bored learners. This is why it is important to use games in conjunction with a diverse online training program, rather than as your main training tool.

I want to know, how do you use games in your online training program?


Photo credit: Doonvas on Flickr



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