The popularity of games in learning is contributing to the immense growth of the gaming industry. Learning games are fast gaining popularity – in educational as well as corporate circles. Many popular video games are being re-furbished for educational purpose and many original games are also being designed to facilitate training. But there is often a disconnect between the advances in video game technology and the research on its design and effectiveness. While technology is advancing at an extremely fast pace, not many developers fully understand the ways to apply instructional design while designing games and thereby optimize the immense capabilities of game-based learning.
There are 3 main components of interactive entertainment: Story, Game and Play.
The Story is built with Characters, Setting and Events. It puts the player’s point of view within the game – making a connection between the player and the game. The story is the reason WHY the player plays the game.
The Game is created with a clear Goal and a set of Rules. When explained well, these make sure that the learner is charged up and determined to perform well during the course of the game. The game also has a set of tools that enable the learner to perform during the game. These tools include devices like instruments, special effects and so on.
Play is the immersive component where the player experiences the game, exploring the cause, effect and consequences that it presents.
While most game developers are experts in creating the above components, instructional strategies also have to be applied while creating the different levels and components of a learning game. Here is how we adapted the 5E instructional model to create a learning game for the sales function of a leading FMCG company:
The 5E instructional model is:
Engage: For us, this was the most important stage in the creation of the game as most of the learners were new to the technology-aided platform of learning. They had a lot of hands-on experience in the market but needed the training to apply their learning to gain a productive edge. To engage the learners and kindle existing knowledge, we created an animated setting of a town, where the salesperson is shown popular landmarks and the routes that he needs to take. The scenario was created from real-life town settings, with landmarks like the sales depot, retailers, wholesalers, etc. This not only made the learner comfortable in the virtual environment but made sure that he is ready to perform in the activities to follow.
Explore: While the scene was set, the characters were introduced and these too were borrowed from real life to forge a connection with the learners. A suitable background for each character was given, giving the learner the opportunity to explore and understand them better.
Explain and Elaborate: With suitable context set, the learners were then given a set of activities related to their area of work. With each activity, they were given job aids that helped them perform better and gain confidence. These job-aids were also borrowed from real-life instances – making sure that the learners did not feel alienated in the virtual environment. For instance, while setting targets and pushing sales figures, most sales personnel use a calculator – it’s a popular and useful tool. So, to help them perform similar tasks – and re-create a real-life setting – we provided them a virtual calculator in the game, the use of which did not incur any penalties. This made sure that the learner could perform the activities within the game as he would in real life – and this made a strong instructional impact.
Additionally, a bonus round was added to incentivise the learners and help them score more. This round provided one more opportunity to the learners to add more points to the cumulative score before they went into the next round. This pushed the learners to apply more and get more chances to elaborate on their understanding of the subject.
Evaluate: Feedback was provided at the end of all activities – across different stages of the learning game. The feedback was instantaneous, and it was also descriptive – it didn’t just tell the learners that they were ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ but it also explained why their response was or wasn’t correct. Such diagnostic feedback increases the learner’s knowledge as well as aids understanding of the concepts in detail.
Through the five levels, the game created an interactive environment where learners could hone their skills, compete with each other, learn from their mistakes and strive to do better the next time! The virtual environment presented them the same situations and challenges that they face in reality. So, though the technology-aided platform was new to them, the familiarity of the setting and the scenario created in their minds the necessary connection with the medium, as well as improved the overall impact of the learning. By using a grounded instructional strategy, we made sure that the game was enjoyable as well as an impactful learning platform.
This is, however, only one of the many instructional strategies that can be fruitfully utilized for creating learning games. To discuss other strategies and share more of our experiences in using ID strategies while developing learning games, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill the form below.