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Games vs. Gaming: Creating Custom e-Learning

Steve Leeby Steve Lee, strategic relationship manager 

These days more and more "games" seem to be popping up in e-Learning. The problem is these games have no "Context". No context means the interface, rules, flow, choices, thought processes of the games are not realistic or relevant to the actual job performance of the learner. Many of these games simply take "facts" and place the into a game similar to Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, etc. to simply make taking a test more fun.

While increasing the motivation of the user to learn is paramount, making Q&A fun is not nearly as efffective as using "Gaming Theory" to create a simulation, scenario, adventure, or some other type of realistic challenge, with relevant scoring, feedback, and consequences.

Gaming Theory depends on creating risk to the learner. Risk that is dependent on providing the most successful (and quickest) path through the experience based on actually learning. Making mistakes or guessing should cause not only the same consequences the learner should experience on the job, but should also extend the amount of time required to complete the learning via additional feedback and repetitive success to overcome the intial failures.

To simplify, the learning designer must ask the question "what mistake would the learner make if this fact, concept, or procedure is not known?" Then the game must ensure that mistake is not only available, and a likely choice, but must seem to be the appropriate choice to the uninformed and provide realistic and relevant consequences of making the choice.