Tuesday, June 28, 2016

6 Must-Have Instructional Design Elements for Learning Games


One of the challenges of those of us who practice instructional design consulting is how to keep things fresh and exciting, as well as effective.  Certainly the old school style of lecture has proven to be ineffective in terms of truly changing behavior and engaging today’s more sophisticated learners who reject yesteryear’s authoritarian approach to learning. 

Are instructional games the answer? Games are fun and they engage participants actively and with a sense of competition. But are they effective in increasing skills, knowledge and performance? We say absolutely “yes” as long as they include the same instructional design elements that make any learning solution effective. 

One of our good friends, who pretty much pioneered the use of games to teach behaviors and skills in the corporate setting, maintains that any instructional design and training technique can work if the following elements are incorporated into the design:

  • Purpose
    The purpose of the training in terms of both business and learning objectives should be crystal clear to the participants, their boss and the business as a whole. Are you hoping to instill better customer service behaviors or are you looking to improve conflict resolution on a team? Keep the purpose in mind every step of the way as you develop the program.

  • Participants
    Be sure that you include the target audience in your design. Just as you would focus a presentation to what mattered most to your intended audience in terms of content and delivery, you must also consider what matters most to the workshop participants and the learning style that would most benefit them.

  • Engagement
    We know that the more actively engaged participants are in the exercise, the more likely they are to learn the new skill or behavior. Participants will be motivated to engage if the facilitator is credible, encouraging and trusted.

  • Relevance and Practice
    The training program will succeed if the lessons to be learned are deemed highly relevant and beneficial to the participants, their bosses and the company as whole.  With experiential practice of the desired new skills and behaviors in the safe, neutral and experimental setting of the classroom, comfort zones can be expanded and meaningful learning outcomes can be achieved.

  • Application
    Our training measurement research has found that, unless the learning can be applied frequently and fairly immediately on the job and is combined with performance feedback, it is likely to be forgotten. Transfer of the new behaviors to the job to improve performance is the goal. When the learning design incorporates real world situations, transfer is far more likely. Then if you add to the debrief of the game or exercise some action planning which includes feedback and coaching back on the job, you can measurably increase the transfer of newly learned skills.

  • Impact
    Remember why you are designing the program. The lessons learned should be directly related to knowledge and skills that will improve performance in areas that matter to the organization.  Then and only then will your instructional design be truly successful.


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