New Instructional Design Ideas for Learning Effectiveness

photo of an old fashioned school room

There’s the old-school, simple lecture approach to learning and then there are the many new ways to convey new concepts and build new skills. With technology there has come a variety of learning delivery methods…among them gaming.

In our instructional design consulting practice we have taken a close look at whether or not gaming can have advantages over a more standard eLearning approach. In other words, is the instructional design effort to include games in the methodology worthwhile? 

It is not a surprise that games not only attract but also maintain the interest of the new generation that is now entering the workplace in ever greater numbers. Games appeal to their different types of learning styles. Entertainment and learning are blended to keep participants engaged and, because the games provide opportunities for practice and feedback, the learning is interactive and performance-based. So certainly for this audience, some form of gaming should be considered as part of your instructional design.

Some instructional designers separate learning games into two categories: so-called “serious” games and “casual” games. The serious games are ones which are designed around the knowledge and skills to be learned…they are not intended simply as entertainment but focus on a specific skill or information that is part of the overall learning initiative. Casual games are separate from the learning. They are designed simply to enhance the learning. Employees are given the chance to play a game before answering training questions.

We have long believed that packaging learning in a game that is fun and competitive can be very effective. We were surprised to discover that even casual gaming drives both greater engagement and better learning outcomes. After a year-long study, a recent CLO Article, stated that the numbers show that playing a casual game prior to engaging in a learning activity resulted in logging on more frequently, higher levels of motivation, more accurate answers and more sign-ons for extra learning opportunities. The explanation is that learners who played a casual game prior to learning were more ready to concentrate and focus.

The best instructional designers use a variety of methodologies to engage learners. Certainly both serious and casual games should be part of any instructional design toolkit.

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