Immersive learning through games, gamification, and simulations is being used by more and more by organizations to transform the learning experience. It can be a big leap for trainers and instructional designers to move toward using games and designing game-based learning however.
On September 16, in partnership with TrainingPros, I facilitated a Learning Views webinar that explored the difference between games and gamification for learning, the benefits of serious games, and considerations for beginning to use games for learning. A recording of “Game On: The ABCs You Need to Get Started in Gamification” can be accessed for those who would like a refresher. I also provided a recap of the webinar in an earlier Learning Highlights blog entry. The webinar was highly interactive with many questions coming into chat - answers to questions from the webinar are answered in this continuation of our recap series.
Q: Could it be possible for learners to interact with each other within the context of a game?
A: Yes. The interaction could be embedded in the game or it might be part of a phase of the experience that takes place in a forum that is separate from the gameplay. The peer interaction does not have to be part of playing the game. It can, but it can also be a separate element that enables learners to reflect on their gameplay experience and further connect it to the workplace.
Q: Could you also use this type of learning as an integrated part of a procedure so you could refer back to the training embedded in the procedure for recall and refresh?
A: Yes. There have been effective mini-games (e.g. Tips on Tap), 15-30 minute games that focus on very specific skill development. A mini-game could be embedded in a procedure for recall and refresh. However, games are not a solution for performance support needs. If you need it quick and you need it to be contextual to the specific work at that time, more traditional performance support methods would most likely be more effective.
Q: Can part of the branching go to less challenge/more challenge scenario mid-game?
A: Yes, and it should. In “Design for How People Learn”, Julie Dirksen addresses the benefits of balancing learning experiences with new challenges and practice of previously learned skills to improve attention, motivation, and memory, along with reduced cognitive load. Julie has referred to this as “cycles of expertise.” Instead of asking learners to assimilate more and more new information throughout a learning experience (biking uphill the entire time), the learner should be able to coast from time-to-time by applying/practicing recently learned skills before being presented with new information. This learning strategy is something that is inherent to well-designed games and simulations. There should be levels that allow the accomplishment of short-term goals that connect to overall performance or learning objectives, versus a direct and constant climb to the final goal.
Q: What is the recommended time of an entire simulation?
A: It depends. There are a variety of factors to consider including the goal of the simulation, the learners, the organization, the implementation environment and of course, the budget. There are simulations that can be completed in 15 minutes. There are simulations that take place over multiple weeks. If you have a time-in-simulation that you’re targeting, be sure to scale your objectives to your target time. Don’t cram six weeks of new hire training into a 30 minute simulation. It will most likely not be effective.
Q: Do you have any examples of multiple player games where people work together?
A: Yes. Virtual Incident Management Training, the Practice series from McGraw Hill, and Strategic Crisis Simulations at GWU provide three examples of multiplayer games/simulations.
Q: The problem I have run into is that the client cannot provide enough information to enable me to create a simulation. What can I do?
A: Learning design requires a team that includes a SME. Expectations need to be set for their involvement, perhaps at a management or cultural level. No learning solution, regardless of format, can be successful if the SME or sponsor is completely absent. You can ask questions focused on employee performance based on the information that is given to you. If you’re given a PPT slide deck, begin to establish problems and challenges that can be connected to the content. If you can, ask employees directly about their work and what challenges they face on an ongoing basis. From Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping technique: 1. attach the training to a business goal; 2. identify what people need to do to meet the business goal, including identifying why people aren’t taking the necessary actions; 3. design practice activities; and 4. provide information to support the completion of activities within the context of what people really need to know to achieve the goal.
Q: What is the design to development ratio? Do you have a good reference for any benchmarks for designing/developing one hour of game or simulation based learning?
A: There is no magic ratio or formula. But, I would recommend spending more time on design than you normally would in traditional training or eLearning. Most people think that immersive learning is more complex and costly to develop than traditional online or classroom learning experiences. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. I’ve found that immersive learning can result in the reduction of screen after screen of content development that is often present in traditional eLearning. The focus should be on a problem-based solution that may or may not include high-fidelity multimedia. There is a resource from Bryan Chapman with estimates on creating eLearning. The translation of Bryan’s estimates to immersive learning is not a direct one, but the resource may be helpful in getting started.
Q: What LMS supports or challenges have you seen related to tracking assessment in problem based learning?
A: I have not been part of an immersive learning project that required SCORM/LMS tracking beyond begin and end. So, I can’t reply from direct experience. But, one challenge with immersive learning is that the screen paradigm changes. A learner may be on a “screen” for many minutes before they take action that progresses them to another part of the program. And, depending on their path, a learner may only interact with 50%-65% of the content and still overcome the challenges and achieve the goal of the learning. So, tracking is no longer about screens visited or the time on each screen. Assessment is another LMS consideration. In best cases, the learner is assessed throughout the immersive learning and his/her ability to complete the game or simulation is akin to “passing”, versus traditional eLearning assessment in an LMS which often involves a summative quiz with a targeted percentage correct. LMSs that support the new Experience API (xAPI) have better native capabilities for tracking immersive, social and mobile learning.
Q: Could you create a multi-level or higher order of thinking game in programs such as Articulate or Captivate?
A: You can in Captivate, which includes system and user variables. You could also do it in Articulate, but you are more limited in doing so. Storyline is another eLearning authoring tool that allows system and user variables for creating immersive learning. Though, you can also create immersive learning with PowerPoint hyperlinking.
Q: Not all gamification has to be delivered digitally right? Can it be in a brick and mortar environment?
A: Correct. There are opportunities for immersive learning and gamification beyond digital solutions. Gamification leaderboards, status indicators, and badges often need to be digital because of the distributed nature of a large audience. But, local gamification initiatives could certainly be managed non-digitally. Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are a serious game format that combines the real-world with the digital world, but an ARG could be completely non-digital. In education, the Multiplayer Classroom movement focuses on designing the course as a game, regardless of technology resources. There are also board and card games for training that don’t require digital resources.
Q: I've done simulations in face-to-face classes, but it seems difficult to do it online. Is it?
A: If you’re referring to online, synchronous simulations that might attempt to mimic the classroom simulation/role play experience in a virtual classroom, then it may be more difficult to move simulation online. But, it can be done through breakout rooms, various text chat layouts, and other features in the virtual classroom that might actually make the online simulation more robust and inclusive. Most online simulations don’t require a synchronous component however. So, online is a more native environment for self-paced simulation as the computer can calculate responses and paths based on the learners’ selections. The difficulty of creating an online simulation depends on the nature of the project.
Q: What tools are designers using to create these games?
A: Traditional authoring tools, like the ones named above in a previous answer can be used to create games. Adobe Flash is still a popular tool for creating serious games in corporate learning. SimWriter is a simulation development tool that’s been around since 2004. This recent year, a number of new tools hit the market. KnowledgeGuru, Skilitics Interact, BranchTrack, and GameSalad are some of the newer serious game and simulation development tools to check out.
Q: I’m working with organizations that focus on an 80% score as passing. How do you measure that in a simulation style course?
A: You can measure the level of success achieved in the simulation and the time to success as an indication of proficiency in a simulation or game. Most immersive learning is computer-based. So, the same options for tracking performance exist as they do for a more traditional eLearning course. You could also add a traditional multiple-choice assessment post-game. If you do so, the questions should be written as scenarios that mimic the situations the learner experienced in the game. Immersive learning is about deciding and doing. So, an assessment that explicitly measures rote knowledge is not a valid assessment of the learning that occurs in an immersive learning experience.